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Legal hemp products are being packaged like candy. Why this could be dangerous.

Delta-8 THC is being sold in hundreds of stores across the Tampa Bay area.

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. — As many of you know, only medicinal marijuana is legal in Florida. So you have to have a medical card to get it. But there's a type of hemp being sold legally in hundreds of convenience stores across the Tampa Bay area, and it could be dangerous.

Delta-8 THC is sometimes called "marijuana lite." It's a derivative of the more common delta-9 THC, which is restricted. The edibles are often packaged to look like common candies or snacks. One big concern is that this product could get into the hands of a child. And there's good reason for the concerns — calls to poison control about delta-8 THC are way up. In Florida alone in 2020, they took 77 calls. 

So far in 2022, there have been 503.

Alexandra Funk is the Managing Director of the Florida Poison Information Center in Tampa. 

"A lot of these products have a very small amount as the individual dose, so a 6th of a chocolate bar or 1 gummy equal the dose, but they're packaged or in an individual package that has multiple gummies or multiple doses in it."

In Florida, it's perfectly legal to sell delta-8 THC products. 

Jeff Grant is with Hillsborough County Code Enforcement. "Some of the convenience stores and a lot of the smoke shops actually have the hemp food permits and they're selling the delta-8 edibles."

Code Enforcement snapped pictures at stores around the county after commissioners asked them to look into the product. But Grant says there's nothing they can do. "Anything that has .3% or less delta-9 THC is considered legal now by the 2018 Farm Bill."

And since the products are not FDA regulated, Grant says it's hard to know exactly what's in them. 

"Delta-8 actually has psychoactive properties just like delta-9, they call it marijuana lite. So it will get you high, it will have an effect on the body. And that's one of the concerns that it could fall into the hands of kids."

According to Funk at Poison Control, taking too much can cause a number of issues. 

"Hallucinations, agitation, it can make you sleepy, lethargic. You could have disruption in your ability to have your blood pump, so your blood pressure, your heart rate, your respiratory rate. And it could also develop into severe symptoms such as seizures or coma."

If you're concerned that you or someone you know has ingested too much, especially if it's a child, Funk says to call the Poison Helpline at 1-800-222-1222. "We have very highly skilled and trained nurses, pharmacists, physicians who answer that phone line."

Calls about delta-8 are up nationally as well — Poison Control centers received nearly 2,300 calls about delta-8 THC exposure between Jan. 1, 2021, and Feb. 28 of this year. 41% of those calls involved kids. They say one of those cases resulted in death.

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