Delta-8 THC: How hot is the hottest cannabinoid in the hemp world?

Delta-8 THC is probably the fastest-growing category in the cannabinoid market right now.  Cannabis users are turning to Delta-8 for the promise of an experience with the benefits of Delta-9 THC, but without the anxiety and paranoia.  CBD companies are rapidly moving to produce Delta-8 products in a variety of forms, from gummies to vape cartridges to tinctures.

But just what is Delta-8 THC, and how is it suddenly being sold online when Delta-9 THC products are highly restricted to states with legalized medical or recreational cannabis?

According to Abramahov, Abramahov, and Mechoulam, “Delta-8-THC is an isomer of delta-9-THC, the major natural constituent of Cannabis from which it differs only in the position of the double bond. [1]” Delta-8 (D8) has a double carbon bond on the eighth carbon in the chain, whereas Delta-9 (D9) has the double bond on the ninth carbon.

D9 interacts mainly with CB1 receptors, found in the brain and central nervous system. D8 molecules interact less strongly with CB1 receptors, but also have affinity for CB2 receptors.   The effects of D8 are similar to D9, but without negative side effects like anxiety.  A 1973 study by Hollister and Gillespie showed that orally consumed Delta-8 THC is ¾ as psychoactive as Delta-9 THC [2].

But it’s not all about psychoactivity.  Cancer.gov outlines the medicinal properties of cannabinoids, and shows that D8 combined with cannabinol (CBN) inhibits growth of adenocarcinoma cancer cells [3].  Abramahov, Abramahov, and Mechoulam showed in their 1995 study that D8 is a very effective antiemetic (anti-vomiting) agent [1]. So for those seeking the medicinal benefits of THC with a less intense psychoactive experience, D8 holds a lot of promise.

Most D8 in the marketplace is produced from CBD isolate by chemical conversion.  It is commonly sold online and at retail outlets that do not hold a license to handle or sell THC products.  These products usually have a COA that shows there is no D9 in them.  AerosourceH has sent several of these products to third party labs for testing, and all showed significant levels of D9 THC.

The producers of these products assert that D8 was made legal by the 2018 Farm Bill that legalized hemp and hemp derivatives containing less than 0.3% Delta-9 THC.  They further assert that the Controlled Substances Act made D9 THC illegal, but not D8 THC.

Unfortunately, this understanding is not entirely correct.  While the Farm Bill did make low-THC hemp and derivatives legal, the DEA publicly stated in August of 2020 that “the statutory definition of ‘hemp’ is limited to materials that are derived from the plant Cannabis sativa L.”  The DEA’s statement goes on to say that “all synthetically derived tetrahydrocannabinols remain schedule I controlled substances [4]”.

While D8 is sometimes found naturally occurring in the plant biomass, the levels are so low that it is near impossible to extract and isolate.  Conversion from CBD isolate on the other hand, is easy, relatively inexpensive, and provides abundant supply.  D8 produced as a result of a chemical alteration is therefore a considered a synthetic form of THC and not an extracted derivative of hemp, and falls under the provisions of the CSA.

This distinction creates a tough proposition for producers and consumers.  Consumers in states where D9 THC is not legal, or where medical cards are hard to obtain, are creating huge demand for D8 in the marketplace.  CBD companies making and selling these products are presumably trying to offer an expanded variety of cannabinoids to benefit their customers.  However, once either of these parties is in possession of D8, they are treading on uncertain ground.

Because of the unclear legal status of D8, AerosourceH will only produce Delta-8 Converted Oil in a licensed facility.  We ship CBD isolate to the facility, and our technician arrives at the facility with a portable lab setup to perform the conversion.  In this way, we ensure that the finished product containing Delta-8 THC is only in the possession of a licensed handler.

References

[1] An efficient new cannabinoid antiemetic in pediatric oncology (druglibrary.net)

[2] Hollister, L. E. and H. K. Gillespie, 1973 Clin. Pharmacol. Ther., 14: 353-357

[3] Cannabis and Cannabinoids (PDQ®)–Health Professional Version – National Cancer Institute

[4] 2020-17356.pdf

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