“Legal” weed products are causing grave concern

At one time, learning the cannabinoids found in weed felt like a task. That has only gotten harder as brands started tearing through Farm Bill loopholes by synthesizing cannabinoids. The plant is being bent and renamed to fit into gray legalities, like THCA and delta-9, which are just plain old weed.

RELATED: Does THCA get you high? The answer depends

The farse grows takes on darker undertones when considering the medical implications of burning and inhaling compounds with little to no understanding of how they affect the brain. Two synthetic cannabinoids are making negative headlines and illuminating this worry.

HHC causes severe medical episodes in Europe

Two people in the Community of Madrid experienced days of nausea and vomiting after consuming cannabis cookies containing HHC or Hexahydrocannabinol. Brands are synthesizing the compound from CBD grown legally under the Farm Bill which is why many call it a “legal” cannabinoid.

The illnesses caused the Spanish Agency for Food Safety and Nutrition to issue a recall on March 22nd for the cookies in question and HHC gummies, both from the Czech Republic brand Weed Nation.

The products have warning labels stating that they aren’t to be consumed, but they “have the appearance of food” that is “especially attractive to children.” A Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) report states that the patients experienced vertigo, dizziness, and vomiting.

This isn’t the first HHC controversy this year. Many countries outside the U.S. are going head to head with the compound. The Malta Health Minister raised concerns over the cannabinoids being both readily available online and attractive to children.

Around the same time, an Irish research paper shared two tales of HHC-induced psychosis, asking that regulators make the compound illegal. The Czech Republic banned the cannabinoid along with HHCO and THCP after an uptick in children hospitalized after ingesting them.

Countries in the EU have been responding to HHC crises but the issue has yet to rear its head in the U.S. While other countries deal with the negatives of HHC, an American research paper shows beliefs about another new cannabinoid arrival may be inflated.

THCO may not have the effects people thought

THC-O-acetate, also known as THCO, is created by synthesizing delta-8 tetrahydrocannabinol from hemp CBD and adding acetic anhydride. The cannabinoid gained popularity in the wake of delta-8 proliferating in the hemp market. THCO offered an almost psychedelic effect, or so they thought.

New data collected from a self-administered survey challenges the efficacy of THCO. Consumers shared their experiences with the compound in what researchers claim is the first attempt to test whether THCO is actually psychedelic. Data was gathered using some questions from the Mystical Experiences Questionnaire (MEQ), which has been used in other studies to gauge psychedelic experience.

Normal aspects of a psychedelic trip, like an altered sense of time, difficulties concentrating, and issues with short-term memory, were experienced at a “low to moderate” level. The same goes for hallucinations or trippy visuals. Responses remained below the threshold for a mystical experience, and those who had tried true psychedelics scored lower on all MEQ dimensions.

In total, 79 percent of respondents reported “little” to “no” psychedelic experience from THCO. Researchers guess that expectations or adulterants have been blamed for previous THCO trips.

This study further illuminates the fact that little is known about the newly discovered and synthesized cannabis compounds. When paired with the HHC issues plaguing Europe, it’s clear that these sectors demand regulation to keep the public safe. In the U.S., these products are most popular in prohibition states furthering the argument for legalization.

Certain states have made HHC and other derivatives illegal, but the products are readily available online. At this point, education is the only way to make sure people only smoke the good stuff. Friends don’t let friends smoke bad weed.

Cara Wietstock is senior content producer of GreenState.com and has been working in the cannabis space since 2011. She has covered the cannabis business beat for Ganjapreneur and The Spokesman Review. You can find her living in Bellingham, Washington with her husband, son, and a small zoo of pets.