ORLANDO, Fla. — It’s a high you can buy. THC products are being sold right now all across Central Florida, and unlike some other states, it’s completely legal here.
It’s called delta-8 THC, and the Food and Drug Administration says it’s making some users sick. It’s even suspected to have led to a reaction that caused the death of a child who accidentally consumed it.
A legal loophole led to the popularity of the products, but at least 21 states have closed that gap.
One Seminole County mother told 9 Investigates it changed her family’s life.
“I barely knew what psychotic meant, but I knew he was,” she said. “He was out of his mind.”
The woman asked us to call her “Marie” to avoid identifying her adult son, who she says was hospitalized for psychosis earlier this year.
“He kept saying, ‘Mom, did I die?’”
Though he insists he hadn’t smoked weed, she says the only drug found in his system was THC. She now knows her son was using delta-8 vape cartridges for at least a year.
“The only way I knew what happened was, the night before, I had gone to the trunk of his car, and found an unopened delta-8 cartridge.”
Delta-8 or delta-10 products contain THC, the component in marijuana that gets you high, and are legal to sell across Florida due to a loophole in the 2018 Federal Farm Bill.
That federal law legalized hemp or cannabis products as long as they contain 0.3% Delta 9 THC or less; but it said nothing about delta-8 or delta-10 THC levels, making it legal to sell those slightly different chemical compounds in edibles, vape cartridges and more, with higher potency levels.
“This is not CBD oil. This is not medical marijuana. This is a substance, that is here in Central Florida, that is not regulated,” Lotus Behavioral Health Executive Director Michael Radka said.
Radka said his clinical team has seen a spike in patients and parents seeking counseling or outpatient services over the last year with reactions to the cartridges or edibles, similar to what we saw with “K2″ and “spice” in the early 2010s.
Lotus just opened a residential program to treat people struggling with addiction or behavioral issues. Radka’s concern is what else is in the products that may create bad reactions.
“This is not something that happens from just smoking a joint of marijuana. This is something that is much more shocking, much more severe. And there are reasons why other states have made this illegal,” Radka said.
The FDA is concerned, too. The agency published a warning earlier this year which said, in part, that delta-8 products often involve the use of potentially harmful chemicals to create the concentrations of THC claimed in the marketplace. They cited 2,362 National Poison Control center calls related to delta-8 from January 2021 through February 2022, including the death of a child who got into the product by accident.
We stopped inside a half-dozen smoke shops and though employees couldn’t go on camera, they told us the products are popular. Those employees had mixed feelings about whether delta-8 and delta-10 products should be sold in this way; some suggested that for those who cannot get a medical marijuana card but are seeking similar relief for pain, this is better than buying on the street.
For Marie, she’d like to see them all removed from shelves, or sold with a warning.
“I don’t understand how you can go to a gas station or a vape shop and purchase this,” she said.
The FDA also sent warning letters to several companies earlier this year, after they say certain delta-8 products were being marketed as though they treated medical conditions like cancer and multiple sclerosis. The agency also took aim at products packaged and labeled in ways that could appeal to children.
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