Delta 8-THC: What Do We Know About It?

Delta-9 THC has some new competition in the cannabinoids market — it’s called Delta-8 THC.

Full story after the jump.

Delta-8 THC has been growing in popularity for its touted array of benefits similar to our well-known friend Delta-9 THC, but with less intense side effects. Researchers are discovering more about minor cannabinoids in the cannabis plant and their potential role in producing the unique intoxicating sensations from consuming different cannabis strains. Could it be that we have found a molecule with all the good of Delta-9 THC and less potential for the paranoia or anxiety that can come from getting too high?

Delta (∆)-8 THC exists in the cannabis plant alongside other molecules like CBG, CBN, and various aromatic terpenes. Delta-8 THC is more stable than Delta-9 THC, but less potent. Like ∆-9, it binds to CB1 receptors but has a lower affinity for them, which may account for this lessened effect. Also, it does not exist naturally in large quantities in the plant, so it must be extracted from the plant or synthesized.

Hemp-derived cannabinoids were legalized under the 2018 federal farm bill.

Some benefits of ∆-8 THC include stimulating appetite and abetting pain and inflammation. With ∆-9 only recently legal in very small quantities, there is even less research on ∆-8 THC’s effects. However, the research that does exist shows results of eliminating nausea in cancer patients, increasing appetite in a mouse model, and successful conversion from other cannabinoids like CBD.

This praised cannabinoid has created a market for new product lines claiming to help with anxiety, nausea, or just to provide a nice experience for recreational use. Just like ∆-9, you can purchase edible gummies, vape pens, and extracts from different strains. The company LiftedMade recently released a Delta 8-THC hemp-derived tincture, containing 333mg of the cannabinoid per one-ounce bottle. These “nano drops” can also be enjoyed as a beverage additive, available in three flavors. Despite these exciting findings, because the molecule activates CB1 receptors similar to ∆-9, it is always a good idea to be careful with your consumption habits and to start low and slow if you are worried about anxiety being a possible side effect.

The DEA recently published an addendum to the 2018 Farm bill specifying some of its conditions. Initially, the bill stated hemp products were legal if they contained less than 0.3% Delta-9 THC. This led people to believe that because Delta-8 THC was not specified here, and is considered a minor cannabinoid, it is legal in any concentration. This DEA document now attempts to redefine “tetrahydracannabinols” in the eyes of the law, stating that any synthetically produced THCs are illegal: “For synthetically derived tetrahydrocannabinols, the concentration of Δ-9 THC is not a determining factor in whether the material is a controlled substance. All synthetically derived tetrahydrocannabinols remain schedule I controlled substances.”

We know ∆-8 THC only exists in the cannabis plant in small concentrations and in order to achieve more of an intoxicating effect, it must be extracted. If hemp-derived cannabinoids (remember, “hemp” is just cannabis that contains less than 0.3% ∆-9 THC) are legal because they are “natural,” does this make ∆-8 THC legal because it technically comes from the same plant? Or does the process of extracting it automatically make it synthetic? These are all good questions to be asking, and the consensus seems to be that as long as it is derived from the hemp plant, which follows the bill’s conditions of ∆-9 THC content, it is federally legal. Keep in mind this is always subject to change as policy adapts to changes in our society.

New light shed on ∆-8 THC has reminded us of the many working components of the cannabis plant that interact to create the positive effects we see for so many individuals. This minor molecule holds promise for treating a variety of conditions in ways that do not carry as many intense side effects as Delta 9, and we should keep an eye on policies as they adapt to shifts in demand and legality.

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