Delta-8-THC: Legal THC or just blowin' smoke?

Delta-8-THC: Legal THC or just blowin' smoke?

Delta-8-THC is all the rage right now among cannabis enthusiasts and is being billed as legal THC, but is delta-8 really all it’s cracked up to be or is the industry just blowin’ smoke?


Much like CBD before it, Delta-8-THC has become an overnight industry darling and reddit buzz word due to its relative legality under the 2018 US Farm Bill. Many brands are jumping on the Delta-8 bandwagon and making some pretty big claims as far as benefits and effects go, but is Delta-8 safe, will it get me high and will it show up on a drug test?


What is Delta-8-THC?


According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), Delta 8 THC (here-after referred to as Delta-8) is one of at least 144 known cannabinoids that have been isolated from the cannabis plant. Delta-8 is considered a minor cannabinoid that is only found in trace amounts in cannabis and hemp. The compound shares a lot of similarities with its more familiar cousin, Delta-9-THC, simply THC, with the exception of a particular chemical bond appearing on the eighth carbon — instead of the ninth.


This small molecular difference, however, accounts for vastly different experiences. In an interview with Rolling Stones magazine published last month Dr. Peter Grinspoon, an instructor in medicine at Harvard Medical School, estimates Delta-8 “has a portion but not all of the psychoactivity as Delta-9,” a finding that is reflected anecdotally in the recreational cannabis and hemp industries thus far.


How does Delta-8 make you feel?


I recently tried a prototype of a Delta-8 tincture from my friends at Kush Queen and found the effects to be mild, but enjoyable, kind of a ‘floaty’ feeling. Similar to CBD, CBDA, THCA and other non-psychoactive or mildly psychoactive cannabinoids the lower psychoactivity of Delta-8 compared to Delta-9-THC can actually be one of its greatest advantages because larger doses may be administered without unwanted side effects and toxicity.


Will Delta-8 get me high?


The short answer is yes, but not as much as THC and apparently without the paranoia and anxiety experienced by some users of delta-9-THC.


Is Delta-8 safe?


Well, yes, but because the sourcing of Delta-8 is still a bit murky we suggest purchasing Delta-8 and all cannabis and hemp products from trusted brands and retailers. Always check lab test results and inquire the sourcing of your Delta-8 before consuming.

Because Delta-8 only shows up in flower at less than 1%, it’s almost impossible to find Cannabis or Hemp flower that has significant levels of Delta-8. Extractors are either using thin film distillation to remove the compound from the plant material or they are synthesizing the compound from CBD isolate via the isomerization process — which we explore in more detail later on in this article.


Medicinal benefits of Delta-8-THC


A government funded study in the mid 1970’s published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institue (JNCI) found that Delta-8 inhibited cancerous tumor growth in mice. Unfortunately little research has been done since then to confirm the role Delta-8, and other cannabinoids, may play in cancer prevention and treatment.  


In a 1995 study published in the journal Life Sciences a team of Israeli researchers lead by Dr. Raphael Mechoulam administered Delta-8 and Delta-9 THC to children with various hematologic cancers and found that delta-8 was an effective antiemetic for use in pediatric oncology. The study concluded that vomiting was completely prevented with the use of Delta-8 and the side effects observed were negligible.


Delta-8 communicates with CB1 and CB2 receptors to help balance several functions including pain, appetite, mood, hormones, inflammation, and blood pressure.


Other potential medicinal properties of Delta-8:


Will it show up on a drug test?


Like with other Hemp derived cannabinoid products like CBDA, CBD, CBG and CBN, Delta-8 products contain less than 0.3% THC, but if taken in large enough quantities could trigger a positive result for THC on a drug test. If you are drug tested for school or work, you should exercise caution when taking Delta-8 and other cannabinoid-based products.


Is Delta-8-THC legal?


Because Delta-8 only shows up in trace amounts from both cannabis and hemp flower, sourcing 100% plant-based Delta-8 is difficult at best. Another practice with questionable legality is being employed by scientific minded researchers and savvy cannabinoid extractors called isomerization which uses a chemical process to break the atomic bonds in one molecule (in this case CBD) and turn it into another (Delta 8 or Delta 9 THC).


Because Delta-8 shares the same atoms as CBD and THC, CBD can be transformed into either Delta-8 or Delta-9-THC via the isomerization technique. This process has been known to researchers like Machoulum since the 1960’s and because it is more cost effective is believed to be the dominate process by which delta-8 is being sold on the market today.


Although Delta-8 is almost certainly legal if derived from hemp, some cannabis attorneys point out that isomerization is banned at the federal level. Cannabis attorneys Burns & Levinson caution that “Delta-8 may face increased scrutiny from federal regulators, such as the Drug Enforcement Agency and Department of Justice”.


Until then it’s likely that Delta-8 will continue to line the shelves of vape shops, dispensaries and online markets in the form of vape carts, edibles, tinctures and even topicals, although some CBD manufacturers are still wary of launching a Delta-8 product line due to the risk of sudden enforcement and loss of inventory.

Awakened will wait to release a Delta-8 product until farmers have bred a Delta-8-THC rich chemovar that we can naturally extract from the plant without the use of toxic chemical solvents and synthetic based processes.

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