The legal hemp conversation is rapidly evolving, but much of the focus has centered on CBD and its various benefits. The conversation may be shifting, however, to highlight the importance of various minor cannabinoids. Right now, delta-8-tetrahydrocannabinol, or delta-8-THC for short, is emerging into the spotlight.
Although it sounds incredibly similar to it’s cannabinoid cousin, delta-9-THC (the cannabinoid responsible for cannabis’ psychotropic effects), delta-8 has a few key differences. Most significantly, it can be 'synthesized' from CBD that is derived from industrial hemp, a species of the cannabis plant that is now classified as legal in the U.S.
If you’re looking for a quick, legal high, you should be wary of the misinformation that’s out there. We aim to cut the confusion and answer the most important questions—what are the effects of delta-8-THC? How is it used? Is it legal? And most importantly, is it safe?
All great questions–let’s get to the facts.
Table of Contents
Delta-8-THC vs Delta-9-THC
Will Delta-8-THC Get You High?
Potential Benefits of Delta-8-THC
Is Delta-8-THC Legal?
How is Delta-8-THC Used?
Does Delta-8-THC Have Any Side Effects?
Is Delta-8-THC Safe?
One of the most significant differentiators of delta-8 is that it is not genetically produced via enzyme synthesis in the cannabis plant in the same manner that most cannabinoids are produced. Instead, it is produced as THC degrades, similarly to some other minor cannabinoids, like CBN.
Therefore, delta-8 is often referred to as “degraded THC,” but it actually isn’t all that different.
Delta-8 may interact with both the CB1 and CB2 receptor, but is thought to have a higher affinity for the CB1 receptor, the receptor where delta-9-THC binds. CB1 is the endocannabinoid receptor that is most concentrated in the brain and central nervous system, which is what makes THC’s psychotropic effects possible.
Delta-8 even has some psychotropic effects similar to delta-9, though they are considered to be about half as potent. Many people rationalize that delta-8-THC may offer some very similar benefits to delta-9, but with fewer drawbacks. Namely, delta-8 may not cause the same anxiety and paranoia known to rear its head after overindulging.
Finally, Delta-8 is much more shelf-stable than Delta-9, which may mean that it has greater potential for pharmaceutical applications where limited shelf life is a major deterrent.
In more literal terms, the two cannabinoids are different only by a hair—just one atomic bond to be exact. The delta-8 and delta-9 molecules look almost identical except for a slight difference in their double bond (identified by the signifier "delta"). Delta-9's double bond is at chain position 9, while delta-8's comes one carbon atom sooner, at position 8.
If that sounds confusing, it's because it kind of is. Thankfully, it's only really important for chemists and researchers to understand. For consumers, what's important is how these slight differences alter delta-8-THC's effects.
Delta-8-THC's psychotropic effects are a touchy subject. Some may argue that it doesn't get you "high" in the same manner as THC, while others suggest that the high is just different, usually describing it as more mellow and relaxed.
Technically, delta-8-THC may have very similar psychotropic effects that are, as we mentioned earlier, about half as strong as delta-9's. Delta-8 may also have a strong affinity for the CB-1 receptors that affect the brain and central nervous systems. So, in all aspects of the phrase, yes, delta-8-THC will get you high.
But those who have tried it are right to differentiate between the two psychoactive cannabinoids. Delta-8's effects are thought to be less "hazy" or "sedating," which may make it a better therapeutic option for those that are too sensitive to regular THC-based therapies.
Research hasn't exactly taken a deep dive into delta-8, so we are mostly relying on anecdotal reports about it's psychoactive differences for now. Still, there are limited studies that help explain the minor cannabinoid's great therapeutic potential.
Although delta-8-THC is not as well researched as delta-9-THC or even CBD, it’s not new to cannabinoid researchers. Researchers discovered various promising benefits related to delta-8 years ago, and some even believe it may have greater therapeutic potential than delta-9 (possibly because it’s thought to be less likely to cause adverse effects.)
In 1975, one study found that delta-8 may shrink cancerous tumors in rats.
Another study found that delta-8 may be able to significantly reduce nausea caused by chemotherapy in pediatric cancer patients. In fact, delta-8 was found to be 100% successful at reducing nausea in the 480 treatments given.
The same study revealed that delta-9 may have fewer harmful consequences. Children given delta-8 were less prone to anxiety, and most didn’t report noticeable psychoactive effects from therapeutic doses. This enabled researchers to give them larger doses of delta-8, likely resulting in higher efficacy rates.
A 2004 patent regarding the antiemetic (anti-nausea) properties of delta-8-thc reveals that it may be up to 200 times more effective than delta-9.
