ORLANDO, Fla. – It’s a high price to buy. THC products are being sold all over Central Florida right now, and unlike some other states, it’s completely legal here.
It’s called delta-8 THC, and the Food and Drug Administration says it makes some users nauseous. It is even suspected to have led to a reaction that caused the death of a child who accidentally ingested it.
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A legal loophole led to the products’ popularity, but at least 21 states have closed the loophole.
One Seminole County mother told 9 Investigates it changed her family’s life.
“I barely knew what psychotic meant, but I knew it was,” she said. “He was sane.
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The woman asked us to call her “Marie” to avoid identifying her adult son, who she said was hospitalized for psychosis earlier this year.
“He kept saying, ‘Mom, did I die?’
While he insists he didn’t smoke weed, he says the only drug found in his system was THC. She now knows that her son used the delta-8 vape cartridge for at least a year.
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“The only way I knew what happened was I went into the trunk of his car the night before and found an unopened delta-8 cartridge case.
Delta-8 or delta-10 products contain THC, the ingredient in marijuana that gets you high, and are legal to sell throughout Florida because of a loophole in the 2018 federal Farm Bill.
This federal law legalized hemp or hemp products if they contained 0.3% Delta 9 THC or less; but it said nothing about delta-8 or delta-10 THC levels, making it legal to sell these slightly different chemical compounds in edibles, vape cartridges, and more with higher potency levels.
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“This is not CBD oil. This is not medical marijuana. This is a substance that is here in Central Florida that is not regulated,” said Lotus Behavioral Health Executive Director Michael Radka.
Radka said his clinical team has seen a spike over the past year in patients and parents seeking counseling or outpatient services with reactions to cartridges or edibles similar to what we saw with “K2” and “spice” in the early 2010s.
Lotus just opened a residential treatment program for people struggling with addiction or behavioral problems. Radka deals with what else is in the products that can cause bad reactions.
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“This is not something that happens by just smoking a joint. This is something that is much more shocking, much more serious. And there are reasons why other states have banned it,” said Radka.
The FDA is also concerned. The agency issued a warning earlier this year that said, in part, that delta-8 products often involve the use of potentially harmful chemicals to create marketed concentrations of THC. They cited 2,362 calls to the National Poison Control Center related to delta-8 from January 2021 to February 2022, including the death of a child who accidentally ingested the product.
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We stopped by a half-dozen smoke shops, and while the staff couldn’t get on camera, they told us the products were popular. These employees had mixed feelings about whether delta-8 and delta-10 products should be sold in this way; some have suggested that for those who can’t get a medical marijuana card but are looking for similar pain relief, it’s better than buying on the street.
Marie would like to see them all removed from the shelves or sold with a warning.
“I don’t understand how you can go to a gas station or a vape shop and buy this,” she said.
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The FDA also sent warning letters to several companies earlier this year after they said certain delta-8 products were being marketed as treating medical conditions such as cancer and multiple sclerosis. The agency also focused on products packaged and labeled in a way that could appeal to children.
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