Delta-8 tetrahydrocannabinol THC (delta-8 THC or “D8,” for short) is the hemp industry’s latest cannabinoid extract. But unlike CBD – which more than saw its share of pushback – D8 has more in common with its famous delta-9 THC counterpart.
Unfortunately, many consumers don’t get the relief they need from CBD and find delta-9 too intense. Consequently, people fall through the cracks created by two extremes.
For those who need something in the middle, D8 opens a whole new world of therapeutic opportunities.
The DEA was quick to pounce just soon as delta-8 THC products crawled into the hemp supplement market. Like with CBD, the hemp industry is once again locked in a battle with regulators and law enforcement.
If you haven’t heard much about delta-8 THC, you’re not alone. However, it’s likely going to be a household name, like CBD, regardless of its legal status.
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Delta-8 THC is one of 113 cannabinoids found in cannabis. Due to its scarcity, it’s classified as a minor cannabinoid.
Although discovered in the 1960s, D8’s pretty much been a footnote until the hemp industry became more accessible and famous.
D8’s effects, benefits, and legal status make this minor cannabinoid simultaneously blend in and stand out among the more popular CBD and delta-9 THC.
But the spotlight inevitably brings negative press, especially from law enforcement and cannabis opponents. The health benefits are well-established, but legally, D8’s future is very uncertain.
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Delta-8 THC vs Delta-9 THC
Delta-8 and delta-9 THC are almost identical in most respects. You could say D8 is delta-9’s fraternal twin.
Chemically, the molecules are similar, except for a single bond. They also both act upon the CB1 receptors, found mainly in the central nervous system. It likely also binds to the CB2 cannabinoid receptors, but this mechanism still isn’t fully understood.
But unlike its close relative, delta-8 is present in limited quantities – usually under 1% – regardless of the source.
Where Does Delta-8 THC Come From?
Delta-8 THC is just another one of the 113 phytocannabinoids found in cannabis. It’s present in all strains and chemotypes, making industrial hemp a viable source. But its low presence means simply extracting it would take a lot of plant matter.
Fortunately, manufacturers can extract it from both delta-9 THC and CBD. The latter means hemp flower is fair game as a (for now) legal way to obtain D8.
How to Make Delta-8 THC
If you’re looking to make D8 at home, you’ll be disappointed. The extraction process requires trained technicians in a laboratory setting, with a few techniques available.
In 2004 Dr. Raphael Mechoulam – who first discovered D8 in 1965 – patented a method to extract delta-8 THC from CBD, called “isomerization.” This method has multiple applications and is designed to copy a molecule, but rearrange the atoms.
On the comparatively simpler end, there’s selective breeding. If successful, cultivators could create high delta-8 THC strains. But given D8’s low presence, delta-8 flower will take time to reach the market.
Other methods exist, but they use delta-9 THC to make delta-8.
Is Delta-8 THC Impairing?
Yes, delta-8 THC causes impairment. As we said, D8 and delta-9 THC are similar – emphasis on “similar.” The effects you feel are comparable, but not identical.
What sets the two highs apart is their intensity. Delta-8 impairment is reportedly half as strong as delta-9, offering a mellower experience.
Its lower potency is also a huge selling point, which we’ll touch upon later.
How Does Delta-8 THC Work?
Delta-8 THC has a similar structure and mechanism of action to delta-9. In fancy chemistry language, we refer to them as “cannabinoid isomers.”
An isomer is a compound or chemical with the same molecular composition as another, but with differently-arranged molecules. But this subtle physical difference has a massive impact on the cannabinoid and its effects.
D8’s mechanism, we need to look at THC’s chemistry. Delta-8 and delta-9 are both THC, so what do the numbers mean?
First, a quick chemistry lesson surrounding chemical bonds. A chemical bond is a process where chemical substances stick together. The bond happens when atoms are attracted to each other through shared or exchanged electrons.
Think of chemical bonds as a sort of electromagnetic glue to keep atoms firmly in place. Delta-8 and delta-9 have double bonds, meaning their respective atoms share two pairs of electrons.
Again, both forms of THC have a nearly identical molecular structure. The difference is the location of the double bond in each molecular chain. D8’s bonds are in the eighth carbon chain, while delta-9 THC’s sit on the ninth chain – hence delta-8 and delta-9.
