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Buyer Beware: Delta-8 and the Problem of Third-Party Testing

delta-8 third party testing
Written by Sarah Friedman
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The delta-8 industry is growing, and bringing with it tons of controversy. To deal with concerns of delta-8, third-party testing facilities have popped up to provide safety measure testing, but it seems these companies themselves are adding another layer of problems to the whole industry.

The delta-8 third-party testing industry is certainly lacking, but that doesn’t mean delta-8 is bad. In fact, delta-8 is a pretty cool compound, which can do a bunch of pretty cool things, while being just a bit different than half-brother delta-9. We’ve got great deals for you in The Delta 8 Weekly Newsletter, but please, do your own homework, and make sure you’re comfortable with the companies you buy from, and the products you buy. Also save big on Delta 8Delta 9 THCDelta-10 THCTHCOTHCVTHCP & HHC products by checking out our “Best-of” lists!

Disclaimer: This article is meant to inform buyers of what they should be aware of. Though there are plenty of specific examples, no companies will be listed in this article, and it is up to buyers to assess information for themselves, and make their own informed decisions about what is safe, or not, and what they are personally okay with, or not.


What is delta-8 THC?

The first question of course, is what are we dealing with? What is this subject which is causing so many problems? Delta-8 THC is a naturally occurring compound of the cannabis plant. While I have often written that delta-8 is an oxidized version of delta-9, I will specify that it’s not really well understood how delta-8 comes to exist in the plant, with an oxidation of delta-9 being the most expected answer. CBN is actually the main degradant of delta-9, but in testing, CBN never accounts for all delta-9 lost, and it is expected that delta-8, possibly among other compounds, fills the gap. There is no more specific answer right now about how delta-8 appears in the cannabis plant.

This answer would explain why delta-8 is more stable than delta-9, with less ability of its own for oxidation. However, if it’s found in the future that this is not how delta-8 occurs naturally, we still know that not only is it naturally occurring, but occurs in only the tiniest amounts, which are not enough for product production. What we also know, is that delta-8 can be synthesized from either CBD or delta-9, using solvents or zinc oxide. Neither of these options are part of the cannabis plant, meaning the application of either makes the outcome a synthetic by definition, as it used non-cannabis plant compounds for processing.

Delta-8 is valuable both recreationally and medically. It has been said to provide slightly less high (although this could be seen as a matter of dosing), while also not inducing the anxiety or cloudy head of delta-9. This makes it great for medical patients who want treatment without as much high, and for recreational users who have issues with anxiety or couch locking. In fact, delta-9 and delta-8 offer virtually the same medical benefits.

delta-8 THC

The delta-8 controversy

The delta-8 THC controversy is a strange one because no one has actually said there’s a problem with delta-8 THC directly, which means an entire subject of controversy, which has now led to the prohibition of delta-8 in many places, is based on other issues than the actual safety of the compound. In fact, it is simply processing methods for delta-8 that bring about the problem, along with shady third-party testing facilities that seem to be banking on this new industry.

This issue exists as a result of the 2018 US Farm Bill in which hemp, and hemp-derived compounds, were legalized. The legalization set off a misinformed idea (seemingly pushed by the cannabis industry) that this made compounds like delta-8 THC, and even hemp-derived delta-9 THC, legal. In reality, it did none of those things, since in order to be legal, a compound would have to fit this definition of hemp:

“…the plant Cannabis Sativa L. and any part of that plant, including the seeds thereof and all derivatives, extracts, cannabinoids, isomers, acids, salts, and salts of isomers, whether growing or not, with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis.”

Along with the following stipulations made by the DEA in a letter to Donna C. Yeatman, R.Ph., the executive secretary of the Alabama Board of Pharmacy, in answer to a request about the legality of delta-8. The letter clearly states a few things, starting with this: “Δ8-THC is a tetrahydrocannabinol substance contained in the plant Cannabis sativa L. and also can be produced synthetically from non-cannabis materials. The CSA classifies tetrahydrocannabinols as controlled in schedule I.”

Then to this: “The term “tetrahydrocannabinols” means those “naturally contained in a plant of the genus Cannabis (cannabis plant), as well as synthetic equivalents of the substances contained in the cannabis plant and/or synthetic substances, derivatives, and their isomers with similar chemical structure and pharmacological activity to those substances contained in the plant.””

And then to this which refers back to the definition of hemp as only plant-based materials: “Thus, Δ8-THC synthetically produced from non-cannabis materials is controlled under the CSA as a “tetrahydrocannabinol.”” The funniest part about this letter, is that it was manipulated by the majority of the cannabis industry to make the statement that ‘hemp-derived delta-8 is legal’, while ignoring that the issue has to do with synthetically-derived delta-8, which the letter clearly defines as illegal.

Why the confusion?

