You may not be aware of delta-8 THC, because its debut as the next amazing hemp-derived cannabinoid was pretty short-lived. And why was this cannabis compound one day here the next day gone in the hemp industry?
For most of this year, hemp-derived D8 thrived in the market on the grounds that it came from hemp that contained .3% or less delta-9 THC. This, so it was reasoned, made it a lawful product according to the language in the 2018 Farm Bill that defined hemp apart from “marihuana” in the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) — all watched over by the DEA of loving grace.
Sounds reasonable … So what’s the problem? The DEA found a way to put hemp-derived delta-8 THC into Schedule I jail right alongside delta-9 THC. And heroin. And LSD …
How, you ask, how did the DEA do this? In this article, we’ll explain how they put the kibosh on hemp D8 (at least temporarily), while also getting you more acquainted with:
- the definition of delta-8 THC
- delta-8 and the ECS
- delta-8 THC vs delta-9 THC
- whether delta-8 can get you high
- how delta-8 is used
- the health effects of delta-8
What Is Delta-8 THC?
We already know cannabis ain’t no one-trick pony. In the last decade we’ve been introduced to some of its amazing cannabinoids (CBD, CBG, THCV, etc.) and their much sought after therapeutic effects. For the sake of time, we’re not even going to trip on terpenes, flavonoids, and fatty acids in cannabis in this article (although you definitely should when you have time). But did you know that when we talk about THC, what is really meant is delta-9 THC? Which might suggest that there are other THC molecules, called isomers, like delta-8 tetrahydrocannabinol. Actually, there are 30 known THC isomers. Whaaaat?
When you hold a regular THC dominant bud or some hemp flower in your hand, you’re probably looking at less that 1% delta-8 THC. Why so low? Well, we know that delta-9 THC (the famous THC) is the most abundant cannabinoid in cannabis, followed by CBD. And in hemp, CBD is most abundant. We also know that growers and geneticists have been experimenting with all manner of hybrid stains in which these two tip the scales one way or another or come close to a balance. This, of course, is medicinally motivated.
Furthermore, we’ve learned that there are more than a 100 minor cannabinoids in the cannabis plant as well. Most of them emerge out of chemical processes involving enzymatic synthesis. It begins with the acids — CBGA (cannabigerolic acid) is the mother. Then THCA, CBDA, and CBCA or THCVA, CBDVA, and CBCVA, and so on …
Like CBN (cannabinol), delta-8 THC is not produced like the majority of cannabinoids. It’s a degradation of delta-9 THC through oxidation. What you get is a slightly different chemical structure that can cause a person to have a whole different experience with THC effects. Not to mention a stable molecule — delta-8 won’t break down further, giving it a longer shelf life.
Well, because D8 occurs naturally in very small amounts in cannabis (marijuana and hemp), extractors had to find a way to produce large quantities of it. They did this by deriving it from delta-9 THC or CBD in the lab. This puts it in the synthetic tetrahydrocannabinol family … which is still in schedule one jail, too.
Delta-8 THC and Your ECS
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a master network of cell receptors, endocannabinoids, and the enzymes that produce them and break them down. Endocannabinoids and their receptors can be found in the brain, organs, glands, immune cells, skin, and connective tissues. The ECS performs different tasks in each tissue. But, the goal is always the same—to maintain overall balance and well-being (homeostasis) in the body.
It’s delta-8’s slightly different design that causes it to bond and act differently with cannabinoid receptors. In essence, this is why cannabinoids have a range of effects, and delta-8 THC is no different in having its own similar yet different profile.
Delta-8 vs Regular THC
Like delta-9 THC, delta-8 THC binds to CB1 receptors, which are primarily in the central nervous system (CNS). Also, it’s believed to have an affinity for CB2 receptors, but there’s not much scientific evidence on that yet. What makes delta-8 different is a lower psychotropic potency. Both research and anecdotal evidence suggest that delta-8 is a tame version of regular THC. What are the benefits of this? Well, if you’re not just in it to get super-duper high, it can be extremely beneficial for anyone that needs the nausea-relieving, appetite stimulating benefits of THC, without the mental stimulation, i.e. anxiety, paranoia, racing heart, etc. that often accompany delta-9 THC in people with low tolerance.
This makes it a much more patient-friendly alternative to the usual THC for people going through cancer treatment. It’s even been successfully used in a study on children going through cancer treatment (see these details further down the page). Basically, delta-8 is believed to have a lot of the effects of well-known THC, but without the souped-up mental effects.