Interaction With the Endocannabinoid System
The milder psychotropic effects of delta-8 THC are due to its interaction with the endocannabinoid system (ECS). Like delta-9 THC, D8 interacts with both the CB1 and CB2 receptors.
This brings us back to the chemical bonds. The location of delta-8 THC’s double bond means it has a lower affinity for binding to the CB1 receptor responsible for THC’s impairing effects.
In other words, it doesn’t act as effectively on CB1, so the high is less intense.
What are the Effects of Delta-8 Tetrahydrocannabinol?
Delta-9 THC’s effects are often a barrier since its performance is too intense for some people. But THC’s intoxicating effects also provide therapeutic benefits where CBD doesn’t cut it.
D8 offers a middle ground, with comparable – but muted – effects to delta-9. There’s also the “entourage effect” to consider, where terpenes and other cannabinoids influence the experience.
The Delta-8 THC Feeling
When we mention “feeling,” we refer to the impairing effects of delta-8 THC vs. delta-9 THC. Both will get you high, but the D8 experience is less intense and more functional.
However, consumers report the compound induces a physical high with minimal mental fogginess. They experience the euphoria, relaxation, and other effects (good or bad) common to delta-9, with less impact on concentration.
It’ll affect your mental function to some degree. Save it for a time when you won’t have to work, operate heavy machinery, or do anything else that demands strong mental or motor skills.
Consumers love D8 because, unlike delta-9, the former doesn’t cause paranoia or anxiety, which ruins cannabis for many.
From a recreational perspective, D8 is a safe choice for new users, since it’ll still get you high without the same intensity as delta-9.
Unfortunately, we’re still researching the effects and potential benefits of delta-8. Consequently, most of our information comes from animal studies. However, we do know of two issues.
D8 (like delta-9) causes a rapid spike in blood pressure, followed by a sudden drop that dilates the blood vessels – so expect red eyes if you use D8.
Both forms of THC also increase heart rate in humans (not the case for animals), which means D8 still isn’t a great fit if you have a heart condition.
The problem is we just don’t have enough research. It’s the story of CBD repeating itself – except with way less leniency from law enforcement.
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How to Vape D8?
This a very pure, very concentrated vape product, and Delta 8 THC is a sharp cannabinoid. It may be harsh on the throat if you are not accustomed to concentrated cannabinoids.
Therefore, it’s recommended to take small puffs and not exceed 3 seconds per puff.
Most importantly, make sure you vape it at low voltage (2V-3V) to avoid harsh throat hits. A variable voltage vape pen like the one from Funky Farms works very well.
Delta-8 THC Health Benefits
Delta-8 THC is somewhat uncharted territory, so its health benefits mainly come from anecdotes. But, as with CBD, a lot of those oral reports turned out to be true. The following conditions respond well to delta-8.
Pain and Anti-Inflammatory
Pain relief is one of the more popular medical uses for cannabinoids, and D8 is no exception. According to the National Cancer Institute, delta-8 is an effective analgesic with “…a lower psychotropic potency…” than delta-9 THC.
The combination of pain relief and reduced intoxicating side effects make D8 a better choice for people with injuries or chronic pain who still need to function.
One 2018 study also found that delta-8 THC topicals help reduce inflammation when applied to the afflicted area.
Cannabis and anti-nauseant effects go hand-in-hand. Arguably, THC has a longer-standing track record for fighting nausea.
It’s incredibly popular as an addition to cancer patients’ treatment, helping reduce stomach issues from chemotherapy.
Although delta-8 THC and cancer make a fine therapeutic combination, appetite stimulation is also useful for eating disorders, such as anorexia.
The cannabinoid’s reduced intoxicating potency inspires many patients to use delta-8 THC for anxiety. A big problem with delta-9 THC (like cannabis wax for sale) is the paranoia and nervousness it causes if you consume (at least according to one study) more than 12.5mg.
Reputably, D8 doesn’t seem to trigger anxiety or paranoia, so it’s an easy choice for people with the condition mentioned above.
How Much Delta-8 THC Should I Take?
Unfortunately, cannabis still isn’t well understood. There’s no established dosage guide or scientific consensus for cannabinoid medicine.
Once again, this brings up the adage, “start low and go slow.” Begin with the smallest dose possible and move up from there until you feel relief.
