The Ultimate Guide to delta-8 THC

While a large part of the appeal of CBD is that it’s non-psychoactive, the effect of THC is something that many people do enjoy and wish to experience. Furthermore, THC may have its own suite of health benefits. Many people struggle to access these benefits due to the controlled status of that substance. The existence of a niche between CBD and THC has given rise to a booming industry-within-the-industry, the delta-8 THC market. It offers an experience with similarities to each of the two major cannabinoids. It also represents a potentially legal means to engage in the psychoactive effects of THC.

What is Delta-8 THC?

Besides being the fastest-growing hemp derivative product by market share, Delta-8 THC is a distinct, naturally occurring cannabinoid. It bears a close resemblance to delta-9 THC, which people generally refer to as THC or standard THC.

The molecular formula of delta-8 tetrahydrocannabidiol (delta-8 THC)
The molecular formula of delta-8 tetrahydrocannabidiol (delta-8 THC)

To put it simply, THC has a certain chemical composition that is the same between any subtypes. One key feature of the compound is the double carbon bond; in the most commonly occurring, highly psychoactive form of THC, the bond occurs between the ninth and tenth carbon atoms. On the other hand, delta-8 THC has a slight, but important structural difference[1]; the double carbon bond exists between the eighth and ninth atoms. However, the differences in production and legal status are even more important than the innate differences.

What Makes it Different?

The location of the carbon-carbon bond is the fundamental, chemical difference between standard THC and delta-8 THC. For one, it appears that delta-8 is much more stable[2] and withstands oxidation for a longer amount of time. Delta-8 THC is also much less potent. While it binds to both of the ECS neuroreceptors that THC does, it does so with roughly half the strength.

This means that using delta-8 THC may be able to produce a milder, more easily controlled high with lightened side effects and similar potential medical benefits[3] Despite this mildness, it’s essential to point out that delta-8 THC is absolutely psychoactive and will get you high.

Legally speaking, delta-8 THC is a distinct compound that evades most of the regulations that surround delta-9 THC. States and nations that ban CBD and other lesser-known psychoactive cannabinoids will most likely catch delta-8 in their laws. Delta-8 arguably evades restriction on the federal level in the United States thanks to the wording of the 2018 Farm Bill. The Farm Bill proscribed rules for growers to legally produce hemp with a low THC content. More specifically for commercial and research use. Within these bounds, manufacturers enjoy broad license to use CBD and other hemp-based compounds legally.

Even under the Farm Bill, however, THC remains federally illegal. Furthermore, the THC concentrations that hemp plants may contain are extremely minor. While delta-8 THC does occur naturally within hemp and cannabis, it’s only present in very small amounts. As such, it will be virtually nonexistent within legal, commercial hemp. However, it’s possible to produce delta-8 THC using legal, easily available CBD.

How Is Delta-8 THC Made?

While CBD and THC are considerably different, they’re related to each other nonetheless and both hail from the same root cannabinoid, CBG. As such, they’re sufficiently similar that relatively simple processes can convert plentiful CBD into delta-8 THC. By dissolving the CBD into a solvent and carefully adding certain ingredients and maintaining an ideal temperature, manufacturers produce delta-8 as a final product. Both the ingredients and the product are equally natural compounds within cannabis. However the majority of commercial delta-8 THC is a manufactured product rather than a hemp extract.

However, the fact that delta-8 THC is based on legal hemp extracts and is technically not covered by cannabis prohibition is a game-changer.

The secret to THC’s technical, conditional legality is that it originates from legal, hemp-derived CBD. Since nothing is innately illegal about the supply chain and since delta-8 is not the same as the delta-9 THC that laws restrict, it’s evaded concrete, consistent prohibition on a federal level. However, the Drug Enforcement Agency does list it as a Schedule 1 controlled substance. Some states have also formally prohibited delta-8.

Additionally, delta-8 is similar enough to standard THC that it can cause you to flag and fail a drug test. In states that allow employers to terminate employees without reason, it’s unlikely that management will care if you technically did not violate the law. It’s also possible that delta-8’s legal greyness is a temporary product of how quickly it’s exploded on the market. Even if it’s not prohibited in your state yet, that may well change.

The legal status of delta-8 THC is currently unclear, and it’s possible that new regulations will quash the delta-8 industry within the next year. Nonetheless, if you live in a state where it’s currently defacto or officially legal, you can consider trying delta-8 for yourself. After all, popular sentiment in the US is growing increasingly pro-cannabis in a way that won’t stop. Popular support for delta-8 is the only thing that could pose an obstacle to harsher prohibitionary measures.

What Types of Delta-8 THC Products are Available?

If there’s a way to consume CBD or THC, it’s a safe bet that you can try delta-8 THC in the same way. Despite the fact that the market is quite young, it’s taken advantage of much of the existing infrastructure of the CBD industry. As such, you might try a CBD-style delta-8 tincture to drop pure oil beneath your tongue or go looking for delta-8 edibles.

Disposable vape cartridges are one of the most popular ways to consume delta-8. Vaping is a quick, convenient method of consuming delta-8 THC. Smoking hemp flower has also become popular, and some shops offer delta-8-enhanced hemp flower. Some are offered in the form of pre-rolled joints. Other options include, but aren’t limited to;

  • Gummies
  • Distillate
  • Topicals
  • Pre-rolls
  • Chocolate
  • Concentrates

The Future of Delta-8 THC

The fact that delta-8 is so easy to produce and offers a mild high that’s easier to control means that it’s sure to have an interesting place in the future of the cannabis industry. The way that delta-8 has exploded shows that there’s a real demand for it, but the immediate future of the compound does stand in doubt. Even as support for recreational cannabis reaches a fever pitch, political opposition is still sufficient to orchestrate a crackdown in the near-term future.

Nonetheless, it seems that the United States is destined for widespread cannabis legalization. Furthermore, it’s harder to restrict a new, relatively mild substance than it is to defend existing restrictions, especially when that mild substance is derivative of something as popular as CBD. Even if delta-8 becomes illegal in the near future, it’s easy to imagine that ongoing trends will open it and delta-9 THC up to researchers and the public alike in due time.