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Now There’s Delta-8 THC?! What Happened to Delta-9?!

All of a sudden it seems that delta-8 THC also known as delta-8 tetrahydrocannabinol has emerged onto the cannabis scene from nowhere. You can buy it on-line, it’s being hawked as THC “light”, it’s legal in many states that don’t even have adult use cannabis laws, and yet, it’s been deemed illegal in other states. Read on for the low down on delta-8 THC.

Before we get started it’s helpful to remember that it had been delta-9 THC getting all the attention, the chemical found in marijuana. But if you look into the scientific literature, researchers have been exploring delta-8 THC as far back as the early 1970’s as a treatment to arrest tumor growth. And in 1995, delta-8 THC made a scientific appearance for its resounding success in abolishing vomiting in children undergoing aggressive chemotherapies. So, one thing we now know is that delta-8 has been on the radar of medical researchers for at least 50 years!

To date, there are published papers showing a positive impact of delta-8 for:

1) reducing tumor growth in mice

2) decreasing vomiting in children undergoing chemotherapy

3) increasing the appetite and improving cognitive functioning in mice.

In addition, delta-8 THC has been shown to have anxiety reducing properties with less intoxication than delta-9 THC. Of course, as with all thing’s cannabis, more research is needed to fully understand the potential of this cannabinoid.

So why the recent popularity, you ask? It’s a good question requiring a little background to understand the answer.

1) Delta-8 THC is a very close relative to its better-known cousin, delta-9 THC, commonly referred to as marijuana. Chemically they are similar with the simple difference being that delta-8 THC has a double bond on the 8th carbon whereas delta-9 THC has a double bond on the 9th carbon. Both behave similarly, but delta-8 THC has a weaker affinity for the body’s endocannabinoid receptors and therefore produces less of an intoxicating effect.

This allows people to tolerate far more delta-8 THC in the form of vaping, gummies or tinctures compared to delta-9, thereby allowing them to achieve the positive benefits of THC with less concern about getting overly “high” or intoxicated.

2) The 2018 Farm Bill removed hemp from a Schedule 1 designation. This immediately allowed farmers in the US to grow hemp not only for industrial purposes but also for the harvesting and manufacturing of cannabidiol (CBD). Most states allow the sale of CBD provided it contains less than 0.3% delta-9 THC. Note that there is no mention of delta-8 THC in the Farm Bill at all!

3) While delta-8 can be found in minute amounts in cannabis plants, it is primarily sourced and manufactured from a CBD isolate. Through manufacturing processes, CBD isolates can be chemically converted to delta-8 THC and then added to gummies, vape cartridges, candies, and tinctures.

So, we know what you’re thinking…if CBD is legal and delta-8 THC is sourced from CBD, then delta-8 THC must be legal and therefore can be legally purchased and mailed or transported across state lines. Indeed, federal law is silent on delta-8 THC .

But here’s the rub. Some states have moved to restrict the use of delta-8 THC products altogether on the grounds that today’s commercial delta-8 offerings are a synthesized form of THC versus a botanical. As the number of states legalizing medical marijuana and adult-use are expanding, so too are the number of states restricting delta-8 products! If this has you scratching your head, you’re not alone! It’s a complicated and crazy world when it comes to cannabis.

How should you make sense of all of this? For now, stay tuned-in, the story isn’t fully written yet. But there is one very compelling reason to be cautious of products advertising the presence of delta-8 THC. The reason is product testing. Remember, most delta-8 THC is synthesized from plant-based CBD, and in the agriculture world, cannabis is a soil remediator. This means that when the soil is contaminated, cannabis plants are effective in absorbing toxins and scrubbing the soil. So, has the source of the CBD been tested to ensure that ground toxins are not present in our edibles? Also, has the product been tested to verify that what’s on the label is accurate? These are issues facing consumers and producers throughout the cannabis industry including delta-8.

Lastly, a word about drug testing. A standard drug test for cannabis does not discriminate between Δ-9 THC and Δ-8 THC. Typical drug tests look for a chemical that remains in the system when any tetrahydrocannabinol is broken. This means that even though delta-8 THC probably has intoxicating effects along the lines of alcohol and is Federally legal, you can test positive for THC and risk serious consequences depending on your job or profession.

For now, Buyer Beware.

Hollister LE, Gillespie HK. Delta‐8‐ and delta‐9‐tetrahydrocannabinol; Comparison in man by oral and intravenous administration. Clinical pharmacology and therapeutics. 1973;14(3):353-357. doi:10.1002/cpt1973143353

Antineoplastic Activity of Cannabinoids. E. Munson, LS Harris, MA Friedman, WL Dewey, RA Carchman. Journal of the National Cancer Institute, vol 55, September 1975.

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