November 08, 2021 5 min read

Opponents to Delta-8-THC argue that it's a dangerous synthetic cannabinoid similar to K2—but advocates argue that that simply isn't true. Of course, the way that Delta-8 is made is very different from the process used to make traditional THC products.

This paradox leaves many consumers to wonder—Is Delta-8 a natural THC or not?

The answer is a resounding yes, Delta-8-THC is absolutely a natural cannabinoid, and yes, Delta-8 products are made in a lab. Confused? Let us explain:

Table of Contents
Where Does Delta-8-THC Come From?
Why is Delta-8 Not Extracted From Hemp?
How is Delta-8 Extracted?
Is Delta-8 Synthetic?
How is Delta-8 Different from Delta-9?
How is Delta-8 Legal?
Where to Find Delta-8-THC Products

Key Takeaways

  • Delta-8-THC is a cannabinoid that is naturally found in cannabis material.
  • It's found in low concentrations in legal hemp material, which makes it difficult to extract.
  • Most Delta-8 products are made by converting CBD to Delta-8-THC.
  • The process used to make Delta-8 is not the same as the process used to make synthetic cannabinoids.

Where Does Delta-8 Come From?

If you grab a random sample of cannabis material (and happen to have a full scale laboratory at your disposal) you can probably find Delta-8-THC mingling among all of the other cannabinoids and terpenes. That's because Delta-8-THC isa natural cannabinoid that is naturally produced by the cannabis plant.

A hemp plant in full bloom, the natural source of Delta-8-THC

In fact, Delta-8-THC is created by the cannabis plant as Delta-9-THC degrades, which may even give it a therapeutic edge. Because Delta-8-THC is a slightly oxidized version of THC it's much more stable and less sensitive to the elements. In other words, Delta-8-THC has a longer shelf-life than Delta-9 so it may have increased potential for pharmaceutical use.

Why is Delta-8-THC Not Extracted Directly From Hemp?

We mentioned that Delta-8-THC is created as Delta-9-THC degrades, which poses a huge caveat for the legal hemp industry. By federal standards, legal hemp must contain less than 0.3% Delta-9-THC.

You can probably see why this is an issue. Low quantities of Delta-9 translate to low quantities of Delta-8. In fact, Delta-8-THC is usually found in hemp at concentrations below 1%.

In other words, Delta-8-THC is a natural THC in the sense that it can be extracted directly from hemp material just like other cannabinoids.

Of course, it would take a whole lot more hemp to extract the same amount of Delta-8 as you could CBD, which can be found in concentrations between 5 and 20 percent in hemp material. If manufacturers made Delta-8 products this way they would have to charge astronomical prices to cover the amount of hemp used.

Originally, this posed an issue even for the researchers who discovered Delta-8-THC, especially after high-THC cannabis material was made illegal in 1970. Luckily, one prominent cannabinoid researcher found a useful workaround.

How is Delta-8-THC Extracted?

Raphael Mechoulam, a researcher who is often referred to as "the father of cannabis," discovered that Delta-8-THC is a CBD isomer. Isomers are molecules that contain all of the same components arranged in a different order.

In other words, CBD contains everything needed to make a Delta-8-THC molecule. "Isomerization" is the process of rearranging one molecule into its isomer, and in this case it refers to the process of turning CBD into Delta-8.

So, Delta-8-THC is not extracted from hemp. CBD is. Then, Delta-8-THC is made from CBD through a process that does not add or remove any molecular components.

A canister of Delta-8-THC flower, a fast acting form of the natural THC

Doesn't That Mean That Delta-8 is Synthesized?

Nope! If you take a closer look at synthetic cannabinoids, like K2, you'll see that they don't actually contain any plant material. Instead, they're made by stringing other chemicals together in a process designed to replicate a natural cannabinoid, but they are not natural cannabinoids.

Delta-8-THC is made from CBD by exposing it to an acid. The acid simply forces CBD to rearrange its molecular structure. After CBD is converted to Delta-8, the extract material is distilled and any leftover acid is removed. What’s left is a pure Delta-8 distillate.

In other words, when you take high-quality, clean Delta-8-THC, you're only ingesting the same components you would have ingested if you took the CBD before the isomerization process took place. Since the molecular structure is different, however, the molecule interacts with the body in a totally different way.

How is Delta-8-THC Different From Delta-9-THC?

Many people believe that the primary difference between Delta-8 and Delta-9 is that Delta-8 is synthetic. Since we've busted that myth, we wanted to break down the true difference between the two natural THC's.

The Delta-8 and Delta-9 molecules are almost identical, save for the placement of their double bond: Delta-8’s is at the 8th chain position and Delta 9’s is at the 9th. Because the two molecules are structurally similar, they have similar interactions in the body.A comparison of the Delta-8 and Delta-9 molecular formulas.

However, their one small difference also means that they have different interactions in the body. Both Delta-8 and Delta-9 interact with CB1 receptors, the primary endocannabinoid receptors found in the brain and Central Nervous system. This is the portion of the endocannabinoid system responsible for getting you high. That's why Delta-8-THC can cause psychoactive effects like other natural THCs.

However, unlike Delta-9, Delta-8 can also interact with CB2 receptors, the other primary portion of the endocannabinoid system. CB2 activation does not induce any psychoactivity. Because a Delta-8 dose is split between CB1 and CB2 receptors, less of the dose is absorbed by a receptor that insights psychoactivity. This is why a dose of Delta-8 produces milder effects than the same dose of Delta-9.

So, Delta-8 is Legal Because It's Natural THC?

No. Delta-8-THC is legal because it's derived from hemp and because it contains less than 0.3% Delta 9 THC, as dictated by federal hemp laws.

Again, Delta-8-THC could be extracted directly from some cannabis materials where it's found in larger concentrations, but that would mean that it's not extracted from hemp and is therefore not legal by federal standards.

These marijuana-derived Delta-8 products do exist, but you only find them at state-licensed dispensaries in areas where high-THC cannabis is legal. As far as the effects and benefits go, Delta-8-THC is Delta-8-THC. In other words, both types of Delta-8 products have the same effects and benefits because they are both made from the same molecule.

Where to Find Delta-8-THC Products?

Delta-8-THC derived from hemp is federally legal, which means you can buy it in stores and online from a variety of retailers.

Of course, not all Delta-8-THC is made equal. If you're looking for premium-quality Delta-8-THC products in a variety of potencies and flavors, our Elev8 Collection has what you need. All Vida Optima products are 100% Farm Bill compliant and third-party tested for quality assurance.

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