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Delta 8-THC: What is It, Where Does It Come From, & Side Effects

By Danyal Swan October 20, 2023
Delta-8 THC

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.

It's name? 

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?

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 is in a gray area. Some argue it is 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 legal so long as the plants they’re derived from contain less than the threshold amount of delta-9 THC.

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.

Delta-8 vs. Delta-9: What's the Difference?

One of the most important differences between delta-8 and delta-9 THC is regulation.

Due to the gray area that delta-8 is produced in, there is no formal testing requirements of products that have this cannabinoid. This means that pesticides and even heavy metals can be present in products with delta-8 THC as an active ingredient. It's incredibly important that with any delta-8 product you purchase, you request a Certificate of Analysis to ensure your safety consuming. Delta-9 THC, on the other hand, is heavily regulated in the states it is legal. Marijuana producers have legal requirements to meet regarding production (limiting harmful pesticides), extraction methods (measuring for heavy metals and other contaminants), and more. Some marijuana companies have incorporated delta-8 THC into their product offerings, so there are trustworthy ways to gain access to the cannabinoid.

Other than testing, as we've touched on, the molecular structure of delta-8 and delta-9 THC is nearly identical, differing only in the placement of a double carbon bond. This slight variation leads to several notable distinctions:

  • Delta-9 THC is much more prevalent in cannabis, constituting the majority of THC found in the plant. On the other hand, delta-8 occurs naturally in minimal quantities.
  • Research suggests that delta-9 THC is more potent, with delta-8 displaying approximately two-thirds of the psychoactive potency.
  • Users report that the effects of delta-8 are clearer and more functional in comparison to the more intoxicating "high" associated with delta-9.
  • Delta-9 THC has been extensively studied, while the effects of delta-8 in humans are not yet comprehensively understood.

In sum, delta-8 THC is similar to delta-9 but is likely to have milder effects. However, it's important to note that every individual's endocannabinoid system responds uniquely, so experiences can vary significantly.

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 Flower Bud?

Can Delta-8 Be Flower Bud

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.

Delta-8 THC Side Effects

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.

Does Delta-8 Show Up on a Drug Test?

In most cases, it is highly likely that delta-8 THC could result in a positive drug test. Even though drug tests typically do not differentiate between delta-8 and delta-9 THC metabolites, both can yield the same outcome. This is particularly true if delta-8 is consumed frequently or in large quantities.

Furthermore, there is a potential risk of delta-8 products containing residual delta-9 THC, which can also trigger a positive test result. To ensure the safest outcome when faced with a drug test, it is advisable to steer clear of all THC and cannabis-derived products.

Shop THC You Can Trust at Zen Leaf

Shop THC at Zen Leaf

Fortunately, while scientists and healthcare professionals continue looking into the potential benefits and side effects of delta-8, you can shop THC you can trust at your local Zen Leaf Dispensary. Each product, whether flower, vape, edible, or extract, is thoroughly tested in-house and through third-party labs to ensure your health and safety while consuming.

*This post was originally published on March 14, 2022, and updated on October 20, 2023, to reflect additional details about the cannabinoid delta-8 THC.


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  4. Shanna Babalonis, Wesley M. Raup-Konsavage, Peter D. Akpunonu, Agnes Balla, and Kent E. Vrana.Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research.Oct 2021.362-365.
  5. Kruger, J.S., Kruger, D.J. Delta-8-THC: Delta-9-THC’s nicer younger sibling?. J Cannabis Res 4, 4 (2022).
  6. Separation of cannabinoid receptor affinity and efficacy in delta-8-tetrahydrocannabinol side-chain analogues. British journal of pharmacology, 132(2), 525–535.

Digital Content Manager for MÜV Florida and Zen Leaf Dispensaries. A cannabis connoisseur with a passion for explaining the miraculous possibility of the plant, Swan began her journey with cannabis as a recreational user and quickly realized its positive impact on her depression and severe anxiety. She joined the cannabis industry as Receptionist and MedTender and witnessed first-hand the immense potential of the plant for a wide variety of ailments, deepening her passion for alternative medicine. Swan is dedicated to self-education on the plant and sharing its potential with all. She holds a Journalism degree from the University of Iowa.

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