Updated: Feb 6
What is Delta 8 THC?
Delta-8 THC is a newly emerged minor cannabinoid that is all the rage today because of a legal loophole. Unlike marijuana, delta-8 THC is technically under the CBD category because it is derived from hemp.
In most states, the use of hemp-derived products like CBD and other cannabinoids is legal. However, THC, the compound responsible for the euphoric high that cannabis users crave, is not.
Most of the delta-8 THC sold today is synthesized from CBD. Hence, it is technically legal to sell and consume. There are four major types of THC derived from cannabis strains. They are delta-9 THC, delta-8 THC, THCA, and THCV.
Delta-8 THC is somewhat similar to delta-9 THC in terms of structure and effects. Although delta-8 cannabinoids occur naturally in hemp, they are found in low concentrations.
When people talk about THC, they are mainly referring to delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol. Although delta-8 THC can produce psychoactive effects like THC, it is much less potent. Hence, it is usually marketed in the hemp industry as "marijuana lite."
Delta 8 THC vs Delta 9 THC: Notable Differences and Similarities Chemical Structure
When looking at the two compounds, they have an almost similar molecular structure. The only difference is the location of a significant chemical bond.
While the molecular chain of each compound contains a double bond, delta-8 THC has this bond in the 8th carbon chain. Delta-9 THC has a double bond on the 9th carbon chain.
From a visual perspective, the difference in the location of the bonds is quite subtle. However, this small difference has a crucial impact on how the molecules interact with the body's endocannabinoid receptors.
Delta-8 THC is more stable than delta-9 THC. When delta-9 THC oxidizes, it degrades and transforms into delta-8 THC or cannabinol (CBN). Delta-8 THC is more stable because it does not oxidize to become cannabinol. This property makes it a more desirable medical ingredient because it will last longer on the shelves.
Affinity for the CB1 Receptor
Both delta-8 THC and delta-9 THC bind to the CB1 cannabinoid receptor when inhaled. However, the affinity of each compound to the receptor is distinct because of the slight difference in molecular structure.
The CB1 cannabinoid receptors function to mediate the effect of cannabinoid binding in the brain. Many users report that delta-8 THC has a much clearer high and produces less anxiety than delta-9 THC.
Effects after Consumption
Anecdotal and clinical evidence show that delta-9 THC produces intoxicating effects when ingested or inhaled. We know less about delta-8 THC because it is relatively new. Some users report that it produces a high that is milder and clearer even at high doses. When ingested, delta-8 THC does not cause nausea.
A study on pediatric cancer patients over two years found that ingesting delta-8 THC before cancer treatment decreases the likelihood of nausea and vomiting. Furthermore, the study reported that there were very few side effects.
Can You Get High with Delta-8 THC?
Delta-8 is a psychoactive substance that can get you high but not as intense as delta-9 THC and other cannabinoids. However, for people living in areas where THC is illegal, delta-8 can act as a substitute.
Even in places where common THC is legal, some users prefer to use delta-8 THC because it has a milder effect. Taking the compound makes you achieve a clearer high without getting anxious or paranoid.
Casual users and people who are just starting to enjoy cannabis products may want to use delta-8 THC. It is better to start with products that do not provide too much of a high. Also, it is wise to start with smaller doses for safer results.
The Effects of Delta-8 THC
Many delta-8 THC consumers report that the compound produces almost the same effects as delta-9 THC but with less potency. It causes a mild euphoria, uplifted feelings, and happiness. It also provides pain relief, better sleep, and reduced anxiety.
The side effects may also be similar to those produced by THC.
These include red eyes, dry mouth, munchies, and short-term memory issues. Note that most of the effects of delta-8 have their basis on anecdotal evidence. More research is required for users to understand its effects on the mind and body better.
Delta-8 THC vs. Cannabidiol (CBD)
Although delta-8 is derived from hemp, it has more similarities to THC than CBD. This is because it has a more similar chemical structure to delta-9 THC. Hence, it binds to the endocannabinoid system in almost the same way as delta-9 THC. CBD does not bind to the endocannabinoid system readily as THC. That is why it does not cause any intoxicating effects. It has more use in the medical field than for recreational purposes.
As a consumer, you can try delta-8 THC if you are looking to experience a milder marijuana high. However, if you seek to get relief from chronic pain, anxiety, depression, insomnia, and stress-related issues without getting intoxicated, use hemp-derived CBD instead.
