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Virginia Mother Charged with Murder After 4-Year-Old Dies from Ingesting ‘Delta-8 THC’ Gummies


Dorothy Annette Clements appears in a mugshot

A mother in Virginia was recently indicted on murder charges because her 4-year-old son died after he allegedly ingested a significant quantity of gummy candies containing an analogue of the primary psychoactive substance in cannabis.

According to the Spotsylvania Sheriff’s Office, Dorothy Annette Clements, 30, was indicted by a Spotsylvania County Grand Jury on Oct. 17, 2022 on charges of felony murder and felony child neglect over the death of her son in May of this year.

The boy was “suffering a medical emergency” two days before he died, the sheriff’s office said in a Facebook post.

“Detectives from the Child Victims Unit investigated the death and learned from doctors that the child’s toxicity level showed a high level of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol),” the SSO said in that post. “Detectives believe the child ingested a large amount of THC gummies.”

Marijuana alone has never resulted in a reported physical overdose in humans that is fatal – and is generally considered impossible by the medical community. Users can overdose in extreme situations.

Many outlets have misleadingly reported on the case as involving a form of “weed” or “marijuana edibles.”

An inquiry by Fox News, however, dispelled some of that typical confusion by revealing that Virginia authorities, when pressed on their claims, later clarified and explained that the gummy candies believed to have been consumed by the deceased child, Tanner Clements, actually contained “delta-8 THC,” citing SSO Major Troy Skebo.

The National Library of Medicine notes that Delta-8-Tetrahydrocannabinol is an analogue of THC that occurs naturally. In chemistry, and drug culture in particular, an analogue is understood to be a compound that is chemically similar at the molecular level to a more popular drug – but not identical. The 1980s and 1990s scares regarding “designer drugs” largely concerned analogues – drugs that are reverse-engineered to be similar to known drugs.

Drug producers often exploit laws that ban particular chemical compounds – by creating synthetic products that, while derived from natural sources in many cases, are not exactly the same (or as safe) as the drugs they intend to mimic in terms of effects.

From the FDA:

Delta-8 tetrahydrocannabinol, also known as delta-8 THC, is a psychoactive substance found in the Cannabis sativa plant, of which marijuana and hemp are two varieties. Delta-8 THC is one of over 100 cannabinoids produced naturally by the cannabis plant but is not found in significant amounts in the cannabis plant. As a result, concentrated amounts of delta-8 THC are typically manufactured from hemp-derived cannabidiol (CBD).

Delta-8, therefore, enjoys widespread legal, or legally gray status, in many states. That legal gray zone is a result of a loophole in the 2018 Farm Bill that legalized all uses of the hemp plant – making Delta-8 a derivative of hemp but not the drug that technically qualifies as marijuana.

A recent article by The New York Times explains the fraught nature of this particular analogue under current law:

Some early research supports the claim that delta-8 could cause a milder high than traditional marijuana. But because the drug is unregulated, the vast majority of delta-8 products on the market don’t resemble what’s tested in a lab and can be contaminated with other cannabinoids and heavy metals. As a result, many experts advise against its use.

In the present case, Tanner Clements is believed to have consumed a product marketed as containing Delta-8 and authorities say that he had an usually high amount of what looked like THC in his system.

“The attending doctor told Detectives that if medical intervention occurred shortly after ingestion, it could have prevented death,” the Skebo said. “Statements made to Detectives by the mother did not match evidence seized at the home.”

Detectives reportedly found an empty gummy jar in the house, according to Washington, D.C.-based NBC affiliate WRC-TV.

Dorothy Clements was arrested on Oct. 20, 2022; she is currently being held without bond at the Rappahannock Regional Jail.

[image via Spotsylvania Sheriff’s Office]

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