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Delta-8 THC: Sources, Legality, and Uses

Updated: Jan 26, 2022


Both the illicit and legal cannabis markets love their jargon. With words like “sour diesel” and “cannabidiol” fitting in the same sentence, it’s easy to get lost in any conversation about the plant. And if you thought the cannabis industry’s lingo couldn’t be any more complicated, then we’d like to introduce you to Delta-8 THC. 


At the time of this writing, Delta-8 THC is the hottest molecule in the cannabis world. Billed as a milder version of Delta-9 THC (the cannabinoid that produces marijuana’s famous psychotropic effects) Delta-8 found a market in people who wanted benefits of THC, without getting “too high.” Like Delta-9 THC, Delta-8 is frequently used to address pain, nausea, stress, appetite, and mood regulation. Delta-8 has already been used in clinical trials, namely a study where it completely prevented vomiting in chemotherapy patients.  


In terms of anatomic structure and molecular pathways,  Delta-8 and Delta-9 THC are nearly identical. However, when consumed, Delta-8 is reportedly about half as strong as Delta-9. This means ingesting Delta-8 THC can limit common negative side effects associated with a marijuana high (i.e., racing heart, anxiety, paranoia). This is good news for people looking to boost their health regimen with THC while avoiding the possibility of a “bad trip.”


Another significant difference between Delta-8 and Delta-9 THC regards molecular stability over time. Delta-9 converts to CBN (cannabinol), a non-high-inducing cannabinoid, with exposure to oxygen, light, and natural aging. Whereas Delta-8 is shelf-stable and does not degrade over time.



Sources of Delta-8 THC


Delta-8 THC is naturally occurring and found in small concentrations of the hemp plant. The amounts are too small for psychoactive effects to be felt, however, some manufacturers are extracting and isolating Delta-8 THC from the plants, then adding these enriched concentrations to other hemp products like sublingual oils, capsules, gummies, vape cartridges, and hemp flower (intended to be smoked). Whereas most Delta-8 THC producers are using the glut of CBD isolate currently on the market, running the CBD through a chemical process called ‘isomerization’, and converting that CBD to Delta-8 THC.


Delta-8 THC is providing an opportunity for some struggling CBD retailers to enjoy a booming industry once again. Delta-8 THC is also offering consumers an opportunity to sample the cannabis plants’ psychedelic properties for the first time.


Since Delta-8 THC is being used by people looking for its euphoria-producing effects, a conflict is arising. Many hemp advocates and members of congress are still uncomfortable legalizing parts of the hemp plant that can produce joy and psychoactive highs.



Efficacy


Because the FDA has not evaluated Delta-8 as a dietary supplement, there are limitations to what we can lawfully claim are the benefits of ingestion. As a wholesale distributor, our blog posts must be careful about making statements about the positive effects of Delta-8 THC (and any cannabinoid for that matter).


With those conflicts of interest stated, here are some links to trustworthy sources and peer-reviewed studies showing some of the potential reasons why someone might be interested in trying Delta-8 THC:




Legality


The cannabis industry is evolving faster than the laws regulating it. There are still some states who are skeptical of CBD, and draconian towards THC. So for the likes of  Delta-8 THC, as a new discovery in an infantile market space, it may be too obscure to regulate. So, like so much of the cannabis space in general, the situation can be ambiguous depending on the state. 


As of this writing, about a dozen states have passed laws banning Delta-8 THC sales and production. The remaining 38 states have no laws banning Delta-8 THC, and thus an industry is emerging.


ECS Distribution’s attorney, Rod Kight, has written extensively about how the 2018 Hemp Law protects growers, manufacturers, sellers, and end users from prosecution for possessing any products sourced from certified hemp. This law also clarifies that all cannabinoids produced in certified hemp are excluded from the Controlled Substances Act. With this interpretation, it appears Delta-8 THC is indeed legal and protected as part of the new hemp industry.

Delta-9 THC is federally illegal, unless it is sourced from hemp, and Delta-8 THC is not discussed in the federal drug laws. “Tetrahydrocannabinols” are listed in the Title 21 Code of Federal Regulations, Part 1308. However, the federal code does not specifically list delta-8 as a scheduled substance. The law further states that “Tetrahydrocannabinols does not include any material, compound, mixture, or preparation that falls within the definition of hemp ….” According to the 2018 Farm Bill Delta-8 is legal, because it is sourced from hemp. Unless Delta-8 is derived from marijuana, sales of Delta-8 THC are allowed by the 2018 Farm Bill, and thus it seems there is no federal law against it.

Since CBD is being chemically altered to create Delta-8, it has drawn the scrutiny of some lawmakers. Certain states like Michigan, Oklahoma and Florida already have legislation in the works. Some of these laws will prohibit the sale of Delta-8 while others may simply provide age limits or set up a system of taxation. 


Safety



Since the Delta-8 market is practically unregulated, consumers are putting a lot of faith into manufactures to deliver safe products. It’s nice to think all of these new Delta-8 companies will move forward with the highest integrity, but corners are sometimes cut and that could be harmful to the entire industry. If you’re in the market for Delta-8, at least find a company that uses traceable Certificates of Analysis (COA’s) from labs certified by ISO.


And just in case you were thinking Delta-8 was too good to be true, know that this is still THC and you can still fail a drug test. Delta-8 THC will stay in a person’s body for days, and the excreted metabolites (mainly THC-COOH glucuronide) are the same ones most drug-testing labs look for when determining if an employee has been smoking pot. Even though Delta-8 THC sourced from hemp is legal, it can trigger a false-positive for marijuana use.


While the psychoactive effects of Delta-8 are less intense than Delta-9, it is still possible to experience dizziness and psychedelic insights after ingestion of large quantities. Anyone needing to operate machinery or maintain focused attention should be conservative when choosing the size of their Delta-8 dose. The mantra “Start low, and go slow” applies here when novice users seek their optimal serving size of Delta-8 THC.


Looking Forward 

It’s hard to tell what the Delta-8 market will look like a year from now. It could be federally illegal. It could become a totally legitimate and regulated market. Right now, all we know is that Delta-8 is interesting, has value, and is available in most states. For some, Delta-8 is the perfect cannabinoid. You can enjoy THC without being overwhelmed. If you’re feeling curious, research some manufacturers, review the Certificate of Analysis, and ask pointed questions about how the Delta-8 product was sourced. There’s a lot of good that can result from deliberate use, but as with any new industry, the buyer must always beware.

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