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What is Delta 8 THC and is it Legal?

delta 8 thc molecule

Many people are starting to hear about the latest cannabinoid trend- delta 8 THC. Believe it or not, scientists have known about delta 8 THC since the 1970s. Leo E. Hollister M.D. and H. K. Gillespie B.A. wrote about the effects of delta 8 THC in humans in their 1973 paper, “Delta‐8‐ and delta‐9‐tetrahydrocannabinol; Comparison in man by oral and intravenous administration.”

They write and explain that delta 8 THC has similar but slightly less potent effects than delta 9 THC, which is the main intoxicating cannabinoid in cannabis (with trace amounts in hemp):

Delta‐8‐tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) has activity in man similar to that of its double‐bond isomer, delta‐9‐THC. Its relative potency to the other isomer, as judged following both oral and intravenous administration, is 2:3.

“Delta‐8‐ and delta‐9‐tetrahydrocannabinol; Comparison in man by oral and intravenous administration”

What Should Consumers Know About Delta 8 THC?

There are some basic things that consumers should know about delta 8 THC, but they should also be mindful of what is not known about delta 8 THC. The cannabinoid is not well studied, especially in humans, and is being marketed as a new cure-all that will also get you high. As the saying goes, “If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

Overview of Delta 8 THC

What Are the Effects of Delta 8 THC?

Delta 8 THC has slightly less potent psychoactive effects than delta 9 THC. It is thought to also have the ability to ease anxiety and inflammation (like many other cannabinoids). To be clear, delta 8 THC will get you high, it is not regulated when sourced from hemp or CBD, has no validated medicinal effects, and is synthesized in a laboratory through multiple chemical processes.

The only reason it is available on the market currently is because of a legal loophole that is being exploited. The most likely motive for producing and marketing delta 8 THC is likely tied to the excess supply of CBD that is not selling well because demand has dropped.

On August 21,2020, the DEA proposed rules to clarify that Delta 8 THC converted from CBD is a controlled substance. The ruling is being challenged by the CBD industry, so time will tell if this obviously psychoactive substance will be restricted federally like all other forms of THC over 0.3%.

Personal Perspectives on Delta 8 THC Effects

As a cannabis writer, regulatory consultant, and scientist, I have used delta 8 THC, in the form of dabbing fresh delta 8 THC extract from a lab trial. It was very unremarkable to me as a very experienced cannabis user. The quality of the effects was not nearly as good as using a normal THC product or normal CBD product.

None of these products (delta-8, delta-9, and CBD) are regulated or approved for medical use, so using them is a risk to one degree or another. The idea of making delta 8 THC available to the public strikes me personally as risky. I am extremely skeptical of delta 8 THC products, and I hope that other consumers will be as well.

If I was asked if delta-8-tetrahydrocanabinol was worth trying, I would unequivocally say “Maybe.”

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Delta 8 THC use does result in intoxication, so how is it legal for people to be selling it online? To be clear, delta 8 THC from marijuana is a controlled substance and is federally illegal under the Controlled Substance Act (21 USC § 802(16)(B)). However, manufacturers have found a loophole because the term “marihuana” does not include hemp. The DEA clarified that delta-8-tetrahydrocannabinol in any non-naturally occurring form is a schedule I drug, but is now being met with challenges from the CBD industry.

Delta 8 THC cannot be found in significant amounts in hemp, but the CBD extracted from hemp can be chemically converted to delta 8 THC very easily and cheaply. With the market interest in CBD dwindling, this new product is framed somewhere in between legal hemp and CBD, illegal cannabis, and shady synthetic marijuana products.

Final Thoughts on Delta 8 THC

I bring my personal voice to this article mainly out of necessity, in most cases, there is sufficient published research for me to write about a topic without injecting my own experiences and perspectives. That is not the case with delta 8 THC and it saddens me that I cannot provide more peer-reviewed information on the novel cannabinoid product. Instead, I will leave this question to you if you are considering trying delta 8 THC:

If you want to get intoxicated, why not do it with an existing substance with known effects? And if you are looking for cannabis benefits without intoxication, why not just try CBD oil or hemp flower?

Before buying or trying delta 8 THC, ask yourself if this product really even makes any sense. The only real market from my perspective seems to be those desperate to get stoned in a state with no legal marijuana and no connections to the black market, or those who are too young to legally be purchasing products like this in the first place. Maybe in the future information will come to light that changes this perspective. In the present, delta 8 THC appears to be mainly a new way to clear out excess stock of CBD.

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