Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (D9) is the original tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) most cannabis users are familiar with. What some may not realize, however, is this version of THC exists in hemp in small quantities.
According to the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946, “hemp” is defined as “Cannabis sativa L. … with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis.” Furthermore, hemp is excluded from the definition of “marihuana” from the Controlled Substances Act.
This means THC extracted from hemp and later infused into a consumer product is not a controlled substance, as long as the hemp was grown and harvested legally and the final product sold to consumers is at or under the 0.3 percent by dry weight measurement. This was again confirmed by the DEA’s own Interim Final Rule (IFR).
Not New, but Still Innovative
Until recently, product manufacturers had only been targeting cannabidiol (CBD) milligrams for their full spectrum products.
For example, a gummy manufacturer would create a product dosed at 25 milligrams of CBD, and the THC milligrams were inconsequential to the formulation so long as it was compliant.
Those products all include THC, though the compound is often not advertised or shown on the label for a variety of reasons.
This year, innovative companies have been breaking the mold by formulating with the THC milligram in mind instead of CBD, thereby maximizing the 0.3 percent limit. Now we are seeing products on the market that have 10, 15, or even 25 milligrams of THC.
Further Innovation Completes the Niche Market
Taking the concept a step further, some product manufacturers are fractionating (separating) THC from the extracted hemp oil and reintroducing it in controlled ratios. This means there are 1 to 1, 5 to 1, and 10 to 1 ratios of CBD to THC, creating products similar to what you would find in an adult-use cannabis dispensary.
Essentially, there are now legal THC edibles that can be shipped through the mail thanks to the 2018 Farm Bill. Though unrealized by the masses until recently, this new hemp-derived THC market is booming and we are just beginning to see what it will produce.
Unlike Delta-8-tetrahydrocannabinol (D8), D9 is fairly well insulated from regulatory issues. While it’s likely a regulatory agency (most likely the FDA) will eventually put some form of THC and CBD milligram caps on full spectrum hemp products, D9 THC is here to stay as long as the definition of hemp remains untouched.
It is unlikely the percent will ever go down as hemp genetics barely support the current limitation. With full spectrum CBD products consisting of the vast majority of product sales, removing all forms of THC from consumer products would crush the industry completely, so it is equally unlikely.
Additionally, the 2018 Federal Farm Bill explicitly created a safe harbor for interstate transport of hemp and hemp products (Section 10114(b)), essentially making it academically impossible for states or tribes to make possession of such products illegal (though each state and tribe can restrict retail sales of any hemp products).
Hemp-derived D9 products are entrenched in regulatory protections, bringing dispensary-grade ingestibles to consumers across the country, and that makes these new product types one of the most significant innovations of the year.
This article was first published in the winter 2021 issue of Cannabis & Tech Today. Read the full issue here for free.