Delta-8 has surfaced as one of the most popular and highly-sought cannabinoids on the market. Depending on state regulations, it can be found everywhere from small marijuana dispensaries to convenience stores.
What is Delta-8 THC?
Delta-8 THC (or delta-8-tetrahydrocannabinol) is a naturally occurring chemical compound with trace amounts found in hemp and marijuana plants. Much of delta-8’s popularity is due to its similarity to delta-9 THC. When people use the term “THC,” or dozens of other terms meaning marijuana, they are referring to delta-9 THC.
Uses for THC vary across consumers but may include calmness, pain relief, better sleep, among other benefits. In larger quantities, THC may cause euphoric high or sedation. Delta-8 THC can cause similar effects but to a lesser degree. Consumers who want these benefits without the traditional high caused by delta-9 THC are looking to delta-8.
What’s the Difference Between Delta-8 THC and Delta-9 THC?
The truth is, not a lot. Chemically, both cannabinoids have a double bond in their structures, which is thought to be the catalyst for binding to the body’s endocannabinoid receptors and causing you to become high.
This is about to get pretty sciencey. The primary difference is the placement of the double bond. Delta-8 has the double bond on the eighth carbon atom. Delta-9 (you guessed it) has the double bond on the ninth carbon atom. The placement of the double bond impacts how the compound binds to endocannabinoid receptors, which may be why delta-8 THC is a weaker high.
Comparing Delta-8 vs CBD
CBD (cannabidiol) and delta-8 THC are both cannabinoids but interact with the body in very different ways. Unlike delta-8 and 9, CBD does not bind directly to the body’s endocannabinoid system. Because of this, it does not produce a high as you would experience with either of the other cannabinoids.
Like delta-8 THC, CBD is primarily derived from hemp and is more readily available to consumers because it is regulated differently than marijuana. CBD is a great option for consumers who want natural relief without the high.
Is Delta-8 THC Legal?
That’s a great question and it depends on how you look at it. Delta-8 THC can be extracted from both hemp and marijuana. The 2018 Farm Bill legalized hemp cultivation across the country. Hemp is defined as a cannabis plant that contains no more than 0.3 percent delta-9 THC. These levels are considered too low to have a psychoactive effect, but delta-8 THC is not addressed at all.
Because delta-8 THC can be derived from hemp, the omission means that cultivation is hypothetically legal. Delta-8 THC has become an alternative to Delta-9 THC in many states where marijuana is illegal.
Sales of delta-8 have been blocked by over a dozen states because of concerns over lack of research. These states include:
- New York
- Rhode Island
How is Delta-8 THC Produced?
The amount of delta-8 THC present in cannabis is far too small to meet current consumer demands and too costly to extract in such trace amounts.
Because cannabinoids are similar in molecular structure, scientists have learned how to convert one cannabinoid into another. This is not a new technology in the industry. A different cannabinoid such as the aforementioned CBD or delta-9 THC is extracted and refined into an isolate. It is then synthesized into delta-8 using an ionization process.
The Future of Delta-8 THC
There are currently no federal regulations for delta-8 THC aside from those imposed on hemp cultivation. States are hurrying to take a stance, while the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) proposes new regulations on cannabis.
The proposed regulations would add specifications to the 2018 Farm Bill stating that all synthetically derived tetrahydrocannabinols remain schedule I controlled substances, which could impact more than just delta-8 THC.