Surprising number of Americans are using hemp-derived cannabinoids

americans hemp use

More American adults than ever are using products with CBD, delta-8, and other hemp-derived cannabinoids, according to a new study. The paper, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), suggests that approximately one in four people used an “emerging cannabinoid” in the last year. 

The number of Americans using hemp-derived cannabinoids continues to grow, but study authors were especially taken by the widespread consumption of delta-8—particularly in states without legal cannabis.

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“Emerging cannabinoids” continue to gain ground

Researchers surveyed 1,142 adults about their use of cannabinoids as well as their awareness of the compounds. Roughly 52 percent of respondents identified as female, with the median age being 48. The majority of participants were white; 17 percent were Hispanic, 12 percent were Black, and 9 percent identified as “other.”

Around 28 percent of those surveyed lived in a state with adult-use cannabis, while 31 percent were in a state with medical cannabis. Around 40 percent of respondents lived in a non-legal state.

The survey asked about past-year cannabis use, “emerging cannabinoid” consumption, and awareness of these compounds. Over one-quarter of participants said they had used marijuana in the last year, which correlated with a higher likelihood of emerging cannabinoid use.

Not surprisingly, CBD was the most popular hemp-based cannabinoid, with approximately 21 percent of people reporting they had used it. This is an increase from the 14 percent reported in a 2019 Gallup poll cited in the study. Over 70 percent of respondents were familiar with the molecule.

The next most popular compound was delta-8-THC; nearly 12 percent of people said they had consumed the psychoactive cannabinoid. Roughly 41 percent of respondents were familiar with delta-8.

When it comes to the minor cannabinoids CBG and CBN, they were far less prevalent in the study. Just over 5 percent of people said they used CBG, while only 4 percent of respondents used CBN, despite the latter’s growing popularity in legal cannabis markets. Around 18 percent and 16 percent of those surveyed had heard of CBG and CBN, respectively.

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Prohibition “unintentionally promotes” delta-8 use, study suggests

Anti-cannabis lawmakers may think keeping the plant illegal is protecting their constituents, but the JAMA paper argues it may be the opposite. 

“Higher delta 8 THC use in states without medical or adult-use cannabis laws suggests that cannabis prohibition may unintentionally promote delta 8 THC use,” the paper read.

The authors surmised that the majority of delta-8 consumers are seeking relief from a variety of conditions. They pointed to an earlier survey suggesting just over half of people who use delta-8 do so therapeutically (but do not discuss their use with their doctors). It can be assumed that the other half consumes the compound to catch a buzz.

The psychoactive cannabinoid is technically legal thanks to the 2018 Farm Bill. However, the unregulated nature of the hemp-derived market, along with the lack of research into the effects of delta-8 consumption, have the study authors calling for further inquiry.

“Based on these results, we support ongoing public health surveillance efforts targeting emerging cannabinoids because of lack of industry standards to protect consumers and similar pharmacology or effects of delta 9 THC and its hemp-derived impairing analogues (eg, delta 8 THC), which may be of particular concern for adolescents and young adults,” researchers concluded.

The JAMA paper offers more evidence that cannabis consumption is becoming increasingly common, but questions about unregulated “emerging cannabinoids” remain. More studies are needed to understand compounds like delta-8, as well as the impact of prohibition on public health. With more people than ever turning to the plant, it’s crucial that answers come sooner than later.


rachelle gordon

Rachelle Gordon is a cannabis journalist, Emerald Cup judge, Budist critic, and editor of She began her weed writing journey in 2015 and has been featured in High Times, CannabisNow, Beard Bros, MG, Skunk, and many others. Rachelle currently splits her time between Minneapolis and Oakland; her favorite cannabis cultivars include Silver Haze and Tangie. Follow Rachelle on Instagram @rachellethewriter