If you’re familiar with cannabis, then there’s a good chance you’ve heard of Delta 8 THC. Although it is not new to the scientific community, Delta-8 THC is the newest craze in the steadily growing hemp market due to some distinguishing details and a few legal loopholes.
Delta 8 THC is an analog version of Delta 9 THC, the compound commonly known to produce the psychoactive high associated with cannabis use. While it has many of the same traits and benefits as Delta 9 THC, it seems less likely to cause paranoia while also remaining federally legal.
Delta 8 THC has grown in popularity as a legal alternative to marijuana and a stronger alternative to CBD. Let’s take a closer look at Delta 8 THC and what the hype is all about.
Delta-8 vs. Delta-9 THC
Delta 9 is the form of THC that is first created, whereas Delta 8 is a result of its degradation. As Delta 9 oxidizes, it turns into the less potent Delta 8 form.
Delta 8 THC is often marketed as the form of THC that won’t get you high, but this can get confusing. Also referred to as the second face of THC, Delta 8 is an analog of the better-known Delta 9 THC. This means that it has close to the same molecular structure with just a subtle difference.
Referred to as a minor cannabinoid, Delta 8 only makes up about 0.01% of a hemp plant and must be extracted and concentrated to be readily available. In comparison, Delta 9 THC has been found in concentrations as high as 30%. This means that Delta 8 can be difficult to extract legally and must be derived in other ways.
Delta-8 vs. Delta-9 THC
A Difference in Molecular Structure
When Delta 8 or Delta 9 THC is consumed, they interact with the endocannabinoid system in our bodies. The difference in where the double bond lies causes the chemicals to bond differently with the endocannabinoid receptors, consequently also producing different effects on the body.
A Difference in Potency
The difference in where the double bond lies in Delta 8 THC compared to Delta 9 THC changes the shape of the chemical, which makes a difference in how each cannabinoid interacts with the endocannabinoid receptors. As a result, it reduces the potency to about half that of Delta 9 THC. This is an important difference for new users to take note of.
The effects of Delta 8 THC vary depending on how it is taken. While the psychoactive effects have shown to be significantly less than those of Delta 9 THC when inhaled, this does not seem to be true when Delta 8 THC is taken as an edible. In other words, smoking Delta 8 THC might not get you high, but ingesting it certainly can. Of course, this is also dependent on the amount that is consumed. While the cognitive effects of Delta 8 THC can be felt at lower servings, increasing the serving size may also have a sedative effect.
A lack of education and understanding of the effects of Delta 8 THC alongside a rapidly growing, yet unregulated market has led to some serious health concerns and questionable products. However, Delta 8 THC is not a new discovery and has actually been studied extensively throughout much of the last century, and the potential benefits make it a substance worthy of further investigation.
A History of Delta-8 THC
Scientists studied how it differed from other cannabinoids and the effects it has on the human brain. In the 1960s, organic chemist Raphael Mechoulam achieved full synthesis of Delta 8 THC, while scientists at the University of Delaware worked on an extraction method that has been improved on over the years.
Aside from specially approved studies, research largely came to a halt in the United States when cannabis was made illegal under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. However, research continued in other parts of the world. In the mid 1970s, findings from studies conducted on rats concluded that cannabinoids including Delta 8 THC, Delta 9 THC, and CBD proved safe for their immune system.
The 2018 Farmers Bill was a major step in differentiating the many cannabinoids found in cannabis from the psychoactive THC compound. The bill removed hemp and its derivatives containing less than 0.3% THC from the definition of marijuana as found in the Controlled Substances Act. An increase in studies on hemp and CBD quickly followed and a rapidly growing new market emerged.
Is Delta-8 Legal?
The 2018 Farm Bill “legalizes industrial hemp that has a tetrahydrocannabinol (THC, the psychoactive component of marijuana) concentration of no more than 0.3% by removing it from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act.” This means that Delta 8 THC can be derived from hemp that contains less than 0.3% THC, and that Delta 8 THC products are legal as long as they contain less than 0.3% Delta 9 THC.
There are only trace amounts of THC in hemp plants, so companies who chose to use this production process often created much of the final product synthetically. However, the DEA clarified in 2020 that, “All synthetically derived tetrahydrocannabinols remain Schedule I controlled substances.” Products made this way are often of lesser quality while also walking a blurry legal line.
Delta 8 THC is not only a derivative of Delta 9 THC, but it is also an isomer of CBD. This means that the molecular composition of CBD simply needs to be altered to become Delta 8 THC. With CBD being naturally derived from hemp plants, this provides a more complicated, yet legal way of producing Delta 8 THC.
How Is Delta 8 THC Made?
The first method of turning Delta 9 THC into Delta 8 THC would be more efficient, except that remaining legally compliant would require it all to come from the trace amounts found in hemp plants. Extracting a usable amount of Delta 8 THC would be costly and highly inefficient, and the synthesizing that is required walks the still-blurry legal line.
The second method is to transform legally extracted CBD from hemp plants into Delta 8 THC through the process of isomerization. In this process, hemp plants are grown and harvested, and CBD is extracted from the raw plant material in the same manner used to produce CBD products. CBD is then dissolved in glacial acetic acid, which converts it into Delta 9 THC.
Within 72 hours, over half of the original CBD will have transformed and degraded into Delta 8 THC. This is then carefully refined and concentrated to remove any unwanted chemicals from the final product.
The Benefits of Delta-8 Gummies
When we eat Delta 8 gummies, our bodies break down the gummies and absorb the THC into the liver. The liver then transforms Delta 8 THC into 11-Hydroxy-THC, a form of THC that is significantly more potent. It can also absorb into the bloodstream easily to be more readily available than if the Delta 8 THC had been smoked or otherwise ingested.
When THC binds to receptors in the endocannabinoid system, it stimulates the enzymatic breakdowns that signals the body to regulate functions and maintain balance in the body. The endocannabinoid system helps to regulate functions in multiple other systems in our bodies, including the immune and nervous systems, which accounts for the slew of benefits that THC can offer.
The commonly reported benefits of eating Delta 8 gummies are similar to those from edibles containing Delta 9 THC, but there are few significant studies to properly outline its benefits.
How to Choose the Right Delta-8 Gummies
Since Delta 8 is not yet regulated by the FDA, being mindful of specific labels and certifications allows us to ensure safety and efficacy by choosing quality products from trusted businesses. To ensure that the products you choose are produced ethically and to quality standards, check that they have the following credentials:
- The gummies have passed third-party testing and the results of these tests are available to the public
- The hemp from which the Delta 8 THC is grown in the US
- The hemp used should also be Farm Bill Compliant
- The company maintains transparency in their production and business practices
- The final product should contain less than 0.3% Delta 9 THC
Does Delta-8 Show Up on a Drug Test?
When a substance is consumed, it gets metabolized by the liver, which is primarily in charge of detoxifying metabolites. As they pass through, traces of these metabolites remain in our blood, hair, lungs, saliva, and urine. Most common drug tests are made to detect the metabolites of certain drugs and substances.
Although Delta 8 THC has a reduced potency from Delta 9 THC, it is still stored in the body as it gets processed. For this reason, Delta 8 THC may show up on any of the following drug tests:
- Urine test
- Saliva test
- Blood test
- Hair follicle test
Residuals can commonly last anywhere from two days to several months. One of the most common types of drug tests in the workplace is the urine test, which, on average, detects Delta 8 THC for 30-60 days after consumption.