Characteristics of Delta-8 THC retailers in a large metropolitan city
Pathak, Sunidhi Santosh
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Background: Retail sales of Delta-8 THC, an isomer of the more common form of cannabis (Delta-9 THC), have increased in the U.S. market since the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill. Specifically, the Farm Bill allowed for the sale of hemp products, which are classified as products having less than 0.3% Delta-9 THC by dry weight. Importantly, sales of Delta-8 THC are unregulated and may introduce possible risk arising from either psychoactive effects or unregulated solvents left behind from the synthesis of Delta-8 THC from CBD. The current study describes the Delta-8 THC retail sales environment in a large metropolitan city. Methods: Potential Delta-8 THC retailers were identified by identifying lists of current retail locations with alcohol, CBD, and tobacco licenses in Fort Worth, Texas (n = 1,961). Research assistants called retailers between September 8 and October 14, 2021, to query about sales of products containing Delta-8 THC; 69% (n = 1,223) of retailers answered and provided data on Delta-8 THC. Outlets' 9-digit ZIP codes were merged with area socioeconomic deprivation index scores. Chi-squared tests compared socioeconomic deprivation index scores between outlets that sold Delta-8 THC versus those that did not sell Delta-8 THC. Among a subsample of those who did sell Delta-8 THC, t-tests examined associations between prices and the type of Delta-8 THC products. Results: Approximately one in ten retail outlets (11%, n = 133) reported selling products containing Delta-8 THC. Most (96%) sold Delta-8 THC in the form of flower/vapes, and three-fourths (76%) sold edibles. Among the least expensive Delta-8 THC products available at these retail outlets were edibles (mean price = $15.39), which cost $8.58 less than flowers/vapes (mean price: $23.97; p < 0.001) on average. Retail outlets that sold Delta-8 THC, compared to those that did not, were in zip codes with greater deprivation (p = 0.02). Most outlets reported having a minimum age for sales of Delta-8 THC as 21 years; however, 4% reported 18 years or no minimum age for sale of Delta-8 THC products. Discussion: Delta-8 THC retail outlets were disproportionately located in ZIP codes with higher levels of socioeconomic deprivation. Legal intervention, such as zoning laws, may be warranted to prevent potential health disparities from overexposing a subset of communities to these products. Policies, such as increasing Delta-8 THC product prices and restricting the types of products sold may help reduce access and appeal to people under 21 years old.