The national media widely reported a story earlier this month about a young boy from Virginia dying after consuming a large amount of hemp-derived delta-8 edibles. Experts believe the CBD sector will experience major repercussions due to this tragic story, Hemp Today reports.

The jury is still out among experts on whether or not delta-8 killed the four-year-old boy. It’s an important outcome to question, considering no one has ever died specifically from cannabis before. Not even the children (up until this point) who have accidentally consumed delta-9-THC edibles, or products made from the type of THC in the marijuana plant. However, none of that matters to the media — a wild story means clicks! It was picked up by CNN, Newsweek, Associated Press, The Washington Post, ABC, VICE News, and Yahoo News. It was also picked up by many local affiliates of major television networks across the country.

The CBD sector of cannabis is contracting at the moment. Businesses are struggling to make ends meet, there’s no supply chain infrastructure making it exceptionally difficult for farmers to move their crop, and the CBD craze has momentarily plateaued. The sector is already down, and news like this is a gut punch. 

Many CBD producers have desperately turned to delta-8 THC as an outlet for backed-up CBD supplies. Delta-8 is made by putting hemp-derived CBD through a synthetic process. It’s a psychoactive alternative to the beloved delta-9 THC found in marijuana plants, and it’s reported to have a milder “high.” Delta-8 products have proliferated in the USA over the last two years, specifically in regions with no cannabis regulations. Virginia is one of those regions.

The Virginia case involves a 30-year-old mother who was charged with felony murder and felony child neglect in her son’s death last May. The death was officially ruled an accident attributable to “delta-8-tetrahydrocannabinol toxicity” by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner Central District of Virginia. The mother was charged last month.

If cannabis were fully legal and accessible in Virginia, the young boy likely would not have had access to potentially poisonous delta-8 edibles. Unlike delta-9-THC, delta-8 is not regulated in the slightest. There are no regulations governing quality. It’s left up to operators and manufacturers to oversee quality control, which does not bode well for maintaining quality control or abiding by any code of ethics. Along these lines, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last May specifically called out delta-8 producers for packaging the products in ways that may appeal to children, and raised other concerns. The agency’s comments came as the FDA warned five companies over the illegal sale of products containing delta-8.

All states around the US are grappling with what to do with delta-8. Many states have explicitly outlawed it, but states like Washington have decided to regulate it and lump it in with rules for products that carry delta-9 THC.

US analyst PanXchange estimates that at least 75% of all hemp extract being produced this year is going into the production of delta-8 products. It makes sense considering there’s an outrageous oversupply of hemp right now. What else do we expect producers to do? PanXchange projects the 2022 flower harvest at just 6,400-6,800 acres this year, which is a massive decline from about 16,000 ft in 2021. According to Hemp Today, prices for CBD biomass have meanwhile plunged by as much as 90% from historical highs.

In the Virginia case, the child was reported to have taken multiple delta-8 gummies, but the mother said she called poison control on May 6 after her son ate just part of one gummy he found in a jar. She was told her son would be fine, according to a search warrant executed by the Spotsylvania Sheriff’s Office that was obtained by VICE News. EMTs later arrived and performed CPR on the child and took him to the hospital, where he was taken off life support two days later.

The search warrant quoted a pediatrician at Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center saying that the level of THC in the boy’s body was “extremely high” – more than 14,286 nanograms of THC per milligram, VICE News reported.

But medical experts aren’t fully buying the story. Dr. Sherry Yafai, an emergency room physician and medical director of Releaf Institute, a medical cannabis clinic, told VICE News that a typical 5-milligram gummy could result in the level of THC reported in the boy. “We have seen, unfortunately, kids overdose at this age on THC edibles. What we have not seen is kids stop breathing and die.”

The National Institute on Drug Abuse said it has recorded no reports of THC alone causing death. Experts have said children who consumed THC have been reported to suffer from seizures, which can cause death by blocking breathing if they’re in the wrong position, with weight, pre-existing health conditions, and other substances in a child’s system also potential contributing factors. Also, bad heart rhythm combined with THC could lead the heart stopping.

CBD for direct human consumption remains in a legal gray area in many parts of the country, and product quality and safety are serious questions. Despite repeated calls for regulations from CBD stakeholders, the FDA has yet to comprehensively address the compound’s safety, saying more research is needed.

“We need the FDA to get with the program and start regulating,” Yafai told VICE News. “You can’t make hemp legal in all 50 states and then just let everyone at it. Because what happens is bad players and people who are looking to make a buck are going to take advantage of the unregulated marketplace.”

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