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July 21, 2022 4 min read

There was a recent Associated Press article about how some hemp producers are chemically manipulating the CBD in hemp to produce a robust form of THC, the component that produces the “high” from marijuana. 

Yes, you read that right – enterprising growers have figured out a way to produce a synthetic type of THC from naturally grown CBD. Who knew this was even possible? Well, it turns out that it’s both possible and currently happening. 

These producers choose hemp for this CBD-to-THC synthesis because it contains much greater concentrations of CBD than marijuana. Also, from a practical standpoint, it is much less expensive to grow hemp than marijuana given the extensive regulations and heavy taxation faced by marijuana growers. The result is many marijuana growers view this cheaper THC from hemp as an existential threat to their livelihood. One marijuana grower in this article cites the price of THC distillate dropping from $50,000 to $6,000 a liter. 

Here's a quick primer to help understand the relationship, and difference, between marijuana and hemp: Both derive from the cannabis plant and are cousins, so to speak. Marijuana naturally contains high concentrations of THC and low concentrations of CBD, while hemp is just the opposite. By law, CBD sold to consumers cannot exceed 0.3 percent THC. Hemp is legal to grow and sell in every state; marijuana is not. Currently, 37 states have legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes and 18 states and Washington, D.C., have legalized it for recreational use. 

It’s this combination of hemp’s high concentration of CBD, its favorable regulatory environment, and comparatively low taxation levels, as compared to marijuana, that make it the choice for those who want to chemically alter the CBD into high-potency THC. 

Congress passed the Farm Bill in 2018 which permits growing hemp nationwide in accordance with state or tribal laws. “Rope not dope” were the words used by lobbyists and backers when they were advocating for the legalization of hemp. 

This process to derive THC from hemp’s CBD, then, exploits a loophole in the law that many believe undermines the integrity of the hemp industry and the intent of the 2018 Farm Bill. Count Exact Nature among this crowd. 

This process of chemically deriving THC from CBD involves the addition of solvents and heat. Supporters call it economical and environmentally friendly. Additionally, they are quick to point out, hemp is grown outdoors in sizable fields without the need for expensive and energy-intensive lighting systems. They say this allows them to take this CBD and synthetically produce a grade of THC that is more consistent and robust and, helpfully, leaves a smaller carbon footprint. 

Advocates urge regulators to recognize this idea of synthetic THC as a free-market innovation whose time has come and to not to take sides. They compare it to synthetically created vanilla and caffeine and say this production method allows them to produce a more consistent, cleaner product while scaling production. 

Critics say the product’s safety isn’t proven and the process leaves behind potentially harmful byproducts. In addition, they contend THC made from hemp represents an industrialization of the cannabis industry that does not represent what voters intended when they passed laws to legalize marijuana. Allowing synthetically derived THC in the state’s legal cannabis market could devastate the industry, they submit. 

They say THC-from-hemp products should be banned from current markets and not allowed for sale in legal marijuana shops. Barring this, they say, at the least the products made from this THC must be required to be labeled as synthetic. 

For CBD providers like Exact Nature, this development of synthetically produced THC from CBD is not helpful. It’s not helpful to Exact Nature specifically, but especially not to the CBD industry as a whole because of the credibility issues it’s already battling in some quarters. (Note: It affects Exact Nature less because all of our products are lab tested and accompanied by a Certificate of Analysis which validates their authenticity.) 

Arguably the biggest factors dogging the industry now is the substandard CBD found widely across the U.S., inaccurate or misleading ingredient labeling, and unproven medical claims from disreputable suppliers. 

Again, the confusion and doubt this could cause for CBD consumers is not helpful. Synthetically produced THC from CBD could raise further questions as the industry works hard to establish its foothold by providing constantly excellent products and weeding out (pun intended) bad actors. 

On the positive side, however, it should provide further impetus – or said more bluntly, a kick in the pants – for all CBD suppliers to provide Certificates of Analysis from third-party lab testing, to which all CBD suppliers should adhere but currently do not. 

All Exact Nature products are accompanied by Certificates of Analysis from independent testing laboratories- this should provide some comfort to our customers. Now, with the advent of synthetically derived THC potentially casting some wider doubt, we are doubly certain we made the right choice in committing to an exceptional quality CBD for all Exact Nature products.