Is Delta-8-THC a Synthetic Cannabinoid?

by Kat Austin August 25, 2021 6 min read

Is Delta-8-THC a Synthetic Cannabinoid? - Vida Optima™

The 2018 U.S. Farm Bill officially legalized hemp and its derivatives, including CBD and the mildly psychoactive Delta-8-THC. At the core of concerns about why Delta-8 is legal is one important question: Is Delta-8-THC a synthetic cannabinoid?

Technically, Delta-8 is “synthesized” from CBD, but it doesn't actually match the federal definition for a “synthetic cannabinoid.” This is important because synthetic cannabinoids are actually illegal, and Delta-8-THC is not.

That means you can buy Delta-8-THC online (Check out our Elev8 Collection!) and have it shipped to your door.

If this is confusing, no worries, we’ll clear it up below:

Table of Contents
What are Synthetic Cannabinoids?
Delta-8 is Not a Synthetic Cannabinoid
Delta-8-THC, the Hemp Isomer
Delta-8 is Legal, but It’s Not by Design
What About the DEA Interim Final Rule?
Delta-8 Legality and Caveats
Where to Buy Delta-8-THC Online

Key Takeaways

  • Delta-8-THC is made from natural plant material and not lab-made chemicals like synthetic cannabinoids.
  • If Delta-8-THC is made from hemp-derived CBD, it probably aligns with federal hemp laws, which means it’s legal in the U.S.
  • Even though Delta-8 is not synthetic, it is still prohibited in some states. 
  • When buying Delta-8-THC online, make sure to look for hemp-derived products that are third-party lab tested.

What are Synthetic Cannabinoids?

The term “synthetic cannabinoid” usually refers to common street drugs like K2 (also known as “spice”). For comparison, K2 is a substance that is completely man made and not derived from any natural cannabis material at all. It is generally sprayed on a plant material of sorts, but the compound contains no organic material at all.

A model of Delta-8-THC's molecular structure and the natural hemp material its made from.

Unfortunately, there is no official definition for the term “synthetic” as used by the Drug Enforcement Agency. One interpretation of what is defined as a synthetic cannabinoid comes from a description used in a legal case from 2018 which states the following:

“[U]nlike THC, which is a partial agonist, synthetic cannabinoids are full agonists. This means, according to Dr. Trecki [a DEA pharmacologist who routinely testifies for the Government in criminal cases about the nature and effects of synthetic cannabinoids], synthetic cannabinoids produce a more intense reaction than THC.”

It’s important to point out that K2 is a series of chemicals that imitates THC in a way that allows it to interact with the endocannabinoid system in a much more potent manner. K2 is a full agonist and produces effects that are substantially stronger than what users experience from cannabis-derived cannabinoids.

What does this mean for the status of Delta-8-THC? The answer doesn’t really matter.

Delta-8 is Not a Synthetic Cannabinoid

Delta-8-THC is a cannabinoid, and it is also an isomer of CBD. (We’ll touch more on this below.) Delta-8 is naturally occurring in hemp material, but in very small concentrations. Most of the Delta-8-THC products on the market today contain Delta-8 that was “synthesized” from CBD that was naturally derived from hemp material.

A lab technician inspecting CBD oil that will be converted into Delta-8-THC

Some interpretations of the federal ruling on hemp and Delta-8 suggest that most Delta-8-THC products are “synthetic” because of the way they are made from CBD. This suggestions completely disregards the 2018 Farm Bill that legalized hemp material using the following definition:

“the plant Cannabis sativa L. and any part of that plant, including the seeds thereof and 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 on a dry weight basis.”

The inclusion of “all derivatives” helps to clear up any confusion about Delta-8-THC’s legal status. A “derivative” is a “substance that can be made from another substance.” In this case, Delta-8-THC is made from CBD that is naturally and legally derived from hemp material.

Delta-8-THC is a Hemp “Isomer” and “Cannabinoid”

If the definitions above are not enough confirmation, consider that Delta-8-THC directly fits the description for legal hemp material in multiple ways.