So … Will Delta-8 THC Get You High?
Yes. But not quite like a regular THC high. Research suggests that delta-8 has about two-thirds the potency of delta-9. But what does delta-8 THC feel like? Most seem to agree that it is fairly sedating with an all-over body relaxation. It might be described as a classic happy stoned feeling without any runaway mental stimulation — more in tune, less impaired.
How Do You Use Delta-8 THC?
The way delta-8 THC concentrates are most commonly used include:
Most commonly, delta-8 THC is extracted from flower and trim and made into a concentrate form. Because the cannabis plant contains such low amounts of it, manufacturers extract and distill it into a thick translucent liquid that looks similar to CBD distillate.
It’s available in cartridges or syringes, and can be vaporized using most weed pens or a dab rig.
Delta-8 concentrate is also a nice addition to your hemp flower or medical weed.
Since distillate is technically edible, it can be consumed orally, but there is a lack of evidence on eating delta-8. Moreover, delta-8 THC actually converts into delta-11 THC when digested. Since edible delta-9 THC also converts into delta-11 THC, there’s really no major benefit to eating delta-8 THC.
There are also a few delta-8-THC infused sublingual tinctures out there too.
What Are the Health Effects of Delta-8 THC?
The known benefits of delta-8-THC so far are that it prevents or stops nausea and vomiting (antiemetic), relieves pain, is an appetite stimulant, is anti-cancer, and has neuroprotective properties. The research so far is a bit limited, but promising.
Analgesic (pain reliever)
A recent study in the Cannabinoid and Cannabis Research journal reveals the potential for treating pain and
inflammation with topical delta-8 THC (along with CBD). Nothing like seeing some successful ensemble effect between cannabinoids. Another reason to add delta-8 to your CBD hemp flower.
A 2004 study showed that even very low doses of delta-8 THC increased appetite and cognitive function in mice. Researchers suggested this could help with weight disorders without the intoxicating effects of cannabis.
According to the National Cancer Institute, a study in 2013 showed that delta-8-THC is considered to be one of the cannabinoids that inhibits tumor growth. “…Delta-9-THC, delta-8-THC, and cannabinol (CBN) were found to inhibit the growth of Lewis lung adenocarcinoma cells in vitro and in vivo. In addition, other tumors have been shown to be sensitive to cannabinoid-induced growth inhibition.” More evidence of the entourage effect in effect. Just wow.
A 1987 study conducted on mice found that delta-8-THC may also possess some neuroprotective properties based on brain activity that was monitored in the study. The study was intended to test various cannabinoids, but delta-8 THC was one of the cannabis compounds that stood out to researchers because of its significant effect in such a minute dosage.
Is Delta-8 THC Legal?
The answer up until August 21, 2020 was … it’s complicated. But on this date, the U.S. DEA issued an interim final rule (IFR), stating that
The [2018 Farm Bill] does not impact the control status of synthetically derived tetrahydrocannabinols (for Controlled Substance Code Number 7370) because the statutory definition of “hemp” is limited to materials that are derived from the plant Cannabis sativa L. For synthetically derived tetrahydrocannabinols, the concentration of delta-9 THC is not a determining factor in whether the material is schedule I controlled substances.
Because delta-8 THC is man-made in a lab through chemical reaction, this makes it synthetic. It doesn’t matter that the CBD cannabinoid used in the chemical reaction comes from hemp, according to the DEA. Ultimately, it’s the manipulation that happens that removes it from the lawful definition of hemp.
Prior to the publication of this IFR, you can find many articles arguing the lawfulness of D8 extract from hemp, and you will continue to find these arguments. It all comes down to interpretation of the language in the 2018 Farm Bill and the CSA. But the truth is, until THC — of any kind — is removed from the Schedule I category, the DEA will continue to rain down its petty torments on the Hemp Industry.
Fortunately, delta-8 will continue to be legal in the 33 states that have MMJ programs and the 11 plus D.C. that have legalized recreational cannabis. Thankfully, the DEA is working with an ever-shrinking map of jurisdiction where they will be able pull out their flaccid THC argument.
The Hemp Haus always offers full spectrum CBD products, such as Ananda Hemp softgels, tinctures, and topicals; the power of Puffin Hemp Liposomal CBD; and high-quality Stardust Hemp flower. We’re always here to answer any questions you may have about CBD, hemp, cannabis, and their effects!