What Is Delta-8-THC?
As you may have noticed, the health and wellness industry has a new buzzword from the hemp plant – delta-8-THC. As its popularity surges, more products in the market are now being infused with this newer cannabinoid. But what is it delta-8-THC? How does it work, and is it legal?
The mention of THC evokes different feelings in people and depending on the impression the famous cannabinoid has left on you, you can either be skeptical or excited about this new health and wellness newest hype touted as a “wonder compound.”
Many don’t realize that THC is not a single compound, it is a family of cannabinoid analogues, and they have different effects when consumed. In this article, we take a more in-depth look at one such analogue – Delta-8-THC.
What Is Delta-8-THC? And Why Is It Getting Popular?
When most people mention THC, they are usually referring to delta-9-THC, which is the primary psychoactive cannabinoid in marijuana.
However, it is not the only compound in the THC family in cannabis – four main compounds can be found in the plant: THCA, which is the precursor to the other types of THC, THCV, delta-9-THC, and delta-8-THC.
Delta-8 is a minor cannabinoid that occurs in minuscule amounts naturally in the cannabis and hemp plants. It is a stable cannabinoid that forms when delta-9-THC ages and is oxidized.
Because delta-8 is an analogue of delta 9, the low concentration of delta-9 may explain why it occurs in such low volumes naturally. In hemp, delta-9-THC is legally limited to 0.3%, which means that delta-8 concentration is even lower.
Delta-8 THC is not very different from its precursor – delta-9. They have the same molecular formula; the only difference is in the structure. Both have a double bond, hence the delta prefix. However, the delta-8’s double bond occurs on the 8th carbon, while delta-9’s appears on the 9th carbon atom.
Like its infamous sibling, delta-8-THC is psychoactive. However, users report that its high is only half as strong as the one caused by delta-9; it doesn’t induce confusion, anxiety, paranoia, and other unpleasant effects associated with marijuana.
If anecdotal reports and early studies are anything to go by, delta-8 may have the potential to alleviate some of the conditions that delta-9 is used for with manageable side effects. However, more research on its benefits is still required so we can fully understand its impact.
How Delta-8-THC Is Extracted
In hemp, delta-8 occurs in meager amounts naturally. Typically, at levels below 0.1%. This makes extraction from the plant matter a tricky and expensive process.
However, hemp processors have found a way to obtain it from hemp plant derivatives through a process called isomerization. Cannabinoids are very close chemically and structurally which makes it easy to change them from one cannabinoid to another.
Cannabinoids even change into each other naturally in the presence of heat, light, or aging. All cannabinoids come from CBGA, which is then synthesized into THCA, CBCA, and CBDA, the acidic precursors to THC, CBC, and CBD.
Delta-8 is made by exposing CBD extract to the isomerization process. Isomerization is the conversion of a compound into a different isomeric form such as CBD to Delta 8 or delta 9 to delta 8.
Some companies are also using another process called “thin-film distillation,” where they obtain delta-8-THC from hemp flower through pressure and temperature manipulation.
While many people term these processes as synthetic, industry experts argue that “derivatives” or “conversions” are more appropriate terms as these cannabinoids occur naturally and change into each other even without human input.
How Delta-8 Affects You
Delta-8-THC causes its effects by interacting with the cannabinoid receptors of the ECS. The ECS, or the endocannabinoid system in full, is a network of cell receptors, endocannabinoids, and enzymes.
The ECS is responsible for maintaining homeostasis in the body by regulating pain, appetite, mood, hormones, inflammation, memory, and other crucial bodily functions.
Delta-8-THC binds to the CB1 receptors like delta-9, which may explain its psychoactive properties. Delta 8 also has an affinity for CB2 receptors, although not much is currently known about this mechanism.
Several studies have linked its anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties to its effects on the CB1 receptors.
So, Will Delta 8 Get You High?
Yes, delta-8-THC is a psychoactive compound, and consuming it will get you high. But not like regular THC does. Research suggests that it is only half as potent as delta 9 THC.
Users suggest that its high is more clear-headed and is not characterized by confusion, anxiety, or paranoia, which are some of the unpleasant side effects of delta-9 overconsumption.
However, some users note that due to the less intense effects, it is possible to overconsume delta-8-THC.
Is Delta-8-THC Legal?
There is no simple answer to this question.
In 2018, The Agriculture Improvement Act, popularly known as the 2018 Farm Bill, was assented into law, making hemp and its products legal in the USA.
Section 297A of the 2018 Farm Bill, defines the term hemp as the plant cannabis Sativa L, any parts including seeds, derivatives, acids, cannabinoids, isomers, salts, extracts, salts of isomers – whether growing or not with less than 0.3% delta-9 concentration on a dry weight basis.
Delta-8, as an isomer CBD obtained from legal industrial hemp, falls into this category and is therefore legal federally in the United States.
However, the DEA recently published an addendum to the 2018 Farm Bill stating that it’s illegal to produce tetrahydrocannabinols in any form synthetically. According to the rule, synthetically derived THCs are still schedule 1 controlled substance.
As of now, it is not clear where delta-8-THC stands legally federally. In states, the legality can differ, so ensure you check your state’s laws before purchase.
Risks of Taking Delta-8-THC
Psychoactive effects – This depends on why you are consuming the cannabinoid. Many people are only turning to hemp products for their therapeutic potential in relieving several conditions such as chronic pain, anxiety, and insomnia.
Using delta-8 may be intoxicating to some people. Meaning it may affect your ability to carry out daily tasks, reducing your productivity. So, if your aim is not to get stoned, you should steer clear of this cannabinoid.
Legal Situation – As explained above, delta-8 exists in a somewhat legal gray area. Since it occurs in very low concentrations for direct extraction, it has to be made in a lab by converting other cannabinoids.
While the 2018 Farm Bill describes legality by the concentration of delta-9-THC present, the DEA is already pushing back on the production and sale of delta-8-THC on the basis that it is made synthetically.
Delta 8 is also illegal in some states. Instead of having to look over your shoulder every time you need relief, you are better off with clearly legal products such as broad-spectrum and full-spectrum CBD which provide the same levels of relief.
Failing Drug Tests – Delta 8 is thought to have the same metabolites as delta-9-THC. When testing for marijuana use, most drug tests detect the presence and concentration of these metabolites in your system.
Delta-8 can therefore trigger positive drug tests. If you are in a career that requires you to be sober and routinely tests for marijuana use, you should use broad-spectrum CBD or CBD isolate that contains zero THC.
Everything You Need To Know About Delta-8-THC – Final Word
Delta-8 products are now everywhere in the market. However, more research is still required before their effects and benefits can be confirmed.
On the legal status of delta-8-THC, it is obvious that the congress did not intend for derivatives of hemp to be commercially sold at levels that consumers could use to get high. The legal situation will likely be cleared in the near future as delta-8 becomes more prevalent.
Unless your intention is getting high, you will be better off with broad-spectrum and isolate CBD products that contain no THC and are legal in all 50 states.