March 24, 2021 4 min read

The way that Delta-8-THC is made has everything to do with whether it’s legal, safe, and effective. Unfortunately, not every company is willing to expose the gritty details behind their manufacturing process, but we’re going to break it down.

So, how is Delta-8-THC extracted so that it’s legal? And why does the Delta-8-THC extraction process matter so much?

Here’s what you need to know:

Table of Contents
Sourcing Delta-8-THC
Delta-8-THC Extraction Method
Converting CBD to Delta-8-THC
Finding Legally Made Delta-8 Near You
Resources

Key Takeaways

  • Delta-8-THC is naturally occurring in only very low quantities, so it’s typically made from CBD derived from legal hemp.
  • CBD is converted to Delta-8-THC through a process called “isomerization,” a unique conversion process that’s been around for decades.
  • The rest of the extraction process is the same as the extraction processed used to make CBD products.
  • If Delta-8 is extracted correctly, it’s legal in the U.S. in most states and can be ordered online with no hassle.

Sourcing Delta-8-THC

Before we can answer questions about how Delta-8-THC is extracted, we need to discuss where Delta-8 actually comes from:

A close up of a hemp plant, the natural material used for Delta-8-THC extractions.

Delta-8 is a natural cannabinoid found in almost all varieties of cannabis, including hemp. CBGA, a cannabinoid acid that’s known as “the mother of all cannabinoids,” becomes THCA, which becomes Delta-9-THC through a process called decarboxylation, or a precise amount of heat exposure.

Delta-8-THC is a degraded version of Delta-9 that’s created when oxidation happens. This may be the reason that Delta-8 is thought to be less potent than Delta-9, and the reason that it doesn’t degrade quickly when exposed to air, giving it a long shelf life.

Since Delta-8 is a product of Delta-9 degradation, it’s safe to assume that it’s available only in low quantities, especially in legal hemp material (which must contain less than 0.3% Delta-9-THC by law). In fact, Delta-8 is usually found in quantities lower than 1%.

Originally, this posed an issue for the researchers who discovered Delta-8-THC, especially after cannabis was made illegal in 1970.

That is, until one prominent cannabinoid researcher, Raphael Mechoulam, discovered that Delta-8-THC existed as a CBD isomer, meaning the CBD molecule could be rearranged to create Delta-8-THC. Mechoulam filed for a patent in the early 2000’s that detailed a method for converting CBD into Delta-8-THC.

CBD is available in abundance in hemp material that is legal and accessible according to federal law. Extracting CBD is the first step to making many of the Delta-8-THC products on the market today.

Delta-8-THC Extraction Methods

Before Delta-8-THC can be made from CBD, the CBD needs to be extracted from legal hemp material, usually using hemp flowers or hemp biomass (meaning the entire hemp plant). There are a variety of different extraction methods that can be used, but they all share a similar first step: Decarboxylation.

The decarboxylation process, commonly called “decarbing,” involves heating the hemp material to precise temperatures. Heat converts CBDa to CBD, which helps boost the CBD content.

After the material has been decarbed to increase the CBD content, one (or a combination) of various extraction methods can be used to remove the CBD material from the dried plant material.

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.

(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.

Converting CBD to Delta-8-THC

A model showing the similarities in the CBD molecule and the Delta-8-THC molecule.

Once the CBD isolate material is ready, it needs to be transformed into Delta-8-THC through a process called “isomerization.”

More specifically, CBD has to be dissolved in a certain acid, most commonly glacial acetic acid. This chemical process first converts some of the CBD to Delta-9-THC, but after 72 hours over half of the original CBD material will become Delta-8-THC.

Finally, the material is carefully refined once more to remove any unwanted materials, like leftover acids, to create a pure and potent Delta-8-THC oil. This material can be used to make the wide variety of Delta-8 products you’ll find on the market today.

In some cases, the Delta-8 extract is used as-is, or it may be mixed with various carrier oils, terpenes, cannabinoids, or flavor additives to create a Delta-8 product that is entirely unique. Regardless of whether the material is used to make vaporizers or edibles or something in between, a good manufacturer will also use a batch-testing process to verify potency and safety.

Although Delta-8-THC is a natural cannabinoid, there are various things that could go wrong during the isomerization process that would result in low Delta-8 concentrations. For that reason, third-party lab tests are used to hold a manufacturer accountable, prove label accuracy, and otherwise mark a Delta-8 product as honest and legitimate.

Finding Legally Made Delta-8 Near You

Since Delta-8-THC can be made through various methods, consumers must be careful to ensure that the Delta-8-THC they buy is made through legal cannabinoid extraction techniques.

At Vida Optima, all of our Delta-8-THC products are 100% Farm Bill compliant and are accompanied by lab tests that prove label accuracy. For legal Delta-8 products you can buy online, check out our entire Delta-8-THC collection.

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

Leave a comment

Comments will be approved before showing up.


Also in Cannabis Encyclopedia

How to Increase Appetite Naturally | Vida Optima
How to Increase Appetite Naturally

April 07, 2021 6 min read

Healthy lifestyle changes and natural appetite stimulants (like Delta-8) may help get your appetite back on track.
Read More
Delta-8-THC Health Benefits | Vida Optima
Delta-8-THC Health Benefits

April 06, 2021 5 min read

Curious how Delta-8-THC may affect your health? Here's what research tells us:
Read More
What is Delta-8-THC Like? | Vida Optima
What is Delta-8-THC Like?

April 05, 2021 4 min read

Everything you need to know about the Delta-8 experience, including effects, benefits, and safety information.
Read More

Subscribe