Even if you’re relatively new to the world of weed, you’ve likely heard the name of the famous cannabinoid THC tossed around, but what about Delta-8-THC?
This cousin cannabinoid has become popular due to its similarity to Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the psychoactive component in weed that makes us high.
However, while they share similar effects and names, there are differences between THC and Delta-8-THC that are worth discussing.
Delta-8 THC is a controversial cannabinoid that produces a very different experience and activates differently than Delta-9-THC (THC).
Additionally, even in regions where recreational cannabis is legal, Delta-8’s legal status remains somewhat hazy – pun intended – so it’s definitely something that users should approach cautiously and at their own risk.
Today, we’ll be exploring what Delta-8-tetrahydrocannabinol is, the distinct differences between it and standard Delta-9-THC, and whether it is safe to consume.
What is Delta-8-Tetrahydrocannabinol?
THC and cannabidiol (aka CBD) are by far the most commercialized and widely popular cannabinoids found in cannabis, they are just two examples of over 100 different cannabinoid compounds present in the plant, another example being Delta-8-THC.
Essentially, Delta-8-THC is an analog of Delta-9-THC.
This means that they share a similar molecular structure.
However, there is a distinct difference in the form of a unique chemical bond that appears on the eighth carbon instead of the ninth.
It is also crucial to note that cannabis plants do not produce Delta-8- tetrahydrocannabinol. Instead, it’s created when THC is stored for a long time and degrades into Delta-8-THC.
According to Dr. Peter Grinspoon, an instructor in medicine at Harvard Medical School, Delta-8-THC is found in trace quantities in cannabis, but it can be distilled and synthesized from hemp.
It’s important to note that like its regular THC, Delta-8-THC will also get you high.
That said, the effects are not nearly as potent or intense as Delta-9-THC.
The Legal Status of Delta-8-THC
Depending on the region of the world you live in, the legal status and restrictions surrounding Delta-8-THC are relatively unclear.
This ambiguity is because producers can extract the cannabinoid from both hemp and cannabis.
Hemp is legally grown across North America and used to make extractions derived from hemp to create a wide range of CBD focused products, making it legal in regions where weed, itself, may not be.
In this way, the market for this cannabinoid is starting to grow as a legal loophole solution to get high without facing any penalties within the greater cannabis industry.
That said, the actual process of creating Delta-8-tetrahydrocannabinol is typically performed by synthetically altering CBD into Delta-8-THC, which is a sketchy and unregulated procedure.
Most of the time, the process of creating Delta-8-THC from CBD is performed because it’s the most cost-effective method for manufacturers to create wholesale Delta-8- tetrahydrocannabinol.
Only trace amounts of the cannabinoid are found in hemp, making it much more expensive to create this way.
Ultimately, little scientific knowledge is known about Delta-8-THC, which is why users should be wary and approach using it with caution.
Delta-8-THC vs THC – What’s the Difference?
Like regular THC, Delta-8- tetrahydrocannabinol binds and interacts with our body’s endocannabinoid system, causing you to feel the psychoactive, typical ‘high’ effects.
As we highlighted before, while structurally similar, the two THC forms are chemically different in the double carbon bond placement.
Delta-8-THC has it on the eighth carbon, while Delta-9-THC has it on the ninth.
Thus, while both bond to the endocannabinoid system, Delta-8-THC does it slightly differently.
This unique interaction is what most researchers claim to explain the decreased potency of Delta-8-THC compared to regular tetrahydrocannabinol THC.
In other words, Delta-8-THC will provide a ‘high’ but not as strong as Delta-9-THC. Similar to THC, Delta-8 binds to CB1 receptors. However, the way it interacts with the receptor is different because of its slightly altered molecular structure.
This difference in interconnectivity could be responsible for users reporting a clearer high while experiencing less anxiety and a better ability to concentrate than standard THC.
In this sense, Delta-8-THC appeals to users looking to feel euphoric and productive without the brain fog that accompanies some THC-heavy strains.
Additionally, Delta-8-THC has a longer shelf life and does not oxidize to become cannabinol.
These qualities make it a desirable medicinal compound.
That said, there is only limited research surrounding the effects of Delta-8-THC on the body, most of which are studies involving animals.
Is Delta-8-THC Safe?
As we said before, the legal status surrounding this cannabinoid remains up in the air.
However, that hasn’t stopped producers from integrating the hemp-derived compound into cannabis products that users can purchase as a legal means of achieving a toned-down version of a weed high.
Still, as we also mentioned, there remains little research surrounding how Delta-8-THC interacts with the human body, with most trials and studies involving animal rather than human specimens.
That said, one of the most cited studies surrounding it came out in the 1990s, which claimed its promise as an “efficient new cannabinoid antiemetic in pediatric oncology.”
For those unfamiliar with medical terminology, antiemetic means a drug or compound effective in combating nausea and vomiting, and oncology is the branch of medicine that deals with the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer.
There is also a study from 1973 that compared the different effects of Delta-8 and Delta-9-THC on male subjects through oral and intravenous administration.
This research concluded that Delta-8 had multiple “cannabis-like effects,” with side effects also commonly found with tetrahydrocannabinol consumption, such as dry mouth (cottonmouth), incoordination and visual distortions.
However, the research surrounding this cannabinoid’s properties, adverse effects and safety levels remains severely limited.
So, with the small amount of information currently available, it’s not yet possible to say with absolute certainty whether Delta-8- tetrahydrocannabinol is entirely safe for consumption.
Additionally, while some users and studies state that it produces milder, more laidback effects than Delta-9-THC, evidence surrounding the long-term effects of Delta-8-THC remains largely unknown.
With this in mind, users should approach this cannabinoid cautiously and at their own risk.
A New Popular Cannabinoid to Rival THC?
Since Delta-8-THC products are relatively new to cannabis products and the greater cannabis market, it can be difficult to find items that contain what they claim to and are what they say they are.
However, if you’re curious about trying this cannabinoid for yourself, there are ways to ensure your safety.
First and foremost, if you’ve found a product you might like to test out, visit the producer’s website to see if they have any background context or provide any information surrounding how they source and manufacture their Delta-8-THC products.
For the most part, these products come in concentrate and isolate forms. As such, higher-quality, tested products will typically contain a QR code or batch number on the box that users can trace to look up test results on the retailer’s specific website.
If you can’t find any concrete, cited test results or if the results are inconclusive or questionable, we would recommend staying away from it entirely.
This caution is because there is no way to confirm that they even contain Delta-8-THC, and there is a possibility that these products may contain other harmful toxins or substances.
Ultimately, the research surrounding Delta-8-THC, its effects and its impacts on the human body remains relatively unknown. Further research is necessary to provide any substantiated conclusions on its safety and regulation.
In this way, instilling best practices and doing everything you can to remain conscious and aware is the most effective way of keeping yourself in the clear. With such a lack of sufficient evidence – as we’ve stated multiple times now – users should approach Delta-8-THC and any subsequent products warily and at their own risk.
Stay informed and stay safe!