Delta-8-THC is the hot new psychoactive cannabinoid that can be widely bought at gas stations and headshops across the country—including in states that do not have recreational marijuana laws.
The popularity of Delta-8-THC has exploded in recent years, fueled by the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill. At present you can buy Delta-8-THC vape cartridges, delta 8 gummies, and tinctures. You may be wondering how a product that gets you high can be legally sold in states without recreational marijuana laws.
The 2018 Farm Bill legalized hemp as long as it contains less than 0.3% Delta-9-THC. This new law allowed the CBD industry to massively expand and created a legal loophole that allowed people to legally produce and sell a variety of new cannabis-derived products.
Delta-8-THC was first synthesized from CBD in 1941 by Roger Adams and his colleagues at University of Illinois. Delta-8-THC is an isomer of Delta-9-THC, meaning it has the same chemical formula, but has a carbon-carbon double bond in a different position. This structural difference increases the isomer's chemical stability in comparison to Delta-9-THC, allowing it to resist oxidation to cannabinol (CBN). This difference means that Delta-8-THC products have greater shelf stability than Delta-9-THC products. So, how potent is it in comparison to Delta-9-THC? A study from 1973 compared the potency and found that Delta-8 has a 2:3 relative potency to Delta-9-THC. The less potent isomer is an agonist of CB1 and CB2 receptors, similarly to Delta-9-THC, and thus produces a range of cannabis-like effects. This THC isomer has been found to be an effective appetite stimulator, antiemetic, anxiety reducer, and pain reliever.
This slightly less potent THC isomer is widely thought to produce a mild high with less anxiety than Delta-9-THC. People describe Delta-8-THC as producing a mellow body high without paranoia. For people who experience anxiety from cannabis, Delta-8-THC could be a more enjoyable alternative.
While several states have passed laws banning Delta-8-THC products, this THC isomer is widely considered to be federally legal. In reality, it exists in more of a legal grey area. In October of 2020, the DEA released its Interim Final Rule (IRF), which stated that “synthetically derived tetrahydrocannabinols remain schedule I controlled substances.” Delta-8 is found naturally in cannabis, but only in very small quantities.
As a result, the majority of producers synthesize it from CBD. This situation creates a “complicated legal minefield.” Jonathon Miller, a lawyer for the U.S. Hemp Roundtable and U.S. Hemp Authority said, “We’re alarmed by the rise of products marketing themselves as hemp and as intoxicating. These products might be legal now, but we believe they go against the spirit of the law.” While the legality may change in the near future, as of early 2021, the Delta-8 industry is one of the fastest growing segments of the hemp and cannabis industry.
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