June 19, 2023 5 min read

It’s official–Delta-11 (and a number of other hemp THC isomers) were legalized when the 2018 hemp bill became law. Delta-11 is of special interest for some THC consumers, however, because it boasts psychoactive effects that are around 3 times more potent than traditional Delta-9-THC.

We know what you’re thinking: “How is that even legal?” Really, it’s all about how it’s made, so you really need to be asking “How is Delta-11-THC extracted?”to understand the difference in Delta-11 from hemp and marijuana-based THC products. The hemp source and extraction process has everything to do with the way that Delta-11 (and similar THC isomers) fit into federal hemp laws to maintain their legal status.

Sounds complicated? It’s really not! We’ll dive into how Delta-11 and other hemp isomers are made to clear up the confusion.

Table of Contents
Delta-11 From Hemp vs Marijuana
How is Delta-11 Made?
How is Delta-11 Extracted?
Is Delta-11 Synthetic??
Finding Legal Delta-11 Near You
Resources

Key Takeaways

  • Delta-11 is not extracted directly from hemp. Instead, it’s made from other hemp cannabinoids via isomerization.
  • The rest of the extraction process is the same as the extraction process used to make CBD products.
  • If Delta-11 is extracted correctly, it’s legal in the U.S. in most states and can be ordered online with no hassle.

Delta-11 from Hemp vs Marijuana

Before we can answer questions about how Delta-11-THC is extracted, we need to discuss why it matters.

Delta-11 is a natural cannabinoid found in almost all varieties of cannabis, including hemp. It exists naturally just like Delta-8-THC, Delta-9-THC, Delta-10-THC and other THC molecules–but it’s available only in small amounts. Because it’s only available in small quantities, though, it’s usually made through a process called “isomerization,” or a method of converting one molecule into another.

A Delta-11 vape and the raw hemp material it's made from

In other words, Delta-11 can be made by taking a more plentiful cannabinoid from hemp, like CBD, and transforming it into Delta-11. The catch is, this process can be done with cannabinoids from hemp and cannabinoids from marijuana. If Delta-11 is not made from hemp and does not meet federal hemp requirements, it’s not a federally legal product, which means it can only legally be purchased in state licensed dispensaries.

Luckily, Delta-11 is usually made from hemp in order to make it legal to buy, sell, and use. So, most of the Delta-11 you encounter is made from hemp and is legal to consume, but it’s still something you should look out for. Always verify the hemp source when buying hemp products. High-quality hemp THC products are made from U.S. grown, organic hemp material that’s lab tested and free of contaminants.

So, now that we’ve discuss the importance of hemp source, let’s get down to the nitty gritty:

How is Delta-11 Made?

We mentioned that Delta-11 was made through a process called isomerization, but what does that mean?

Well, Delta-11 is an isomer of CBD, which means both molecules have all the same components just arranged in a different order. Isomerization, sometimes called “cannabinoid conversion,” is the process of exposing the compound to an acid or another chemical, which shifts the components around to transform one compound into another.

This method was patented by prominent cannabinoid researcher, Raphael Mechoulam, as a way to work around the low Delta-8-THC levels in cannabis when researching the effects of the compound on various conditions. Delta-8-THC existed as a CBD isomer, meaning the CBD molecule could be rearranged to create Delta-8-THC. Over time, this process became more commonplace in hemp manufacturing, leading to a slew of new cannabinoid formulations.

The same process used to convert CBD into Delta-8-THC is used to convert CBD to Delta-11, except a different chemical or duration of exposure is used for each procedure. After the conversion process is through, the extract undergoes a series of different refinement methods to remove any leftover CBD, residual solvents, or unwanted chemicals that could contaminate the final batch. This final step is why it's so important to find a brand that uses a third party lab testing process to verify the absence of all contaminants.

How is Delta-11 Extracted from Hemp?

To clarify, Delta-11 is not extracted from hemp. It is made from other cannabinoids through isomerization. Usually, CBD is used because it is plentiful and easy to extract from hemp. The CBD does need to be extracted before the isomerization process can occur, and it can be extracted using one of various methods:

The extraction methods used to make CBD products vary greatly, but they boil down to three popular, basic methods: solvent-based extraction, solventless extractions, and oil extractions.

  • Solventless extractions, like Supercritical CO2 extractions, require special extraction equipment, but are frequently described as “cleaner,” because no solvent can be left behind.
  • Solvent-based extractions, like ethanol extractions, are another common method used. Ethanol breaks down and extracts the CBD material, and then some extra steps are required to remove leftover solvent from the extracted material.
  • Oil extractionsare the oldest cannabis extraction method, and involve using an oil base, like olive oil, and gently heating it to remove the cannabinoid material. This is similar to the way you make cannabis butter at home.
A thick, waxy, golden dab of Delta-11-THC distillate, a pure form of D11 used to make other products.

(Read Hemp and CBD Extraction Methods to learn more about the various extraction techniques and how they differ.)

After the CBD material is extracted, it is carefully refined (through methods like winterization and distillation) to create CBD isolate. CBD isolate, a form of CBD that is 99% pure, is the material that is most frequently used to make Delta-8-THC products in the U.S.

 

Is Delta-11 Synthetic?

At first glance, it’s easy to characterize Delta-11 as a synthetic cannabinoid, but that is not the case. In fact, Delta-11 is naturally occurring in hemp, and the isomerization process used is not the same as a synthesization technique.

In fact, the cannabinoid conversion process happens naturally in the cannabis plant. Extraction technicians simply replicate this process in a lab where it can be better controlled in order to make products that meet federal requirements, meaning they never contain more than 0.3% Delta-9-THC at any point during the manufacturing process.

Synthetic cannabinoids, on the other hand, are usually made from a handful of other chemicals and do not contain natural cannabis material. While some synthetic cannabinoids look and act like hemp-derived cannabinoids (like prescription drug Dronabinol that mimics THC), others are dangerous street drugs that should be avoided.

Finding Legal Delta-11 Near You

Since Delta-11-THC can be made through various methods, consumers must be careful to ensure that the Delta-11-THC they buy is made through legal cannabinoid extraction techniques.

At Vida Optima, all of our hemp THC products are 100% Farm Bill compliant and are accompanied by lab tests that prove label accuracy. For legal hemp THC products you can buy online, check out our entire Elev8 collection.

Vida Optima Cloud 9 THC Gummies

Resources

  1. “Cannabis, a complex plant: different compounds and different effects on individuals” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3736954/
  2. “Conversion of CBD to Δ8-THC and Δ9-THC” https://patents.google.com/patent/US7399872B2/en

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