Thanks to ongoing cannabis education and renewed research to back it up, the “lazy stoner” stigma cannabis users once experienced is diminishing. The ongoing shift in public opinion has opened the minds of many skeptics to the benefits of medicinally and recreationally available cannabis.
As this shift in perception continues, researchers have begun exploring other cannabinoid compounds beyond THC and CBD. Currently, ongoing research is highlighting the qualities of another compound that may one day experience therapeutic use like that of CBD.
Delta-8 tetrahydrocannabinol, also known as delta-8 THC.
However, it needs to be said that legally speaking, Delta-8 is still a widely gray topic; it’s not regulated, so no testing is required. So why can you find it everywhere?
What Is Delta-8 (and Why Is It Legal)?
Delta-8, like Delta-9, is a cannabinoid produced by the cannabis plant. They are very similar in structure, with Delta-9 providing the “high” sensations associated with marijuana, and Delta-8 providing the same to a lesser degree.
Delta-8’s slightly different structure still allows it to bind to the same cannabinoid receptors in your body Delta-9 THC accesses to give you that euphoric head rush. Yet, it does so in a way that results in a much less potent high while still retaining some of THC’s popular effects and therapeutic benefits.
Currently, Delta-8 THC remains legal on a federal level due to the same language in the 2018 Farm Bill that legalized hemp farms and CBD. The 2018 law does not specifically authorize CBD production—rather, it legalized the production of hemp products with under 0.3 percent Delta-9 THC.
This created a so-called “THC loophole” where any products with high levels of compounds like CBD and Delta-8 THC are perfectly legal so long as the plants they’re derived from contain less than the threshold amount of Delta-9 THC.
So, Is Delta-8 THC Really Legal?
While many legal experts and cannabis industry insiders do consider Delta-8 THC products to be fully legal on the federal level, there are a few crucial factors to be aware of if you plan to purchase, use, or transport products containing Delta-8 THC:
- Delta-8 THC does not usually occur in substantial amounts in natural hemp plants. Many Delta-8 THC products are therefore made by converting CBD or Delta-9 THC into Delta-8 through a synthetic process. This conversion is currently a legal gray area when it comes to federal law and may be entirely illegal under some state and local laws.
- Some states explicitly ban the sale of any products that contain both Delta-8 and Delta-9 THC, which rules out almost any product derived from natural cannabis flower.
- At the time of this writing, the federal government’s Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has proposed new regulations that would classify Delta-8 THC as a Schedule I controlled substance. This would not only make Delta-8 legally distinct from other hemp-derived products like CBD but also put it in the same category as ecstasy and heroin. This action seems to be a part of a larger, long-term crackdown on synthetic drugs—a somewhat inaccurate categorization for Delta-8 THC.
Delta-8 receives this distinction as it does not occur naturally in large enough amounts for viable commercial production. Instead, CBD must be extracted out of the hemp plant, and the Delta-8 crafted through synthetic processes if it is to be resold as a recreational or therapeutic drug at scale.
Is Delta-8 the Same as CBD?
Delta-8 THC (Delta-8-Tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (Cannabidiol) are not the same thing, but they share some key similarities:
- Both compounds can be broadly thought of as a main ingredient for “weaker” cannabis products that tend not to produce a strong, psychoactive high, though some of CBD’s therapeutic effects can be quite pronounced in some users, and some Delta-8 users have noted significant effects.
- Both substances are derived from the cannabis plant, where they occur naturally. To produce Delta-8 on a large scale, due to its scarcity in the plant, the compound must be synthetically produced from CBD.
- Both substances were made accessible to consumers in the US through the same 2018 Farm Bill, though both may still be subject to additional regulation from state to state.
Despite these striking similarities, Delta-8 THC and CBD are two completely different chemical compounds with distinct effects, uses, and markets.
CBD (Cannabidiol) creates no psychoactive high in the user whatsoever, although some people argue that its gentle stress relief effects do constitute a psychoactive influence. Delta-8, on the other hand, is an alternative type of THC. Thus, Delta-8 cannot be categorized as non-psychoactive—it’s merely less psychoactive than Delta-9 THC harvested at its peak potency.
