Delta-8 THC: An Overview
Delta-8 THC products are taking the market by storm right now and it’s easy to understand why. As a close substitute to delta-9 THC (a Schedule-I Controlled Substance per the D.E.A.), delta-8 THC is a hemp-derived cannabinoid that can replicate the effects of delta-9 THC and make users feel intoxicated.
As a minor cannabinoid, there are still a lot of questions about delta-8 THC like:
What is delta-8 THC?
Is delta-8 THC legal?
Will delta-8 THC make me fail a drug test?
We’re going to do our best to answer all of these questions and more in this post.
What is Delta-8 THC?
Delta-8 THC is a psychoactive cannabinoid produced by the cannabis plant and is present in both industrial hemp and marijuana. Delta-8 THC is considered a minor cannabinoid and only appears naturally in very small (<1%) concentrations.
Because of its legally murky status and psychoactive effects, commercial hemp growers and cannabinoid extractors have utilized selective breeding, extraction techniques, and molecular manipulation to produce greater quantities of delta-8 THC.
What’s the Difference Between Delta-9 and Delta-8 THC?
Delta-8 THC is an isomer of the more common delta-9 THC cannabinoid meaning that while its molecular formula (C₂₁H₃₀O₂) is the same, the arrangement of the atoms that make up the molecule differs.
Notice where the double bond is in the two molecular diagrams above. Delta-8 THC has its double bond between atoms 8 and 9. Delta-9 THC has its double bond between atoms 9 and 10.
While it may seem a minuscule difference, the double bond placement has caused a big stir for delta-8 THC enthusiasts, the hemp industry, and even the law— all of which we will dig into below.
What are the Effects of Delta-8 THC?
Delta-8 THC users say that the intoxicating effects are similar to the effects of delta-9 THC, with some minor differences.
Users say that a delta-8 THC high comparatively is:
According to the National Cancer Institute, delta-8 THC is:
Antiemetic – a drug that helps prevent or manage nausea and vomiting.
In a 1995 study following eight pediatric cancer patients, researchers found that no vomiting occurred 24 hours after treatments when patients ingested delta-8 THC beforehand and in six-hour increments after the treatment.
Anxiolytic – a drug used to help reduce or relieve anxiety.
Analgesic – a drug with pain-relieving properties.
Neuroprotective – to help preserve both the neuron’s structure and function.
Why is Delta-8 THC Less Potent than Delta-9?
A good question that can be traced back to delta-8 THC’s aforementioned different double bond. Whereas delta-9 THC is really good at binding to human’s CB1 receptor— part of our endocannabinoid system— delta-8 THC isn’t as good a ‘fit for said receptor.
The poor fit means that the cannabinoid doesn’t latch onto our receptors as readily and as a result, delta-8 THC users feel a less intense intoxication compared to a similar dose of delta-9 THC.
Does Using Delta-8 THC Have Any Side Effects?
Because delta-8 THC is considered a minor cannabinoid, there isn’t much research completed or being conducted on its use. What we do know about delta-8 THC use is based largely on animal studies, which while helpful, don’t always give us a good idea about how a substance will affect human beings.
Is Delta-8 THC Legal?
The following isn’t intended to be legal advice and should not be referred to as such.
Yes and no.
The 2018 Farm Bill reaffirmed that it was federally legal to grow, cultivate, and transport industrial hemp (cannabis with lower than 0.3% delta-9 THC by dry weight) across state lines. Judge James Gilbert ruled that products derived from hemp fell under this umbrella too the KAB vs United States Postal Service case.
Given that delta-8 THC is derived from hemp, it is legal as far as the Farm Bill is concerned. Here’s where it gets murky.
In late 2020, the United States Drug Enforcement Agency (D.E.A.) issued an “Interim Final Rule” that stated “ [all] synthetically derived tetrahydrocannabinols remain schedule 1 controlled substances.” Barring any significant legal challenges, that will mean hemp-derived delta-8 THC will join delta-9 THC as a federally-restricted cannabinoid.