A 2004 study found that delta-8 may go further than reducing nausea. It was discovered that the minor cannabinoid might actually stimulate appetite in rats, though it’s thought to do so to a lesser degree than delta-9, which is infamous for causing “the munchies.”
The National Cancer Institute defines delta-8-THC as “An analogue of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) with antiemetic, anxiolytic, appetite-stimulating, analgesic, and neuroprotective properties.”
Delta-8-THC legality is a sticky subject wrapped in plenty of confusing red tape, and many people have opposing views on the matter. Of course, there are technical details that seem to settle the matter for now, but keep in mind that laws regarding cannabinoids are still subject to change as hemp regulations are ironed out by the DEA and FDA.
Technically speaking, delta-8-THC is listed in the Controlled Substances Act as a Schedule I substance alongside delta-9-THC. However, the Hemp Farming Act of 2018 (the bill that effectively legalized hemp) includes a clause in Section 12619b that specifically addresses tetrahydrocannabinols in hemp.
The wording clearly suggests that Delta-8-THC that is naturally derived from industrial hemp which contains less than 0.3% Delta-9-THC is federally protected.
But there’s another catch—the Hemp Farming Bill only covers cannabinoids that are naturally derived from industrial hemp. The bill is very clear about this—all synthetically derived cannabinoids are illegal.
Many people claim that this implication further muddies the water since delta-8 is often synthesized from another cannabinoid, like CBD.
However, the complicated process isn’t exactly the same as creating a fully synthetic cannabinoid. Instead, it relies on a transfer of isomers, a process called isomerization, between cannabinoids.
It is the opinion of many reputable law advisory groups that the isomerization process used to create delta-8 does not fit the DEA’s description for a “synthetically-derived” cannabinoid, rendering the compound legally so long as it is sourced according to federal regulations regarding industrial hemp.
In other words, brands may manufacture and sell delta-8 products made from legal hemp, but you should still be careful to check your local regulations regarding cannabinoid products.
Delta-8-THC is still a rare commodity in most corners of the market, but it's becoming a popular topic among legal hemp producers. Similarly to delta-9-THC, delta-8 can be used to make a massive range of different products.
Since it's more difficult to source, it most commonly shows up in products designed to offer a high bioavailability (absorption rate), like vaporizers. It can also be found in other products, however, like edibles, tinctures, capsules, and more.
There are no isolated research efforts aimed at delta-8’s side effects, but many studies regarding delta-8’s benefits report very little potential for adverse reactions.
In most cases, the side effects of delta-8 may be similar to that of delta-9 (like tiredness), but to a much lesser extent. Some research even reports that there are no known side effects related to delta-9 consumption.
To be transparent, it may be too soon to tell. We know that delta-9-THC carries some level of risk, especially when taken in high doses. Delta-8-THC has a much lower psychotropic range, so over-indulging may not be a concern. We need more research to fully identify any drawbacks related to Delta-8. For now, consumers should take the same precautions used when dosing any THC product and consume delta-9 responsibly, starting with small doses to monitor your individual reactions.
Delta-8’s safety is another area where research is uncertain, mostly because it’s toxicity isn’t as well-tested as that of other well-known cannabinoids. Still, as an analog of Delta-9-THC, it is thought to have a similar safety profile.
The most common concern with delta-8 products is the quality of an individual product. The hemp industry is still mostly unregulated, leaving room for manufacturers to allow certain contaminants in during the production process. Plus, accurate potency labelling is especially a concern with psychotropic cannabinoids.
We’re still waiting on leading organizations to fully weigh in on the risks, but there may be certain steps you can take to reduce your individual risks when shopping for delta-8.
First, look for a reputable company. Generally, certain markers will help you identify a reputable company, like an informative website with genuine contact details—you’ll want to be able to talk to a real person if you have issues with your product.
Most importantly, make sure that the brand uses third-party lab testing to ensure the potency of every product—you’ll want to know how much you’re actually taking.
You should also check the source to ensure that the delta-8 product you choose is derived from legal hemp (classified as industrial hemp with less than 0.3% delta-9-THC) so that you don’t run into legal troubles.
When you get your product, start slowly to test the waters and monitor your results. Then, you can slowly alter your dose to work out a dosing routine that works for you.
Delta-8-THC products may pair well with legal CBD products, which are non-psychoactive but may carry some similar therapeutic benefits. Our partner brand, Vida Optima, carries an innovative selection of full-spectrum CBD products, like the Vida CBD Multivitamin Gummies, that can be easily integrated into your wellness routine alongside our Delta-8 products.
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