Teens Have a New Marijuana Workaround: 'Diet Weed'

Researchers say 'appreciable' number of high school seniors are using delta-8, a cannabis compound
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 13, 2024 12:00 PM CDT
'Diet Weed' Is Teens' Latest Kick
Stock photo of, ahem, candy.   (Getty Images/lauraag)

In some states, pot hasn't yet been legalized, and even in states where it has been, you have to be 21 to legally consume it. But teens across the US have found a workaround of sorts—a less-potent, more readily available form of THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive compound found in cannabis. In most states with legalized pot, there is no age restriction on delta-8, notes CNN. According to research published Tuesday in the journal JAMA, the use of delta-8—also called "diet weed" or "weed lite," per NBC News—by high school seniors is "appreciable," with more than 1 in 10 from that population reporting they've used the little-researched product, which can come in the form of vape cartridges, beverages, gummies, chocolate, and other edibles.

The researchers tapped into data from the "Monitoring the Future" survey given to 50,000 middle school and high school students across the US between February and June of last year, pulling out nearly 2,200 high school seniors to focus on. They found that 11.4% of those students said they'd used delta-8 within the past year (for comparison, about 30% said they'd used weed), with the highest prevalence among teens in the South and Midwest, where not as many states have legalized pot. White teens were more likely use both delta-8 and weed than other races and ethnicities.

Delta-8 THC is a "chemical cousin" of delta-9 THC, the THC found in marijuana. Delta-8 is believed to be weaker than delta-9, and it has fewer legal restrictions than pot in states where it's legal. Due to a loophole in the 2018 farm bill, more vendors were able to start selling delta-8, making it more accessible than other cannabis products. The researchers call their findings a "potential public health concern." Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, wasn't involved with the study, but she tells CNN that "11% is a lot of people. That's at least one or two students in every average-sized high school class who may be using delta-8." (More delta-8 stories.)

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