New Study Finds Prohibition Promotes Unregulated Cannabis Use

US Population study on CBD, Delta 8, CBN, and CBG study
Illustration: kentoh / Depositphotos

PORTLAND, Ore. – Prohibition may unintentionally promote the use of delta 8 THC in states without medical or adult-use cannabis laws, according to a new federally funded study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Cannabinoids synthesized from hemp have not-so-quietly moved from the shadows into a glaring multi-billion dollar market, but their safety and legal status have raised serious concerns within the federal government.


“Higher delta 8 THC use in states without medical or adult-use cannabis laws suggests that cannabis prohibition may unintentionally promote delta 8 THC use,” researchers wrote. “There are few controlled human studies with emerging cannabinoids, but surveys suggest these products are used for treating sleep or pain and in place of other drugs, including pain medications.”

The research team, led by Adie Rae Wilson-Poe, PhD, set out to study the use of “emerging cannabinoids” CBD, delta 8 THC, CBG, and CBN among U.S. adults across regulated and unregulated markets. According to the researchers, it’s the first study of past-year use for CBN, delta 8 THC, and CBG. Findings were taken from a sample of 1,142 study participants representative of the adult U.S. population. The median age for the study was 48 with slightly higher female representation at 51.7 percent.

Key findings

Race appears to play a significant role in CBD, delta 8 THC, CBG, and CBN consumption with use reported by non-Hispanic Whites at 61.8 percent. Use among the other reported demographics including Hispanic, non-Hispanic Back, and other failed to reach 20 percent. Income and education level show the same trend with higher use among the least educated and lowest income demographics. More than 25 percent of the study’s participants reported using marijuana in the past year.

  • CBD was the most popular among the four cannabinoids reviewed with 21 percent of participants reporting past-year use.
  • CBD use has increased by 50 percent since 2019, when Gallup reported use at 14 percent.
  • Nearly 72 percent of participants had heard of CBD.
  • Delta 8 was the second most popular with nearly 12 percent reporting past-year use.
  • More than 41 percent of participants had heard of delta 8.
  • CBG and CBN use trailed at 5.2 percent and 4.4 percent, respectively.
  • More than 18 percent and 16 percent of participants had heard of CBG and CBN, respectively.
  • Delta 8 use was highest in states/areas where marijuana has not been legalized.

“Based on these results, we support ongoing public health surveillance efforts targeting emerging cannabinoids because of lack of industry standards to protect consumers and similar pharmacology or effects of delta 9 THC and its hemp-derived impairing analogues (eg, delta 8 THC), which may be of particular concern for adolescents and young adults,” researchers wrote. “Our results highlight the importance of future research to better understand perceptions of safety, motivations for use, and outcomes of use of these products.”