• Marijuana and hemp are the same plant, but hemp is legal because it has less Delta-9 THC — the chemical that gets people high.
  • Drug manufacturers are extracting Delta-8 THC, which has the same psychoactive effects as THC in marijuana, from hemp.
  • Experts say Delta-8 products are being marketed to minors.
  • Parents can protect their kids from Delta-8 through education, discipleship and communication.

Drug manufacturers are marketing THC-laced snacks to minors, experts warn — but marijuana isn’t the problem. Intoxicating chemicals from hemp are making drug manufacturers billions.

Marijuana and hemp are cannabis sativa plants with different levels of Delta-9 THC — the chemical that gets people high.

Congress legalized hemp, or any sativa plant with less than 0.3% Delta-9, in 2018, reasoning, as the Brookings Institute put it, “hemp can’t get you high.”

Apparently, it can. Though hemp has naturally lower levels of THC, drug manufacturers have figured out how to extract and concentrate all kinds of intoxicating chemicals from the plant, the Wall Street Journal reports — and it’s all legal.

Today, the hemp-derived chemical industry is worth approximately $28 billion dollars, according to an estimate cited by the Journal, more than $25 billion of which is believed to come from products that get people high.

Many such products contain Delta-8 THC, a chemical cousin to the THC found in marijuana with “[similar] psychoactive and intoxicating effects,” according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Hemp doesn’t have much natural THC, so most Delta-8 products are made by mixing household chemicals with hemp-derived CBD, a cannabis chemical that doesn’t get you high.

“Final Delta-8 THC products may have potentially harmful contaminants due to [potentially unsafe household chemicals] used in the process,” the FDA warns, further noting:

Delta-8 THC products likely expose consumers to much higher levels of the substance than are naturally occurring in hemp cannabis raw extracts. Thus, historical use of cannabis cannot be relied upon in establishing a level of safety for these products in humans.

Experts believe businesses market Delta-8 products to minors — an increasingly common strategy to increase drug companies’ bottom line.

“Delta-8 distributors appear to be competing with each other to produce packaging that will attract the attention of adolescents,” Dr. Ruth Milanaik told the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) in October.

Just three months earlier, the FDA and Federal Trade Commission sent joint letters of warning to six stores selling Delta-8 THC products mimicking popular brands of chips, cookies, candy and gummies.

In addition to colorful and confusing packaging, Milanaik’s study of 45 websites selling Delta-8 products to kids found they were cheap, potent, and easy to get:

  • 16 (36%) of the surveyed websites didn’t ask buyers’ age and 43 (96)% didn’t use third-party age verification software;
  • 24 (53%) sold products in kid-friendly packaging;
  • 11 (28%) sold products with no Delta-8 warnings or disclosures;
  • 29 (64%) sold some products for $10 or less and 31 (69%) of websites’ cheapest products contained more than 40 mg of Delta-8.

Drug retailers’ apparent targeting of minors correlates with an increase in pediatric Delta-8 poisonings.

More than 1,400 kids were unintentionally exposed to Delta-8 in 2022, according to the National Poison Data System, up from 775 kids in 2021.

Kids who ingest Delta-8 may experience vomiting, dizziness, difficulty walking, rapid heart rate, drowsiness, confusion and breathing difficulties. The drug can make some children so sleepy that their breathing stops, the Journal writes.

Almost 80% of the Delta-8 exposures reported to poison control between January 2021 and October 2023 ended up in the hospital.

It can be easy to feel overwhelmed or fearful about the dangers children face every day — but parents are far from powerless! Here are some steps you can take to prevent your kids from Delta-8 THC and other intoxicating chemicals:

  • Educate: Kids can’t protect themselves if the don’t know what to watch for. Explain that dangerous chemicals can sometimes hide in plain sight and teach kids to look for subtle disclosures on snack packages. Warn them against eating unwrapped candy or chips — even when offered by a friend.
  • Disciple: Kids are facing down a culture of addiction — whether that be technology, substances like Delta-8, or activities like watching porn. You can protect and prepare your children for these traps by explaining the mechanics of addiction, and how they trap us and draw us away from safety in Christ. Demonstrate true freedom through your own relationship with Jesus and invite your kids to pursue the same abundance.
  • Communicate: Make sure your kids know they can come to you with any sin or addiction they may be facing. Fostering an open line of communication can help bring God’s grace and healing to sin that kids may feel ashamed of or want to hide.

Additional articles and resources:

Focus on the Family Resources for Parents

High School and Middle School Students Continue Vaping, FDA Tries to Control Illegal E-Cigarettes

Survey Finds Teens Use Social media More Than Four Hours Per Day — Here’s What Parents Can Do

Federal Legalization of Marijuana Gains Steam. Here are the Downsides to Legalization