Updated: Nov 11
As of August 20, 2020, Delta-8 THC is federally illegal in the United States, according to the DEA's most recent drug scheduling. This recent ruling has led a lot of people to ask, what is Delta-8 THC?
Delta-8 THC is a trace cannabinoid derivative found in certain strains of the cannabis plant. How does it differ from Delta-9 THC? We will answer this question and many more below.
What Is Delta-8 THC?
Delta-8 THC is the oxidized isomer of Delta-9 THC (remember Delta-9 THC, the most talked-about cannabis derivative and the king of psychoactivity). In its natural form, Delta-8 THC appears as a trace element in some strains of the cannabis plant. It is formed in the cannabis plant when Delta-9 THC becomes oxidized, converting into an isomer with a remarkably similar molecular structure to its parent derivative.
Delta-8 THC provides remarkable therapeutic effects with substantially lower psychoactive potency than its relative Delta-9 THC. While Delta-8 THC can be likened to Delta-9 THC, its value lies in its stability and effectiveness.
How Does It Differ From Delta-9 THC?
Delta-9 THC and Delta-8 THC are quite similar on all fronts but for their chemical bonds: 8" and 9". Delta-9 THC is naturally oxidized into the isomer Delta-8 THC, an aging process that results in two analog phytocannabinoids with very similar chemical structural formulae. They share identical properties and effects and offer the same value, albeit in a reduced form for Delta-8 THC. Delta-8 THC plays on both sides of the divide, providing a soothing effect reminiscent of Delta-9 THC but devoid of the controlling high and anxiety.
How Is Delta-8 THC Synthesized?
As previously stated, Delta-8 THC occurs naturally in very low concentrations (< 0.1%) in CBD hemp flower. However, it can be extracted or converted using other cannabinoids and made into a concentrated form for various uses.
The main cannabinoid from which delta-8 THC can be synthesized is the cannabigerolic acid or CBGA, the acidic form of CBG. CBG is often referred to as the cannabis stem cell. It is the derivative from which other lesser-known, valuable derivatives are synthesized. CBGA is the parent molecule responsible for producing other cannabinoids, including THCA. The THCA produced is then transformed into Delta-8 THC by oxidation.
Because this lesser-known cannabinoid is formed by oxidation, the resulting molecule is not altered when exposed to air, making it particularly advantageous for pharmaceutical use.
What are the Health Benefits?
• Delta-8 THC is a more natural, more tolerable version of traditional THC. It produces a semi-sedative physical effect without much mental stimulation and allows users to stay focused, active, and balanced, even as they go about their daily activities.
• Delta-8 THC causes lower levels of anxiety than its relative THC, offering clarity and a sense of calm, unlike the effects of Delta-9 THC. Users have reported feeling less altered and more in tune with themselves when using Delta-8 THC than when they consume Delta-9 THC. With the upside that it heightens the senses and improves perception, Delta-8 THC makes outdoor activities like climbing, hiking, and cycling more enjoyable.
• Delta-8 THC has also proven to be effective at managing a wide range of medical conditions. The substance is gaining a reputation for its efficacy at reducing nausea and stimulating appetite.
• Its balanced effect is attracting both veteran and newbie users to cannabis. The derivative has also been found to be particularly suitable for children who have cancer and are undergoing treatment.
In a study conducted by Dr. Raphael Mechoulam in collaboration with the Shaare Zedek Medical Center and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem on the effect of Delta-8 THC on children with various forms of hematologic cancers, it was discovered that chemotherapy-related side effects such as nausea and vomiting were significantly reduced when Delta-8 THC was administered.
The researchers also found that they could use high doses of Delta-8 THC to increase their antiemetic effect on the children without triggering any of the psychoactivity associated with Delta-9 THC. Interestingly, while adults tend to experience mild psychoactive effects when administered with Delta-8 THC, the children used in the study seemed immune to this particular effect.
Remarkable Medical Potential
Delta-8 THC is finding use in the pharmaceutical industry due to its efficacy and stability. According to the U.S. National Cancer Institute, Delta-8 THC contains THC with antiemetic, anxiolytic, appetite-stimulating, analgesic, and neuroprotective properties.
Its primary value lies in its low potency, which translates into lower psychoactivity. When taken in high doses, Delta-8 THC has shown lower levels of anxiety than its relative Delta-9 THC. This lower potency, together with the substance's array of medical benefits, has prompted researchers to look deeper into it.
Delta-8 THC Availability
Delta-8-THC is found in dry cannabis flowers, but at very low concentration levels, making it difficult to obtain through traditional means. The Delta-8 THC cannabinoids in natural plants are too low to make it economically viable to extract.
While research is ongoing at developing CBG-rich strains that would allow for more natural bulk-to-substance ratio of high-valued derivatives such as Delta-8 THC, we would have to make do with synthesized versions of the substance.
Substantial amounts of Delta-8 THC is obtained through a specialized process of extraction, isolation, conversion, and refinement.
Is Delta-8 THC Legal?
There has been a lot of speculation on whether or not Delta-8 THC is legal. While the arguments rage on between proponents and opponents, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has weighed in heavily on the controversy, implying that the substance falls under the classification of controlled substances in a report published on August 20, 2020.
The Drug Enforcement Administration stated, "As a result, a cannabis derivative, extract, or product that exceeds the 0.3% Δ9 -THC limit is a schedule I controlled substance, even if the plant from which it was derived contained 0.3% or less Δ9 -THC on a dry weight basis."
However, there are still many speculations, fear, and fierce claims that the new DEA Interim Final Rule made some things clear, like extracts and interpreting Delta 9, but failed to mention Delta 8 specifically. This position has spawned a quick debate on whether it still is or is not legal.
As of now, the legal hurdles are still a little tricky.
This article is not to be considered as legal advice or a legal interpretation. It is always best to look to your state regulation when considering using delta-8 THC.