What Is Delta 8 - Tetrahydrocannabinol?
Cannabis is a well-known plant that has grown naturally for millennia. Unlike other plants, It’s packed with chemical elements known as cannabinoids–that can interact with receptors throughout our body, inducing mental and physical effects. THC or delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol is by far the most well-known and documented of these cannabinoids but certainly isn’t the only potent compound native to the cannabis plant. Delta-8-THC, one of the four most common cannabinoids, is similar to its relative THC in many ways, but with several key distinctions.
What Is Delta 8 THC?
Delta-8-THC is a lesser cannabinoid found in the plant in very limited concentrations. Delta-8-THC is also identified as a degraded form of THC, meaning when THC is stored for some time, it degrades into delta-8-THC. Based on these anecdotal reports and economic trends, Delta-8 has quickly become a popular new cannabis product, emerging in products like gummies, vape pens, and tinctures.
The rise in demand reflects the CBD (cannabidiol) fad before it, and like CBD, there still isn’t much quality control for products or data to back up anecdotal reports. Many of the positive claims made about CBD products are also being reported about Delta-8 products. However, experts have yet to study the full extent of their effects.
A Subtle Shift in the Molecular Structure
The cannabis plant is basically a facility for an army of various compounds called cannabinoids. But the plant also generates many other minor cannabinoids, such as CBG, CBN, THCV, and, of course, Delta-8-THC. As previously mentioned, most cannabis plants produce Delta-8 in minimal concentrations, so to get a substantial amount takes a lot of processing and filtration.
Delta-8 is also more shelf-stable than its relative Delta-9, making it a better substitute for prescription drugs.
The key difference between Delta-8 and Delta-9 comes down to the position of a particular bond between two of the atoms that make up each THC particle. “Delta-8 has the double bond on the 8th carbon in the chain, while Delta-9 has the double bond on the 9th carbon in the chain,” explains Christian Peterson, co-founder of Wunder, a cannabis drink company in San Francisco. Wunder is one of the very first retailers of a line of Delta-8-infused products that mix Delta-8, Delta-9, and CBD as an alternative to alcohol.
So, that’s it? A subtle shift? Could this simple variation in their carbon bond cause such a drastic difference? Based on the science available so far, the answer is yes.
Peter Grinspoon, a primary care physician at Harvard Medical School specializing in medical marijuana, says, “People report Delta-8 as being less anxiety-inducing, less sedating, and a little more clear-headed than THC.”
"Delta-8 has game-changing potential for patients, such as the seniors or adults that are looking for less stoned-ness or whatever you want to call it.” But Grinspoon warns that the claimed benefits of cannabis-based drugs [delta-8] shouldn’t supersede the data and the evidence.
“Whenever there's another minor cannabinoid that people start puffing up, I always worry that the marketing claims and the desire to line people's pockets are going to outpace the actual science,” Grinspoon adds. “The research isn't there yet to know for sure,” Peterson acknowledges.
But before the market for Delta-8-THC products can take off as CBD did a few years ago, entrepreneurs need to know: Is it even legal to grow and sell delta-8 products?
The Legality of Delta-8 Compounds
The rules and regulations surrounding Delta-8 are complicated and hazy. It's no secret that Delta-9 is still illegal under U.S. federal law. This law, which was passed back in 1970, makes research on cannabinoids not only expensive but very difficult — part of why we don't know that much about Delta-8.
The difference in how delta-8 compounds are sourced may seem like unessential details, but they change how the compound is classified legally. In the U.S., the lack of delta-9 THC and the hemp root put delta-8 products into the same category as CBD products.
At this time, there are ongoing discussions about introducing guidelines that would clarify the definition of allowed hemp products if these products boast ingredients that have higher THC levels than permissible. Rules and regulations are inconclusive at this time, so check back with Flora as the matter unfolds.
Delta-8 currently has no governmental scheduling - unlike delta-9 THC. Still, it can show up on a drug test as those do not test for particular types of THC compounds, but rather metabolites. THC metabolites are the result of the body handling any kind of THC. A simple way to visualize this: Let's say you find a Popsicle stick in your house: you know someone in the house ate one, but there is no way to truly tell the exact flavor from the stick. Is the red because it was cherry-flavored or strawberry? If you have regular drug screenings at work, just be mindful.
What we usually refer to as THC means delta-9-THC, the primary form of THC found in cannabis. Delta-8-THC is a distinct form of delta-9-THC, a molecule with a similar anatomical structure but with some key differences. While the two share many similar features, such as reducing nausea, stimulating appetite, and soothing pain, delta-8-THC exhibits a lower intoxicating potency than its relative delta-9-THC. Nonetheless, the efficiency and stability of delta-8-THC make it a potentially valuable cannabis-derived compound.
We recommend doing as much research as possible on the legal status of any cannabinoid products before committing. Laws and regulations concerning THC and CBD products are as diverse as they are complex -and we at Flora are in no position of giving definitive constitutional advice when the matter is still developing. Looking for Delta-8 products? Try our new Delta-8 Gummies!