Assessing Characteristics and Compliance of Online Delta-8 Tetrahydrocannabinol Product Sellers

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Cannabis Cannabinoid Res. 2023 May 17. doi: 10.1089/can.2022.0341. Online ahead of print.


Introduction: The debate over the legal status of many cannabis- and hemp-derived products, including delta-8 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), is in question. Although low concentrations of delta-8 THC are legal at the Federal level, many states have implemented their own regulations to both allow and restrict its use and sale. Of concern, sellers with unknown legal credentials have appeared online and are actively selling this product. Materials and Methods: We characterized the marketing, sale, and compliance of online delta-8 THC sellers using (1) data collected from the Twitter Application Programming Interface with delta-8 THC-related keywords; (2) unsupervised topic modeling using the Biterm Topic Model to identify clusters of tweets involved in marketing and selling; (3) inductive coding to identify marketing and selling characteristics; and (4) web forensics and simulated shopping to determine compliance with state restrictions for delta-8 THC sales. Results: In total, 110 unique hyperlinks associated with 7085 tweets that included marketing and selling activity for delta-8 THC were collected. From these links, we conducted simulated purchasing in January 2021 to identify compliant and noncompliant websites. Among the vendors, age verification was not found in over half of websites (59, 53.63%); 60 (54.55%) did not report a physical address; and 74 (65.45%) sold delta-8 products direct-to-consumer. Sixty-seven (90.54%) of detected vendors shipped delta-8 products to addresses in states that prohibit sales. Forty-three (64.18%) of Internet Protocol addresses were located within the United States; all others were international. Conclusion: Our analysis suggests that online storefronts are illegally selling and shipping cannabinoid derivatives to U.S. consumers. Further research is needed to understand downstream health and regulatory impacts from this unregulated access.

PMID:37200462 | DOI:10.1089/can.2022.0341

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