The cannabis industry should be concerned about the safety of delta-8 THC, but it might have a place in the market for therapeutic or recreational uses, said the chief scientist for a Massachusetts-based testing lab that specializes in medical marijuana.

During a session focused on delta-8 THC at the Science Symposium at MJBizCon, Chris Hudalla, president and chief science officer for ProVerde Laboratories, crunched the numbers on the financial viability of naturally producing the cannabinoid.

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According to him, it would require 55,000 kilograms (12,1254 pounds) of hemp to produce 1 kilogram of natural delta-8 THC.

At $400 per kilogram for biomass, the cost of raw plant material alone would be $22 million.

The estimated market value for natural D-8 extract would be somewhere between $200 million and $500 million per kilogram.

Hudalla also outlined the practicalities of producing delta-8. He sees it has having a high potential for therapeutic and recreational applications.

“Like many minor cannabinoids? It’s relatively easy to produce, without much oversight,” he said.

Couple that with minimal capital investment for production equipment and supplies, as well an oversupply of CBD isolate resulting in lower margins.

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“That provides salvation for investors expecting FDA approval for CBD,” Hudalla said of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

But there’s also a long list of reasons why delta-8 is currently problematic as a business concern.

“There’s a potential for intoxication with Delta-8 use and much of hemp’s legislative success is based on absence of intoxicants,” Hudalla said.

It could have negative consequences to future cannabis legislation and unregulated products cut into regulated cannabis profits.

“When these producers are spending millions of dollars on these regulated processes this is going to hurt their bottom line,” Hudalla said.

There’s also the question of consumer safety, since much delta-8 is produced without regulatory oversight.

Hudalla said that out of 18,000 samples, the vast majority didn’t have any D-8, but the company is under no regulatory obligation to spell out the actual components.

“Or they’ll tell you it’s 80% delta-8, but they won’t tell you what the other constituents are,” he said.

That’s not to mention that testing has discovered unidentified contaminants in delta-8 products, with no efficacy or toxicity information available for these contaminants, according to Hudalla.

“These are questions I don’t have any answers to, and I don’t know anyone who does,” he said.

Delta-8 THC products often involve use of potentially harmful chemicals to create the concentrations of delta-8 THC claimed in the marketplace, he added.

Hudalla also pointed out that delta-8 THC products haven’t been evaluated or approved by the FDA for safe use and might be marketed in ways that put the public health at risk.

The FDA has received reports of adverse effects from delta-8 THC products and believes it can have psychoactive and intoxicating effects.

“Everything I’ve said about delta-8 is pretty negative,” Hudalla said. “But I truly believe delta-8 has a place in therapeutics and has a place in recreational use.”

– Bart Schaneman