Types of Delta-8 THC Products
There are many products today that contain delta-8 THC. You can try any of these products provided you are of legal age and live in an area where the compound is not explicitly prohibited by state law. Note that ingesting delta-8 has a more potent effect than inhaling its vapor.
The type of product you choose will depend entirely on how you want to experience its effects. Here are the most common types of delta-8 THC products:
Consumables come in many forms like gummies, brownies, cookies, lollipops, and chocolate. Gummies are considered the most delicious way to consume the cannabinoid. If you love baked goods, then shop for cookies and brownies, as well. Delta-8 tastes bitter in raw form. This bitterness makes it hard to ingest under the tongue. Therefore, it has to be infused in consumable goods to become a pleasant treat to eat.
If you want to experience an impactful cannabis buzz, vaping is the fastest way to get there. As soon as you inhale the delta-8 vapor, it gets into your system right away to provide you with a clear and euphoric high.
The downside to vaping is the short-lived effects you experience. Although you can get high faster, it will linger for a shorter time as compared to consumables.
When you consume cannabis-infused foods and drinks, it takes a longer time to take effect but the high is going to linger for a longer period, as well.
A delta-8 distillate is a pure extract of the cannabinoid. You can vape it, add it to joints, or infuse it on foods and drinks. Although it looks physically the same as a tincture, there is a difference. Distillates are plain extracts of cannabinoids.
Tinctures are cannabinoids infused in a solvent, usually alcohol. Adding a solvent allows it to be mixed into other products or absorbed by the body easily.
You can consume a distillate on its own using a portable vaporizer or a dab rig. You can also use a vape pen. Smoking the vapor of a distillate allows you to feel the effects of the high quickly.
Inhaling the vapor from a distillate gives a high that does not last long. If you want to get a quick high but want the effect to last, you can take the distillate sublingually. You can add it to baked goods, coffee, tea, or juice. Since delta-8 THC oil does not mix with water, you may have to add some butter, MCT oil, or coconut oil to allow it to mix easily.
There are many ways to take in delta-8 THC. You can inhale it through a vape pen, ingest it as a consumable, and through sublingual administration. Sublingual means you pour it under the tongue and let it get absorbed into the bloodstream directly.
Just like distillates, you can consume tinctures sublingually. The cells under your tongue can carry the cannabinoid to the bloodstream and into the body's endocannabinoid system. Tinctures possess the benefits of vaping and consumables.
To use it, pour a few drops under your tongue. You will experience the high at the same speed as vaping. As soon as the oil is absorbed, it lingers in the body for hours.
The downside to taking delta-8 sublingually is the taste. Since it is a bit bitter, you have to train yourself to get used to it. Tinctures do not come in flavors. You have to take them as is. You can wash it down with water to get rid of the bitter taste.
Although the taste is bitter, it can give you an instant high that will last for hours. Like distillates, you can add tinctures to food and drinks. Make sure to check the dosing before adding it to any food or beverage.
Delta-8 THC Dosing
Experienced or moderately experienced consumers will feel that delta-8 THC has a much weaker potency than delta-9 or regular THC. However, it may have a strong effect if you are new to consuming marijuana products. It all depends on the dosing and your body's tolerance to the compound.
Delta-8 THC is nearly half as potent as delta-9. Hence, it takes at least twice the amount of delta-8 to achieve the same high as delta-9. Since there is little research done on delta-8, as of the moment, it is difficult to give a conclusive dosage.
Most of the basis for dosing is from anecdotal evidence. Users report that it takes at least twice as much delta-8 THC to achieve a full delta-9 high.
Like any other cannabinoid, your body has a unique tolerance level to the substance.
The effect of the same amount of delta-8 will differ from person to person. Therefore, always start with a low dose. The recommended starting dose for beginners is 5 mg to 15 mg.
Remember that the consumption method will affect how quickly you are going to feel high. If you vape or take it sublingually, you will get results within minutes. If you eat consumables, it may take around 45 minutes to two hours.
The Legality of Delta-8 THC
Delta-8 THC is derived from hemp that contains 0.3% THC or less on a dry weight basis. It is usually synthesized from CBD, a cannabinoid that is legal in all states. However, the law is not specifically clear on the legality of delta-8 THC.