Although this drop in potency can be significant, Delta-8 is still very much a psychoactive substance—especially when retailers pack enormous amounts of Delta-8 THC into their products to make up for the difference in potency.
There is much more to be said about the differences between CBD and THC in general. The range of therapeutic effects, potential side effects, and legal concerns vary greatly from substance to substance, user to user, and region to region. For more information on this topic, read the comprehensive THC vs.CBD guide.
Can Delta 8 Be a Flower?
While Delta-8 THC can be found in cannabis flower, it is in incredibly low amounts – so low that flower with high concentrates of Delta-8 is only achieved with the infusing of flower. Flower can be infused by spraying Delta-8 distillate on hemp bud – this ensures that the flower will be below the 0.3% THC to be deemed legal hemp, with the added boost of Delta-8.
The Physical Effects of Delta-8
While many cannabis users are curious about Delta-8’s potential for creating a euphoric high, a lot of other people who have tried CBD for pain relief want to know, what does Delta-8 do to the body?
As noted, Delta-8 can be considered a weaker form of THC. In terms of how the chemical works inside your body, this “weakness” refers to the fact that Delta-8 THC does not chemically bind to your cannabinoid receptors quite as well as Delta-9 THC does. Other than this difference in structure causing a drop in general potency, however, research has revealed little difference between the two compounds.
While Delta-8 is a weaker form of THC than Delta-9, it can still result in a similar psychoactive high when smoked, vaped, or ingested. This becomes especially true when Delta-8 is taken in large doses or by users with little or no THC tolerance. When experimenting with any form of cannabis, you should start small and increase your dose gradually.
In this vein, Delta-8’s effects are remarkably similar to CBD and Delta-9 THC, which is to say that pain relief and muscle relaxation are possible with appropriate use. These therapeutic effects may be lesser than those of Delta-9 THC, concurrent with its reduced ability to cause a psychoactive high. Research into Delta-8’s full medicinal potential is ongoing.
Some people seeking to use cannabis for pain relief have investigated Delta-8 as an alternative that could function as sort of a halfway point between CBD and THC. This use may be beneficial for those seeking to experience therapeutic benefits with a very mild high. Reports from Delta-8 users suggest that Delta-8’s psychoactive effects are reduced but not nonexistent, while most of the therapeutic benefits usually associated with CBD seem to remain intact.
At this point, however, the status of ongoing research, the uncertain manufacturing standards surrounding Delta-8 products, and the limited availability of quality sources have many consumers turning to CBD or full-spectrum cannabis products. In the future, more people may find themselves able to access the full therapeutic benefits of Delta-8.
What Are the Side Effects of Delta-8?
Delta-8 THC’s potential side effects are non-life-threatening and essentially the same as those of “regular” Delta-9 THC.
Potentially unpleasant side effects you may encounter during Delta-8 use include:
- Memory issues
- Redness and dryness of the eyes
- Increased heart rate
- Impaired coordination or reaction times
- Dry mouth
- Increased anxiety or paranoid feelings (although both Delta-8 and Delta-9 THC can also be effective anxiety reducers for some people)
- Coughing/lung issues
Because many Delta-8 products currently on the market are derived synthetically from hemp that is not naturally rich in Delta-8 THC, there is concern from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration about unscrupulous producers and unregulated facilities.
Only buy cannabis products from a trusted expert, whether you’re shopping for CBD, Delta-8 products, or full-spectrum cannabis. In the modern marketplace, there is no need to risk your health or safety by purchasing cannabis products from unregulated or unknown sources.
Learn More About Delta-8
Learn More About Delta-8
Fortunately, while scientists and healthcare professionals continue looking into the potential benefits and side effects of Delta-8, you can continue to educate yourself on cannabis culture on our blog. And don’t forget – our Customer Care Representatives and Cannabis Advisors are your guides to wellness. Reach out anytime with questions, and don’t be afraid to visit the Cannabis Advisors at a local Zen Leaf store near you! Our staff is trained to help you understand your needs and help you find the right products, strains and compounds. Just ask!
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- Separation of cannabinoid receptor affinity and efficacy in delta-8-tetrahydrocannabinol side-chain analogues. British journal of pharmacology, 132(2), 525–535. https://doi.org/10.1038/sj.bjp.0703827