The misinformed notions were cultivated around the ideas that 1) a hemp plant only needs to have less than .3% delta-9 in dry weight in the beginning, while ignoring this counts for processing and final products as well, and 2) that once a synthetization process is involved, none of these compounds can fit under the definition of hemp anyway, and are instead regulated as synthetic analogues under the Federal Analogue Act. In what seems like an effort to create more confusion for buyers, the term ‘hemp-derived’ as been used to replace ‘naturally-derived’, when in fact it’s being used to mean ‘synthetically derived’.

Add on to that that delta-8 sits in Schedule I of the DEA’s Controlled Substances list, and its synthetic nature means that that is, in fact, how it’s regulated. So, now we have an illegal industry that therefore isn’t regulated, which is trying to dissuade issues of safety for consumers, by the advent of delta-8 third-party testing operations meant to ensure that no bad chemicals or heavy metals are in the products. Problem is, without regulation as to how this must work, the testing facilities themselves have started to look as shady as the delta-8 companies employing them.

This isn’t shocking. Illegal industries are known to be some of the lowest, often taken advantage of by shady businessmen looking for a quick and easy buck, even to the detriment of their buying public. And this has led to claims of fake products, bad chemicals and processing methods being used, and falsified or fraudulent testing reports meant to ensure buyers that products are safe.

Concerns of delta-8 and third-party testing

Since the delta-8 third-party testing facilities don’t have to follow regulation when it comes to delta-8, and since neither do the companies selling products, there have been some issues of concern to arise in the industry. In terms of testing, it has been found on multiple occasions (and please do your own investigation), that:

  • Testing facilities often provide certificate to companies that cannot be validated. They have no clickable link, no QR code, and no way to input the sample identification number into a system to get a verification of anything. This means that paperwork to show the safety of products when it comes to bad chemicals and heavy metals, is literally 100% unverifiable, and this is never a good sign. Companies on the up-and-up will provide verification methods for their tests.
  • Many companies have been known to doctor existing safety documentation from other companies, to pass off as their own. I’ve seen clearly faked documents where the lines from where it was edited can still be seen. I’ve seen others where the company was too lazy to even update their own information, leaving on other company names. And still others that contained so little information for the company (not even an address), that it’s hard to imagine its legit. I’ve even seen safety documents that had information crossed out on them, like addresses. This is all not only troublesome in terms of knowing you’re getting a safe product, but downright fraudulent.
fake third party testing
  • Since there is no regulation, and since these safety documents are often fake, companies have been found in testing to be passing off standard cannabis synthetics, like the kind found in fake vapes and edibles, as specific compounds like delta-8 THC, meaning users aren’t getting what they’re paying for at all. This makes sense as illegal dispensaries are known for doing the same thing.
  • This all means that the products being offered could have high levels of contamination, or dangerous additives from processing, or just to create a cheaper product. And this beyond the fact that coming from many companies, a buyer isn’t even getting what they’re paying for.

What can you do?

This is where it can take a little work on the buyer’s part. In order to expect a decent product, buyers should look for a few things from the company, and any related testing facility.

  • As far as testing operations, check their reputation online, see what people are saying. If the standard line is that the company is not legit, then it probably isn’t. See if they’ve had licensing removed at any point, and why. And check to see if they provide a way to verify their safety documentation given to companies. Is there a place on the site, for example, to input a testing code?
  • When dealing with companies, see if they use any of the bogus testing facilities that have bad reputations, or that don’t provide verification. If they do, they’re probably going to sell a low-grade product. Check through their safety documents. If testing information looks doctored, if it’s missing crucial information, if it can’t be verified, or if it has the wrong company info, you’ll probably want to stay away from the company entirely.
  • This last one is debatable in terms of definite application. Technically, every legit company should have a lawyer, which means every legit company is aware that the 2018 Farm Bill didn’t legalize delta-8 if its synthetically made. Since all delta-8 for products is synthetic, it means technically any company selling delta-8 using the Farm Bill as justification, is lying. Even some companies seen as more legit, still use this reasoning, and refuse to use the word ‘synthetic’, instead giving weird definitions about ‘isomerism’, without mentioning solvents. In my opinion, even these companies are questionable, though as a buyer, you can decide for yourself.
scam report

Conclusion

I say this often and I’ll repeat it again, if delta-8 is considered safe, and these are just issues of processing, testing, and weeding out fraudulent companies, then instituting basic regulation about chemicals that can be used for processing, and processing methods, is way smarter than attempting to illegalize an industry. But logic is often ignored in life, and as such, this is the situation we are in. So if you’re going to buy delta-8 products, check out the company, and definitely check the information coming from their third-party testing facility, if its there.

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DisclaimerHi, I’m a researcher and writer. I’m not a doctor, lawyer, or businessperson. All information in my articles is sourced and referenced, and all opinions stated are mine. I am not giving anyone advise, and though I am more than happy to discuss topics, should someone have a further question or concern, they should seek guidance from a relevant professional.

About the author

Sarah Friedman

I am a US born writer, travelling the world and doing the digital nomad thing.

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