Remember when we said that Delta-8 is an “isomer” of THC? By definition, an isomer is a compound that contains all of the same components of another compound, but arranged in a different order. In other words, Delta-8-THC and CBD contain all of the same components, but each compound is structured differently.

A sample vial of Delta-8-THC oil made from CBD

The method by which Delta-8 is made from CBD, a process called “isomerization,” merely rearranges the CBD compound into Delta-8-THC by exposing it to an organic acid. Usually, this acid is acetic acid, which is the simple acid responsible for giving vinegar its sour taste and pungent smell.

Thanks to the way that Delta-8-THC is made, it simply exists as a “hemp isomer” and “cannabinoid.” It’s nothing like the lab-made synthetic cannabinoids that are composed of a complicated string of chemicals and no plant material.

Delta-8 is Legal, but It’s Not by Design

Many people will claim that lawmakers did not intend to legalize psychoactive cannabinoids when the 2018 Farm Bill became law. That may be true, and the general focus was on legalizing industrial hemp crops for a variety of practical uses, like using their fibers to produce fabrics, paper, and more. The bill also addressed a strong urge to legalize CBD, which had previously been gaining traction in many states as a treatment for intractable epilepsy.

Still, the bill does seem to include hemp-derived Delta-8-THC in it’s legal definition, which only prohibits a “delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis.”

The original bill could have just prohibited tetrahydrocannabinols in general, but lawmakers instead chose to narrowly prohibit only Delta-9-THC.

In fact, a clause in Section 12619b of the 2018 Farm Bill specifically addresses tetrahydrocannabinols in hemp material. This clause states that all tetrahydrocannabinols in hemp are specifically exempt from scheduling within the Controlled Substances Act, save for Delta-9-THC in amounts larger than 0.3% by dry weight.

Otherwise, lawmakers have yet to clarify their true position on Delta-8-THC products.

Delta-8-THC oil and hemp leaves, two parts of the same federally legal plant.

What about the “DEA Interim Final Rule” on Delta-8?

Some people saw the recent DEA Interim Final Rule as clarification that Delta-8 was classified as synthetic cannabinoid and was therefore illegal, but this is a misunderstanding. It’s true that the Interim Final Rule states that all synthetically derived cannabinoids are illegal, regardless of classification or source. But Delta-8-THC isn’t synthetically derived, rather it’s derived by “isomerization.”

The rule also states that:

“This interim final rule merely conforms DEA’s regulations to the statutory amendments to the CSA that have already taken effect, and it does not add additional requirements to the regulations.”

In other words, the only purpose of these new rules is to help align the Controlled Substances Act with the rules that were already carved out by the 2018 Farm Bill. The DEA did not place any restrictions on hemp-derived Delta-8-THC, and Delta-8 is still legal in the U.S.

Delta-8-THC Legality and Caveats

While Delta-8-THC is legal by federal standards, not all states agree with this stance. The majority of states align with the federal hemp laws, but there are some that have specifically restricted the sale of Delta-8-THC products or have limited them to being sold only in state licensed dispensaries.

Before you order Delta-8-THC online, you should check your local Delta-8-THC laws to make sure that Delta-8 is legal in your state. You may want to read “Is Delta-8-THC Legal? A State by State Guide to Delta-8 Laws.”

Where to Buy Delta-8-THC Online

There are plenty of places to buy Delta-8-THC online, but not all hemp products are created equal. Since Delta-8 is illegal if it’s not made according to specific hemp laws, it’s really important that you understand how to choose high-quality Delta-8-THC products. Look for Delta-8 products that are made from legal hemp material in an area where both hemp products and Delta-8 are legal. The brand you choose should also be willing to provide a Certificate of Analysis that proves the potency of their Delta-8 products.

For Delta-8-THC products that are 100% Farm Bill compliant and meet all the marks we listed above, we recommend checking out our Elev8 Collection, which includes a variety of edibles, vapes, flower, and more.

Vida Optima Elev8 Tincture Oil


  1. “K2: What Is It? Who Uses It? And Why Is It So Dangerous?”
  2. “H.R.2 - Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018”
  3. “United States v. Hage”
  4. “Drug Enforcement Agency Interim Final Rule”

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