Because 2020 was an election year, this rule was put on hold while the new administration transitioned in. They needed time to review all pending regulatory rules before giving them the go ahead.
There have been indications, that the new administration would allow this “Interim Final Rule” to go into effect this year. Hence there is a bit of confusion about the current and future legality of delta-8 THC.
A handful of states have advanced legislation that outlaw synthetic tetrahydrocannabinols derived from industrial hemp, ostensibly to get out ahead of the incoming DEA rules.
Is Delta-8 THC Legal in My State?
At the time of this writing in March 2021, if you live in one of the following 13 states, you can not have delta-8 THC products shipped to you.
California – Legal, but no shipping from out of state
Colorado – Legal, but no shipping from out of state
Nevada – Legal, but no shipping from out of state
If you don’t see your state on this list, you can likely find hemp-derived delta-8 THC at a local or online retailer. This list is subject to change as the rules and regulations surrounding delta-8 THC are currently up in the air.
Where Can I Get Delta-8 THC Cartridges?
Delta-8 vaping cartridges are another story entirely. Because of the “Preventing Online Sales of E-Cigarettes to Children Act,” the United States Postal Service will no longer be carrying vaping cartridges or accessories.
This on the heels of announcements from the two private domestic shipping companies, UPS and FedEx, who’ve announced that because of the complexities and red tape involved that they will no longer be carrying delta-8 THC cartridges either.
Private courier companies may step up to fill this shipping vacuum, though delta-8 THC cartridge prices will likely increase as a result.
Will Delta-8 THC Make Me Fail a Drug Test?
Yes, it will.
Even though most delta-8 THC is derived from industrial hemp, urine analysis and other generic substance-use tests are not sophisticated enough to discern between the delta-9 and delta-8 THC consumption.
These tests work by detecting the presence of molecules called THC metabolites. When we consume tetrahydracannabinols, our bodies break them down into smaller compounds. These THC metabolites have unique signatures and when they’re present in the body, they are a sign that we’ve consumed THC.
So whether you’re taking delta-8 THC, delta-9 THC, or even full-spectrum CBD products there is a chance that these metabolites will show up during screening, regardless of the concentration, and cause you to fail a drug test.
Where Does Delta-8 THC Come From?
There are a number of ways to create delta-8 THC from industrial hemp and all of them require a bit of science, some specialized equipment, and a lot of know-how.
Warning: Delta-8 THC is created using chemical solvents and acids. The conversion process should only be performed in the safety of a well-equipped lab by knowledgeable technicians to ensure not only your own safety, but the quality and safety of the final product. You are not Walter White, do not try this at home.
How to Make Delta-8 THC with Solvents
To convert hemp-derived CBD isolate into delta-8 THC, you start by dissolving your isolate in sulfuric acid in glacial acetic acid. Once dissolved, let it stand at room temperature and time will do the rest. After three days your CBD converts in 15% delta-9 THC, 54% delta-8 THC, 10% delta-8-iso THC (an isomer of delta-8 THC,) and 10% CBD.
Once the conversion is complete, the solution is added to water. Sodium bicarbonate is added to that to raise the pH level.
Desired cannabinoids are extracted with petrol ether, washed with water, and heated to evaporate and residual solvents. Purification to increase delta-8 THC yields and remove delta-9 from your solution can be achieved with chromatography— a method of separating liquids by passing it through a medium in which the components (CBD, delta-9, delta-8) move at different rates.
How to Make Solventless Delta-8 THC
Not a fan of solvents? Don’t worry because there’s a delta-8 THC conversion for you! Hemp-derived CBD isolate can be converted into delta-8 THC with the use of anhydrous Zinc Chloride (ZnCL₂) and an oxygen-less environment.
Heat your CBD isolate with a small amount of Zinc Chloride, apply heat, and stir. After two hours 40-50% delta-9 and delta-8 THC will have formed from the CBD.
The more specialized equipment comes into play for both our solvent and solventless methods when we want to refine the final product and create a more pure delta-8 THC product free of contaminants and more importantly delta-9 THC.