With a concentration of around 1%, delta-8 has only a tiny presence in cannabis. Consequently, you won’t find delta-8 THC bud from any source. However, the following is a list of some products you’ll find online or at certain local retailers:
Delta-8 THC liquid (tinctures, drinks, oils)
Vape juice and vape oil
Delta-8 THC gummies and other edibles
Wax, shatter, and other concentrates
Is Hemp-Derived Delta-8 THC Legal?
For a while, delta-8 THC enjoyed the same legal gray zone as CBD before the 2018 Farm Bill. But as of August 21st, 2020, this changed.
The DEA issued an interim final ruling, stating: “All synthetically derived tetrahydrocannabinols remain [S]chedule I controlled substances.”
Fortunately, there’s still hope. Anyone can submit their comments to the government via an online portal until October 20th.
What Does This Mean for You?
As a consumer, it’s terrible news. Delta-8 THC is pretty new. If you recently discovered and enjoy this product, it soon might be unavailable in states where cannabis is illegal.
If the DEA sticks with their initial decision, it means the delta-8 THC products you have will soon be considered illegal drugs. They’ll land you in just as much trouble as a bag of marijuana.
What Does This Mean for the Hemp Industry?
The DEA’s interim decision is terrible news for any hemp manufacturer who invested time and money to produce and sell delta-8 THC. While CBD is still the backbone of the hemp supplement market, banning D8 will still hurt businesses and likely cost thousands of jobs – all to enforce prohibition, whose days are numbered.
Any casual observer can see the writing on the wall. Cannabis will eventually be federally legal in the USA, but the DEA is either in denial or needs to fill more prison cells. Either way, this leaves a bad taste in the public’s mouth when it comes to unnecessary oversight.
What Consumers Say
While we wait for scientists to expand their research, let’s see what everyday users have to say.
Delta-8 received its share of praise from consumers.
Reddit user dankidushi says:
“Delta 8 has a lower psychotropic potency. It gives you the calmness of being “high” but without the mental “high” aspects. You are still clear-headed.
I love Delta 8 for times that I can’t be “intoxicated” but still want help [with] my anxiety.
I also hear it’s fenomenal [sic] for nausea.”
Another Redditor, who goes by the handle rockthemadwizard appreciates the medical benefits without delta-9’s intense high:
“Delta 8 is great for flu symptoms, lack of appetite, and getting the benefits of D9 without that jittery mind racey [sic] / paranoid feeling that some people get.”
A budtender by the Reddit username “terpicanna” also recommends delta-8 THC:
Delta 8 packs much less of a punch but will give similar effects and has excellent benefits. It’s definitely for people who are sensitive to Delta 9 THC.
Not everyone is pleased with D8.
Reddit poster hot_expert says:
Well, I have been trying Delta 8 since I first heard about it a couple of weeks ago.
I have tried concentrates from 3 different companies. My opinion is it’s wayyyy too expensive for the slight buzz you get, slightly better than CBD. I had high hopes when I first heard about Delta 8.
I thought, yes, finally, I can get a legal high, but it’s not so.
Interestingly, another Redditor, who goes by threeccsyringe says that delta-8’s appeal depends on personal needs:
“Yeah, people who are looking for a legal high will be disappointed. People who medicate [sic], on the other hand, will be quite pleased.”
Meanwhile, Reddit user UnprepossessingCrack isn’t happy with inhalable delta-8, but praises oral D8 products:
Some folks claim it’s tolerance, but when vaped/dabbed after a 3-week break I finished, I only get a mere buzz for 2 hours. Orally is much more worth it imo, I went on a 4-day bender having about 50-100mg each day with no steep dropoff day in and day out. It seems like tolerance doesn’t build as quickly orally.
Does Delta-8 THC Show Up on a Drug Test?
There is no delta-8 THC drug test, but it will likely show up on a urine test or other screening. The metabolites from D8 and delta-9 are similar enough to be detected by the same test.
How is Delta-8 THC Legal?
Delta-8 THC is legal because there’s no current law against it. However, it could be illegal on October 20th if the DEA decides to add it to the Schedule I list.
Are Delta-8 THC Carts Safe?
Delta-8 THC carts aren’t always safe. Some manufacturers might dilute them with cutting agents that can seriously harm your lungs. Choose vendors carefully.