Delta-8 tetrahydrocannabinol (delta-8-THC) is a cannabinoid that few people had heard of until a couple of years ago, yet is now in high demand. Similar to the much more famous delta-9-THC, the compound binds to the body’s cannabinoid receptors in order to generate feelings of euphoria and relaxation, though to a much milder extent. Because it can be extracted from both hemp and cannabis, delta-8-THC has become popular in locations where hemp is legal but stronger cultivars are not, although the laws surrounding the compound are in fact somewhat hazy.
The Difference Between Delta-8-THC And Regular THC
When people talk about THC, they are generally referring to the cannabinoid delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (delta-9-THC), which is credited with producing most of weed’s psychoactive effects. Its name is derived from the fact that it contains a double bond on the ninth carbon atom in its hydrocarbon chain, thereby giving it a structure that allows it to bond to the body’s cannabinoid receptors.
Delta-8-THC, meanwhile, contains a double bond on the eighth carbon atom of its hydrocarbon chain, making it similar but not identical to regular THC. This slight change in structure also hinders its ability to bind with cannabinoid receptors, which is why delta-8-THC produces less intense effects than delta-9-THC.
Delta-8-THC also occurs in much lower concentrations than regular THC, and is generally only available as an extract or in edibles.
Does Delta-8-THC Get You High?
The general consensus is that delta-8-THC does get you high, but to a lesser degree than regular THC. Its effects have been described as energising, while some claim it boosts their confidence and makes them more outgoing.
Because of its mild nature, it generally produces none of the anxiety or paranoia that some people experience when smoking strong weed, and may therefore be a good option for those looking for something light. Regular cannabis users, however, may find that delta-8-THC simply doesn’t hit the spot.
Hardly any research has been conducted on delta-8-THC, with a single study that was published way back in 1973 being just about the only paper ever written on the subject. According to the authors, delta-8-THC was found to have a potency that was roughly two-thirds that of regular THC[i], although many people claim that it is in fact weaker than this.
The Legal Status Of Delta-8-THC
The popularity of delta-8-THC can be largely attributed to the Farm Bill, which made hemp legal at the federal level in the US in 2018. Because the compound can be obtained from hemp, it is technically not illegal, and can therefore be consumed in states where delta-9-THC is prohibited.
However, the DEA has proposed a change to this bill which would make any synthetically produced cannabinoids illegal. This would likely affect the legality of delta-8-THC, because the compound is typically synthesised from other molecules found in hemp rather than extracted directly.
The proposal is expected to remain under review until the latter months of 2021, at which point a change to the law may be finalised. In the meantime, a number of companies are continuing to develop and sell products containing delta-8-THC – including hemp flowers that have been sprayed with the cannabinoid – in states where cannabis is still illegal.
[i] Hollister LE, Gillespie HK. Delta‐8‐and delta‐9‐tetrahydrocannabinol; Comparison in man by oral and intravenous administration. Clinical Pharmacology & Therapeutics. 1973 May;14(3):353-7. – https://ascpt.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/cpt1973143353