You've probably heard of THC and CBD. They are among a group of chemical compounds called cannabinoids which are produced by hemp and cannabis. The two most abundant cannabinoids, THC (Delta 9 THC) is responsible for the cannabis' "high," while CBD is said to be effective against a wide variety of health issues. In this article however, we will talk about a lesser-known cannabinoid that is steadily gaining popularity, Delta 8 THC.
A lot of people who want to enjoy the effects of cannabis without some of the drawbacks such as anxiety and drowsiness have been turning to Delta 8 THC products, so let's have an in-depth look at what it is, how it affects users, its legality in the United States and where you can buy it.
What is Delta 8 THC?
A minor cannabinoid, Delta 8 occurs in very small concentrations, making up less than 1% of cannabis and hemp's total cannabinoid count. In fact, most of the Delta 8 THC on the market is extracted from hemp-derived CBD using advanced extraction techniques. Its molecular structure is quite similar to that of Delta 9 THC, except for a small difference in how the carbon atoms bond.
Both types of THC have a double bond in their molecular structure: Delta 8 has the bond on the eighth carbon atom while Delta 9 has it on the ninth. The different placement of this double bond, although quite small, has major implications, affecting the shape of the two THC molecules and how they act when ingested. This double bond and its placement on the THC carbon atom chain is thought to be responsible for cannabis' intoxicating effects. Consequently, Delta-8 will have slightly different effects compared to Delta-9 THC.
Does It Get You High?
Speaking of effects, you are probably wondering, does Delta 8 THC get you high seeing as it is almost identical to Delta 9 THC? The answer is yes, a good dose of it will leave you high, but the effect isn't as potent as that of Delta 9. Some users have reported a smoother, lighter high after consuming. Additionally, it doesn't cause anxiety or couch lock (drowsiness) like Delta 9 THC does, making it a good substitute for newbies and those who are looking for something less potent.
Although there haven't been a lot of studies on Delta 8 THC, the consensus among users is that while it does get you high, the effects are milder, especially if you already consume Delta 9 THC via smoking, vaping, or edibles. After consuming Delta 8 THC edibles, Leafly's Dante Jordan reported a milder, energizing high that left him feeling alert and clear-headed. He compared the experience to smoking CBD flower- it reduced his feelings of anxiety and left his creative juices flowing without making him drowsy.
What are the Effects of Delta 8 THC?
Now that we've established that Delta 8 THC causes a smoother, milder high, let's look at some of its effects. Like most cannabinoids, it has a couple of reported health benefits, although more research is needed to confirm its therapeutic potential. The following are some of the conditions Delta 8 is said to be effective against.
- Pain and inflammation - A 2018 preclinical animal study found that Delta 8 THC may help reduce pain and inflammation in mice. However, another study using rats noted that they quickly developed a tolerance to the cannabinoid.
- Anxiety - The US National Library of Medicine claims that Delta 8 also has anxiety-reducing abilities. Anecdotal reports from users say consuming Delta 8 THC leaves you calm and focused.
- Nausea - Life Science first reported that Delta 8 THC had anti-nausea potential back in 1995. A two-year study with eight pediatric cancer patients found that it eliminated vomiting when taken before and for 24 hours after cancer treatment and caused minimal side effects.
- Stimulates appetite - A 2014 animal study found that a low Delta 8 THC dose administered over 50 days caused a 22% increase in food intake. The study noted that it increased food intake much more than Delta 9, which is known to stimulate appetite.
Note that Delta 8 THC, like most minor cannabinoids, hasn't been researched to a great extent. Most of the studies on this cannabinoid have been conducted on animals, and while they may be useful in showing Delta 8 THC's potential, sometimes these effects are different in humans. For instance, research using animals found that Delta 8 THC led to a significantly slowed heart rate but in humans, it increased heart rate.
Some of the side effects you can expect when consuming Delta 8 THC, using Delta 9 THC for reference, include dry mouth, dehydration, red eyes, and "the munchies." At the end of the day, you will want to be careful when consuming Delta 8 THC. Make sure you use a high-quality product and don't forget to talk to your doctor beforehand, especially if you are on medication to prevent possible drug interactions.
Is Delta 8 THC Legal?
Yes, it is, but it depends on where you are. The legal landscape around this emerging product is murky and grey, with most states not saying that it is legal but also not explicitly outlawing it. The 2018 Farm Bill was the federal act responsible for legalizing hemp and hemp-derived products, including cannabinoids like Delta 8 THC. Specifically, the legislation defines hemp as 'derivatives, extracts, cannabinoids, isomers, acids, salts, and salts of isomers' with less than 0.3% Delta 9 THC. So at least at the federal level, it is technically legal as it does not contain any Delta 9 THC.
Except for nearly a dozen states, most states have adopted the same attitude toward Delta 8 THC, allowing it and other minor cannabinoids as long as they have less than 0.3% Delta 9 THC. The federal landscape is still shifting, however, and Delta 8 THC's status could soon change. Back in August 2020, the DEA released an Interim Final Rule clarifying that all synthetically derived tetrahydrocannabinols are Schedule I controlled substances.
