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Delta-8 tetrahydrocannabinol, delta-8 THC, or simply delta-8 is the hemp industry’s fastest expanding product at present. It has the potential to be a less potent alternative of delta-9 THC. Many users are averse to the strong effects of delta-9. The only difference between delta-8 and delta-9 is only the location of a double bond linking two carbon atoms.
Research on delta-8 is far from complete. While its relaxing and focus boosting impact are spiking its demand, the cannabinoid also produces certain side effects. Like delta-9, it is psychoactive i.e. gets the user in an excited state, although a milder one vis-a-vis delta-9. Nevertheless, medical advice is essential before using delta-8.
Which brings us to the all-important legal question.
Twelve states impose explicit or implicit legal restrictions on delta-8. Federal law allows delta-8 if sourced from hemp, the cannabis variant with less than 0.3% delta-9 by dry weight. Come October 2021 and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) may very well ban all artificially produced delta-8. Or any other synthetically made THC variant.
Following observations are based on the little body of research findings on delta-8:
- It attaches to the body’s endocannabinoid system as delta-9 does, but somewhat differently and this variation makes it milder.
- Producers take delta-8’s strength to be less than 50% of delta-9. Each user will, however, react differently.
- In itself, delta-8 may be safe. But the compounds that get formed during its manufacturing from CBD may not be. Unlicensed and unverified delta-8 in the unregulated market is the prime source of worry to this promising cannabinoid.
Speaking of its effects, delta-8’s potential benefits are fairly similar to those by delta-9 and include:
- Happiness and euphoria – similar to a feeling of upliftment or optimism
- Relief from symptoms
- Improved relaxation and rest
- Greater clarity and focus
At the other end of the spectrum are the following possible side effects that make medical advise necessary before consuming delta-9, particularly for users on medication:
- Delayed reflexes
- Dry mouth
- Red eyes
- Coordination issues
- Increased heartbeats
- Memory loss
Delta-8 occurs naturally in the hemp plant in low quantities. Cannabis plants contain up to 0.1% delta-8. Genetically Modified (GM) cannabis may hike this quantity to the extraction-feasible range of 15-20% in the near future.
Such low concentrations means producers have to synthesize it from cannabidiol (CBD). Manufacturers:
- Utilize the Supercritical Fluid Extraction (SCFE) process to obtain CBD isolate from hemp. Cryogenic Ethanol Extraction has recently emerged as another method to obtain pure extracts.
- Then convert the CBD isolate to delta-8. CBD is refluxed in an organic solvent (heptane or toluene) for between 60 and 90 minutes. Refluxing uses p-toluenesulfonic acid as the catalyst.
Limited research and understanding on delta-8 largely contribute to its somewhat confusing legal status. Numerous lawyers and hemp industry representatives maintain that delta-8 is legal if the source is hemp with less than 0.3% delta-9. This would only be the broad, federal level point of view.
Here are the details:
- At the federal level, delta-8 derived from hemp is legal. CBD extracted from hemp is the single largest source of delta-8 at present.
- States choose to have their own laws and delta-8 is illegal in the following states:
➢ Rhode Island
➢ New York
- Drug Enforcement Agency’s (DEA)’s Interim Final Rule (IFR) may make artificially made delta-8 (or any synthetically obtained THC) illegal in October 2021. As of now, the IFR is under review.
Users prefer delta-8 even in states that allow delta-9 products to escape the latter’s potential effects of paranoia and anxiety. This considerably explains delta-8’s popularity. Greater research and understanding coupled with the development of GM cannabis will ease, in the long term, the legal restrictions that may tighten in the near future.
The biggest worry is, of course, unlicensed and unverified delta-8 in the unregulated market which generate serious side effects and give this promising cannabinoid a bad name.
- Delta-8-THC craze concerns chemists, Britt E. Erickson, American Chemical Society.
- What is delta-8?, Leafly.
- What Is Delta 8 THC? Here’s Everything You Need to Know, Amber Smith, Kalmbach Media Co.
- What Is Delta-8?, Steph Coelho, Healthline Media.