SALT LAKE CITY, UT: Last Thursday, the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food issued an erroneous document designed to address concerns regarding the release of products containing unprecedented THC isomers (9R-delta-6a,10a-THC, 9S-delta-6a,10a-THC, (6aR,9R)-delta-10-THC, and  (6aR,9S)-delta-10-THC). The document, at best, overlooks Utah law and, at worst, abdicates public trust.

In addition, the Utah Health Department released a statement earlier this year regarding Delta-8 by stating: “At this time, there is no evidence of therapeutic benefit of the analog derived synthesized cannabinoids, [including] delta-8 THC,” Dr. Perry Fine, chair of the Utah Cannabinoid Product Board, “Risks have been described by federal regulatory bodies and peer-reviewed publications regarding delta-8 THC. At this time, we do not support any therapeutic uses of analog cannabis products.”

The Utah Cannabinoid Product Board has heard from researchers and reviewed literature on delta-8, and board members voted unanimously Feb. 8 to take a stance against the compound and other “analog cannabinoids,” according to KUER. The state’s inaction is clearly inconsistent with public health and safety and in conflict with its own statements.

The UDAF and DHHS have continued to ignore warnings from the CDC, FDA, and direct correspondence provided by experts Dr. Ethan Russo (cannabis researcher), Dr. Chris Hudalla (analytical chemist.), and Lezli Engelking (President, FOCUS: The Cannabis Health & Safety Organization cannabis regulatory group). Instead, they have bypassed measures of public safety by referencing the lack of evidence-based toxicological research. This would infer that their own experts did not have specific data or toxicology reports to support justifying the release of these products in Utah pharmacies. In other words, they are not meeting the requirements for safe human consumption in line with Utah law [ 4-41a-602-(4a(ii)) and 26-61a-201(9c)].  

In reference to Utah’s current synthetics regulation, Engelking stated, “Over the past 18 months, FOCUS has worked to educate and inform Utah regulators about the dangers of allowing new THC isomers as acceptable for human consumption. In our long-term association with cannabis regulators nationwide, we have not yet experienced such a dangerous situation where the cart is clearly put before the horse. The health and safety of consumers is our primary concern.” Engleking further emphasized that “FOCUS stands ready to help Utah as they work to correct this egregious policy.”

It is imperative to identify the current processes creating unfamiliar synthetic cannabinoids. Quality assurance standards must be validated and implemented to model consistent manufacturing guidelines across the industry. These standards would help to ensure that medical cannabis products align with Utah’s requirements for consumer protection, thus elevating the quality and safety of the Utah medical cannabis program. 

In the interim, patients must be notified which specific products and brands contain potentially harmful synthetic cannabinoids.    

“Utahns are looking for symptom relief from their disease, illness, or conditions and turn to cannabis in hopes of finding solace,” said TRUCE Utah President Christine Stenquist. “As a patient advocacy  group, we find it incredibly frustrating being ignored while we watch the state departments normalize unregulated and questionable practices.”  She adds, “It is apparent to me that to protect patient safety, there is a desperate need for an autonomous cannabis department comprised of individuals trained in the cannabis sciences, regulation, and policy.”