Since Delta 8 THC is synthetically derived (extracted), the DEA's final rule makes it illegal. However, the rule is still open for review until October, so for the time being, Delta 8 THC is illegal in just the following states:
- New York
- Rhode Island
Ultimately, whether Delta 8 THC is considered legal will depend on whether the language from the Interim Final Rule, which outlaws all tetrahydrocannabinols, is adopted or whether the language from the 2018 Farm Bill, which allows all hemp extracts as long as they contain less than 0.3% Delta 9 THC, stands. If you are interested in trying out Delta 8 THC products, you'll have to do some research to ensure you aren't acting contrary to your home state's laws. Additionally, you should keep an eye on the news to see how Delta 8 THC's legality evolves with time.
Delta 8 THC vs. Delta 9 THC
These two THC isomers may have just one small difference, but the effect of this small difference is quite major. Let's look at how these two compare:
They are different because of the placement of the double bond in their carbon atom chains. Delta 8 THC has this double bond on its eighth carbon atom while Delta 9 THC has it on its ninth carbon atom. The different location of the bond has a direct effect on the shape of the molecules, which in turn affects how they affect people when consumed.
THC interacts with a complex cell-signaling system called the endocannabinoid system (ECS) to give rise to its effects, and the double bond is thought to be responsible for its potent psychoactive effects. The ECS is in charge of regulating functions like memory, sleep, mood, appetite, and reproduction which contribute to homeostasis, or the body's internal balance.
Affinity for Endocannabinoid Receptors
There are endocannabinoid receptors throughout the body: CB1 receptors which are mainly located in the central nervous system, and CB2 receptors which are usually found in the peripheral nervous system. Cannabinoids like THC and CBD will bind with either receptor, with the type of receptor in question and the cannabinoid that binds to it affecting how the ECS reacts. In the case of Delta 8 THC, the placement of this double bond makes it bind with the endocannabinoid system differently, resulting in slightly different effects compared to Delta 9 THC.
Both of these THC products will bind with the CB1 receptor, but due to the placement of their double bonds and their different shapes, Delta 8 THC's affinity to the receptor is different and it binds to it differently. Since the CB1 receptor mediates or is responsible for THC's psychoactive effects, the different binding with Delta 8 THC may be why the minor cannabinoid produces a milder, clearer high, and minimal anxiety. Its slightly different molecular structure and shape likely affect how it interacts with neural pathways and other receptors.
It is much more stable than its counterpart due to its molecular structure. While Delta 9 THC can quite easily oxidize to become cannabinol (CBN) as it ages, essentially limiting its shelf life, Delta 8 is quite stable and doesn't oxidize into CBN or any other cannabinoid. This gives it a pretty long shelf life, a factor that can be very useful if it is ever established to be a medicinal compound.
Is Delta 8 THC Safe?
Yes, based on the research that has been done so far as well as anecdotal reports, it is safe to consume. But like with all cannabis products, just how well you fare after consuming Delta 9 THC will depend on a few factors. They include how much you consume, your gender, your size, and how your body metabolizes the substance. Most importantly, the quality and contents of the products you use are crucial.
The cannabis sector has been called the "wild west" for good reason. Since a large swathe of the industry is under a legal gray area, it does not have a comprehensive regulatory structure. Consequently, plenty of players who are eager to make a quick buck and don't care about the consumer have joined the bandwagon. To ensure you use safe, high-quality products, you should apply the following tips when purchasing.
Opt for products that have a certificate of analysis from a third-party laboratory. This is a document confirming that the product in question was tested for impurities like residual solvents and Delta 9 THC and was found to contain none.
Avoid sellers that are not open to queries. A company that has developed a high-quality product would be happy to answer questions, but a seller that is looking to make a quick buck using a questionable product won't be open to queries.
Read customer reviews. How did previous users find the product? How were the effects? Reading reviews from other customers will give you an idea of how safe the product is.
At the end of the day, the safety of Delta 8 THC will ultimately depend on whether you practice responsible habits while buying and later consuming it. Follow dosing instructions, start slow if you are a newbie, and know your limits. Make sure you consult a physician beforehand, especially if you are pregnant or on medication.
Where Can I Buy It?
Now that we've covered some responsible buying practices and we have a good idea of how it can affect you, let's talk about where to buy it. Since some states don't allow THC, you may want to check your local state law before making any orders. Producers will ship Delta 8 THC to all states except the nearly a dozen states that we mentioned before, but you should check their website to confirm whether they will ship it to your state.
Since Delta 8 THC is still on the rise, you may have some trouble successfully finding a brick and mortar shop that offers it. Some reputable brands that sell hemp and cannabis products online include Diamond CBD, Delta Effex, and 3Chi. Whichever online retailer you choose, make sure you go through the certificate of analysis, read customer reviews, and ask plenty of questions.
Final Thoughts on Delta 8 THC
This new product has been receiving plenty of mainstream attention. Although it's pretty similar to Delta 9 THC, it is considered legal in most states, it has milder psychoactive effects and is said to be effective against pain and inflammation, anxiety, and a few other conditions. Based on your state, you can order products online and ship it; just confirm that the retailer ships to your state before making the purchase.
Additionally, practice responsible buying habits to ensure that you get a high-quality and impurity-free product. Follow dosing requirements, start slow, and know your limits. All in all, Delta 8 THC is a great way for both newbies and regular users to enjoy a mild, energizing high with minimal side effects.