What Are Synthetic Cannabinoids & Are They Legal?

Because synthetic cannabinoids refer to a large umbrella of human-made chemicals, it can be easy to run into misinformation and confusion on the topic. But it doesn’t have to be perplexing! We’re here to help you get to the bottom of things.

So whether you’re familiar with the topic or you’ve only just learned about it, we hope to supply you with more information on what different kinds of synthetic cannabinoids are out there, how they’re made, whether they’re legal, and if they’re safe to use. Are you ready?


What are synthetic cannabinoids?

Synthetic cannabinoids consist of a wide spectrum of human-made chemicals created in labs. They are meant to mimic the effects of the marijuana plant. They are often created by spraying chemicals onto plant material, but they can also be mixed into liquid or foods.

Because new synthetic cannabinoids come out regularly, the effects caused by many of these products on the human body remain relatively unknown. However, research and tests are ongoing.


Are synthetic cannabinoids legal?

Which probably leads you to another question… are synthetic cannabinoids legal? The answer to that depends. Some of them are and some of them aren’t.

The government has banned more than 20 specific synthetic cannabinoids on a federal level, placing them on the controlled substance list. A few toxic chemicals to be banned include K2, Kush, Spice, Black Mamba, Bliss, and a few others. They can be found in small, shiny packets or plastic zip bags sold at gas stations or online. Side effects include everything from vomiting and paranoia to seizures and even paralysis.

One synthetic cannabinoid that is currently not on the Drug Enforcement Agency’s (DEA) illegal list is a relatively new compound called Delta-8. Though Delta-8 is naturally expressed in the hemp plant, it is not found in high concentrations or qualities in the plant. It is therefore synthesized from extracted CBD. Furthermore, it comes under the legal limit of THC (anything with 0.3% THC or less).

There’s a debate whether Delta-8 will remain legal or whether it will later join the others on the banned list—and there are people who stand firmly on both sides of the argument—but more on Delta-8 in just a bit.

Finally, three out of the four cannabinoid-containing, FDA-approved drugs are in fact synthetic. Two of these have synthetically-derived dronabinol (which is chemically identical to THC), while another has nabilone (a synthetic chemical analogue of THC). These however are only available to those with a doctor’s prescription.


What states have made it legal to use Delta-8? And what states have banned it?

At this time, a majority of states allow Delta-8 to be used if it contains 0.3% or less THC. There are however a few exceptions.

Delta-8 is currently illegal in: Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Rhode Island, and Utah. If you live in one of these states you will have to find an alternative for relief.


How can I take cannabinoids (or Delta-8 specifically) while also prioritizing my health?

If processed food has taught us anything, it’s that not everything that is legal to sell is necessarily good for you to consume. Chemicals can be found in many things we consume. Because some are toxic to your body and mind it’s praiseworthy that you’re taking the time to do your due diligence with a little research. Here are a few ways to prioritize your health while taking cannabinoids:

First off, make sure you’re using a trustworthy supplier–someone who takes pride in their ingredients. Follow your gut and don’t give any supplier the benefit of the doubt. Compare prices between a few companies. If you see products being sold at unbelievably cheap prices, it’s never a good sign. Their products could very well be contaminated with other drugs and chemicals (such as bath salts). Investing in quality could save you a trip to the hospital!

One further note on Delta-8 specifically before we move on: If you want to know if toxins have been added to a Delta-8 tincture, check the color of the liquid. A number of companies use bleach in their products… which is obviously something you don’t want in your body. If the liquid of your product is clear, it’s got bleach in it. However, if you are seeing a rose-colored distillate oil, congrats! Your product is bleach-free.

Now on to our second point. When prioritizing your health, it’s smart to be cautious about new products on the market. If a newly created synthetic hasn’t been out for very long, researchers are going to know less about how the human body responds to it. More time means more data.

And lastly, if you really want to play it safe, avoid synthetics altogether and stick with natural products like hemp-derived CBD (which is harvested from the plant itself).


Will Delta-8 be banned in the near future? Or will it remain legal?

Let’s go back to Delta-8, the new synthetic cannabinoid available for recreational use. At this time, it’s federally legal and is permitted in most states (though a select few have outlawed it).

But will it stay that way? As mentioned earlier, there are those who believe Delta-8 will remain legal and there others who believe it won’t. Some are of the belief that the DEA might ban all synthesized THC. Others take a more hopeful stance as to the future of synthetics.

Texas Hemp Reporter, for instance, explains that Delta-8 “requires synthetic processes to convert it to a consumable form. If the hemp industry’s concerns here were founded, then all CBD products would be synthetic because they all need a synthetic process for human consumption.”


One Final Note: Although we strive to provide you with accurate information, we are not infallible. We hope you will consider this your starting point in your research on understanding synthetic cannabinoids. To stay educated and informed, we encourage you to find more resources and experts on the subject.

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