by Danielle Friedrich
As cannabis reform progresses, so has cannabis knowledge. The state of cannabis in 2020 has resulted in many consumers becoming familiar with various cannabinoids that grow on cannabis. They know about THC, and CBD, and even some of the rare ones like CBC, CBG and THCV. Some may even know the proper name of the THC that gets us “high,” is delta-9 THC. However, very few know that delta-9 is not the only type of THC, and it’s not even the only type with psychoactive effects.
Take, for example, edibles. Edibles get people high, right? Just like smoking cannabis does. But wait, it’s not quite just like it, is it? While an edible high and a smoking high feel similar, they are notably different. Edible highs tend to exhibit heavier body effects, and more intense cerebral stimulation (which, for some, is nearly hallucinogenic). What’s the reason for the difference? The reason is that you’re not getting high on the same compound.
Eating edibles produces a completely different form of THC than smoked cannabis, known as 11hydroxy-THC. But the list of THC variations doesn’t stop there. There’s a new cannabinoid emerging in the cannabis landscape with its own unique and interesting effects: delta-8 THC. Join us as we explore this fascinating new realm of cannabis.
What is Delta-8 THC?
The language and science of cannabinoids is relatively new to the consumer market. As a result, the terms relating to these compounds are still evolving. Cannabinoids have been reduced to general initialisms to make them easier to discuss. Thus, cannabidiol became CBD, and tetrahydrocannabinol became THC. While convenient, this shortening also comes with simplification. As mentioned, most consumers do not know that different arrangements of THC even exist.
The “8” in delta-8 stands for the placement of a chemical bond, one step over from where it sits in delta-9. Its structural similarity allows it to have similar effects. However, there are key differences.
Cannabis and hemp plants grow very small amounts of delta-8 THC, making it far more rare than delta-9. However, it can be derived from either type of cannabis plant using special breeding, extraction, and processing methods.
We connected with Delta Effex to learn more about delta-8. The company has a background in the CBD industry, and their knowledge of hemp and CBD products is what led them to venture into delta-8 THC. Where exactly does delta-8 come from? And what is driving the new interest?
“Delta Effex gets our delta-8 THC from the hemp plant by way of CO2 extraction. We got into the space to fill a need for states where delta-9 is still prohibited. While not delta-9, it is the closest thing and we believe everyone should have access to these products,” the company told PotGuide.
Delta Effex certainly seems to be onto something. According to a Pew Research Center 2019 study, two-thirds of Americans favor cannabis legalization. With only 11 legal states, it’s clear that many people are curious about the benefits of cannabinoids, yet have no access to a wider range of cannabinoids.
The Effects of Delta-8 THC
Okay, so a different THC cannabinoid exists, why does it matter? While delta-8 and delta-9 THC may share similarities, they have some noted differences. Unlike CBD, which is heralded for its lack of psychoactive effects, that is not the case for delta-8 THC.
Delta-8 can be psychoactive for some consumers, just less so than delta-9. A good way to think about it generally is something like the “Weed Light”: many of the effects and benefits of delta-9, though toned down a few steps. It is still euphoric and stimulates appetite. It can energize or relax the consumer depending on the larger terpene and cannabinoid profile, similar to delta-9. And yes, it can induce some of the typical heady, psychoactive experience.
The main difference is that while delta-8 can do all of these things, it does them with less intensity. Even for experienced cannabis users, there is a noticeable effect, albeit a less intense one. However, the trade-off here is that the potential negative side effects of cannabis are also reduced. Delta-8 tends to be less racy, as mentioned, but what happens aside from the high?
Much like CBD and delta-9THC, delta-8 imparts the relaxation, focus, and uplift that consumers expect, along with reported pain reduction and decreased nausea.
These effects have yet to be studied at length, but user-experience shows promising signs. The compound is even known to the National Cancer Institute, which notes that it has, “antiemetic, anxiolytic, appetite-stimulating, analgesic, and neuroprotective qualities.” Delta Effex describes delta-8 THC as “sort of a middle ground between hemp, CBD and THC-delta-9,” and that seems to be as perfect a description as we’ve encountered.
Reasons to Try Delta-8 THC
Delta-8’s unique properties lend themselves to a variety of uses and situations. For the cannabis-curious, it can act as a bridge to acclimating to other cannabinoids. Especially in today’s market, many nascent cannabis consumers find delta-9 can sometimes be too intense to enjoy. This is especially true in the case of edibles, but for flower and vapes as well, depending on the consumer. As Delta Effex explained, “Delta-8 offers a way to try some of the effects of delta-9, without diving headlong into a full high experience.”
Delta-8 might be ideal for when a cannabinoid lift is desired, but the full potency of delta-9 is too much for the occasion.
While many people use cannabis to help with social anxiety, delta-9 effects tend to be too racy or hard to focus under certain circumstances. When clarity is higher on the priority list, a regular cannabis consumer might reach for delta-8 above delta-9.
Also, as mentioned, delta-8 is available to consumers who might not otherwise be able to try delta-9 THC. While some states may have individual restrictions, Delta-8 cannabinoids are completely hemp-derived and thus fall under the legislation of the 2018 Farm Bill. In accordance with the bill’s guidelines, delta-8 preparations contain less than .3% delta-9 THC.
Legality of Hemp-Derived THC Compounds
The differences in name and how it is sourced may seem like small details, but they change how delta-8 is handled legally. In the United States, the hemp derivation and lack of delta-9 THC ideally put delta-8 preparations into the same class as CBD products.
Currently, there is some debate underway about proposed guidelines that would alter the definition of permitted hemp preparations if the precursor ingredients have higher THC levels than allowable. Comments are ongoing at this time, so check back with PotGuide as the matter develops. Currently, this matter does not appear to affect delta-8 preparations.
Unlike delta-9 THC, delta-8 itself currently has no federal scheduling. However, it is possible to fail a drug test from use of delta-8, as those tests do not test for specific types of THC, but rather THC metabolites. THC metabolites are the result of the body processing any form of THC. Think of it as finding a Popsicle stick: you know someone ate a Popsicle, but can’t tell the exact flavor. Is the red from strawberry or cherry? If you need to pass a drug test, just be aware.
Regardless, always do your own research and vetting on the legal standing of any cannabinoid in your area before consuming or purchasing a product. Laws are varied and complex, and we at PotGuide are in no way giving legal advice.
Matthew Mongelia is the Content Manager for PotGuide.com. He holds an MFA in Writing from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and a BFA in Creative Writing from CUNY Brooklyn College. He has worked in the industry in numerous roles for over 5 years while covering cannabis content from coast to coast. Like so many in the industry, he first became acquainted with cannabis as a medical patient, and has been a passionate advocate for the plant ever since. He is a writer for the comic Dark Beach, and has previously covered music and cultural content for SOL REPUBLIC.