The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sent cease and desist letters on Wednesday to six companies for selling products containing delta-8 tetrahydrocannabinol (delta-8 THC) in packaging that closely resemble popular snacks and candy children eat.
Delta-8 THC is the chemical in marijuana that makes people feel high.
The agencies said children, and even some adults, could easily confuse these delta-8 THC products for the real thing, making it easy for them to ingest THC in high doses without realizing it. Edible THC products are packaged to look like Sour Patch Kids, Doritos, Gushers, Jolly Ranchers, Cheetos, Nerds Ropes, and Oreos.
“Marketing edible THC products that can be easily mistaken by children for regular foods is reckless and illegal,” Samuel Levine, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection said in a press release. “Companies must ensure that their products are marketed safely and responsibly, especially when it comes to protecting the well-being of children.”
Janet Woodcock, principal deputy commissioner of the FDA, said such marketing tactics put children at risk.
“Children are more vulnerable than adults to the effects of THC, with many who have been sickened and even hospitalized after eating ‘edibles’ containing it,” said Woodcock.
After reviewing online products, federal authorities said that these companies may have violated Section 5 of the FTC Act (pdf), which prohibits unfair or deceptive acts in or affecting commerce, including marketing practices that may pose a health or safety risk.
The six companies that were sent cease-and-desist letters were Delta Munchies, Dr. Smoke LLC (also known as Dr. S LLC), Exclusive Hemp Farms/Oshipt, Nikte’s Wholesale LLC, North Carolina Hemp Exchange LLC, and The Haunted Vapor Room.
The agencies are jointly demanding that the companies stop marketing edible delta-8 THC products that imitate popular foods using advertising or packaging that is “likely to appeal to young children.” They have been given 15 days to address the commission’s concerns.
According to a January study published in the journal Pediatrics, more children are getting sick from inadvertently eating marijuana edibles. Calls to poison control centers about children <6 years consuming edibles containing THC rose from 207 in 2017 to 3,054 in 2021, a 1,375 percent increase, according to the study.
Furthermore, marijuana ingested in an edible manner can have a stronger and more prolonged effect, especially in children under the age of 12, according to Children’s Hospital Colorado.
The lack of regulation in the United States around delta-8 is a big concern for many public health experts.
“I don’t think delta-8 by itself is more dangerous than delta-9, but the way it’s made and who is selling it just scares the heck out of me,” Dr. Kent Vrana, a professor of pharmacology at Penn State, told The New York Times. “It’s unregulated, and because it’s synthetic there are plenty of opportunities for things to go wrong.”
Some of the side effects of consuming delta-8 include red eyes, dry mouth, rapid heart rate, trouble with coordination, slowed reaction times, anxiety, and memory loss.
According to a specialist psychiatrist, Dr. Au Yeung Kwok-leung, there is no antidote for THC or CBD poisoning. Unlike certain drugs, there is no specific remedy to alleviate poisoning. Medical professionals can only monitor the patient’s vital signs, and in severe cases, blood washing may be necessary.
Danny Tang and Nathan Amery contributed to this report.