We may consider the cannabinoid as being in a legal gray area. There are nearly a dozen states that address the issue of delta-8 THC at this time. While the DEA proposed a rule to classify the cannabinoid as part of the Schedule I controlled substances, the rule is not final.
Technically, delta-8 THC is not explicitly illegal.
The federal law does not have any provision that addresses delta-8 THC directly. Many delta-8 THC products are sold on the market today without any legal repercussions.
The Difference Between Cannabis and Hemp Plants
Remember that delta-8 THC is not sourced from cannabis but hemp. In this context, cannabis and hemp are different in terms of how the law sees each one. Although they refer to the same species of plant, hemp refers to the plant Cannabis Sativa that has only 0.3% or less THC. Cannabis refers to the plant that has more than 0.3% THC. Cannabis products are illegal in some states. However, delta-8 products are sold in these areas as a legal substitute. Note that most of the delta-8 products on the market are sourced from CBD extracted from federally legal hemp.
The Cannabis Plant and the 2018 Farm Bill
The 2018 Farm Bill legalized the cultivation of hemp in the United States. Hemp is defined as "All derivatives, extracts, cannabinoids, isomers, acids, salts, and salts of isomers, whether growing or not, with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol concentration of not more than 0.3 percent."
This definition makes delta-8 THC legal as long as it does not contain any delta-9 THC. Some states chose not to adopt this definition, though. Some states explicitly prohibit the sale and use of delta-8 products. Therefore, if you plan to buy delta-8 products, check on your state laws to determine if you can buy and consume delta-8 products.
The Safety of Delta-8 THC
Note that no long-term studies on the cannabinoid have ever been conducted so far. Most of the evidence on the safety profile of delta-8 THC comes from user experiences. The lack of scientific research makes it hard to make a conclusive statement on the safety of the cannabinoid.
Nevertheless, delta-8 THC is an appealing compound to many cannabis users, companies, and medical scientists. The product provides therapeutic effects. Its side effects are too common to even notice. Based on anecdotal evidence, the use of delta-8 THC does not induce paranoia or anxiety, which are the common negative effects of too much delta-9.
More research is required to arrive at a final verdict on the safety of the product. Nonetheless, a study supports the fact that delta-8 THC does not have a very high potency to cause an overdose. While it does get you high, it may not have any harmful effects on the body. As you get used to the substance, your body builds a tolerance to it.
It is less addictive because the effects wear off after a few hours. While some users may develop a habitual addition, it is not as addictive as alcohol.
The long-term effects of using the substance have not been observed yet. However, you have to be responsible when taking any recreational hemp-derived product. Never take too much at a time. Take smaller doses until you can determine your tolerance levels. Delta-8 THC can cause sedative effects when taken in larger doses. Make sure you do not operate any heavy machinery or drive while you are under its psychoactive effects.
Also if you are going to undergo a drug test, make sure not to take any delta-8 THC products before the test for safety concerns. Although drug tests specifically check for the active ingredient delta-9 THC, delta-8 is somewhat similar in structure and you may test positive, as well.
How Delta-8 THC is Made
Hemp and cannabis plants contain only trace amounts of delta-8 THC. Since farmers can cultivate and grow hemp in the United States, most of the cannabinoid is taken from that.
It is difficult to extract delta-8 THC from hemp because the plant contains very low concentrations of it. Therefore, it is synthesized from CBD. It is legal to extract CBD from hemp.
CBD can be refined into an isolate and the CBD isolate can later be synthesized into delta-8 THC. With very small concentrations in the plant, the process is labor-intensive, which makes it more expensive to produce than CBD or THC. However, the high demand for the product balances the expense for production.
How to Find Quality Delta-8 Products
Delta-8 THC products are newly emerged.
It may be challenging to find good products out there that contain delta-8. Although there are a good number of dispensaries, gas stations, convenience stores, that sell delta-8 products, always exercise caution. The products sold at some locations may be prohibited by the Food and Drug Administration.
Be a wise consumer. Be sure to check the seller's reputation before buying any product from them. Check their certifications, social media accounts, contact details, and other pertinent information. Learn where they get their raw materials or finished products.
All cannabinoid products have to be quality-tested. A reputable company should be able to provide you with third-party lab results to back up the quality of the products. Stay away from companies that do not provide quality test results or do not have clear company information.