As of late, a new type of hemp product has been all the rage. According to New Leaf Data Services, Δ8-THC is “the fastest growing segment” of products derived from hemp. Consumer sales amount to at least $10 million and are increasing fast.
While Δ8-THC differs in name only one digit from its predecessor Δ8-THC, there are other, significant differences between them that consumers should be aware of.
What is Δ8-THC?
Delta-8-Tetrahydrocannabinol is a lesser-known cannabinoid that is only found in very small amounts in the hemp or cannabis plant. Because of this, Δ8-THC is most commonly produced by transforming CBD through a chemical process called isomerization. The National Cancer Institute has described Δ8-THC as “an analogue of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) with antiemetic, anxiolytic, appetite-stimulating, analgesic, and neuroprotective properties.”
With an almost identical atomic structure to Δ9-THC, Δ8-THC was largely overlooked by the scientific community until 1995 when the “godfather of cannabis research”, Dr. Raphael Mechoulam, decided to re-examine this mystery molecule for its antiemetic properties and its potential to aid in arresting tumor growth.
Nowadays, Δ8-THC infused products are steadily growing in popularity and can be found in most retail locations across the United States.
What’s the Difference Between Δ8-THC and Δ9-THC?
The atomic structure of Δ8-THC is nearly identical to that of Δ9-THC, except for the placement of a single atomic bond. Both THCs have a double bond, but Δ8-THC has its double bond on the eighth carbon, where Δ9-THC has its on the ninth. Δ8-THC is so similar to Δ9-THC that it will show up on any standard THC urine test since most tests are not able to distinguish between the two. These very small chemical variances can make for significant differences in how THC impacts your body, which brings us to the next point of difference between the two.
Δ8-THC interacts with your endocannabinoid system (the neurotransmitters and receptors in the brain on which THC works) in slightly different ways from Δ9-THC, producing what is often reported to be anxiety-free, and (thus) much more relaxing highs. In Discover Magazine, a primary care physician at Harvard Medical School who specializes in medical marijuana, has noted that consumers report Δ8-THC to be less anxiety provoking, less sedating and a little more clear-headed than Δ9-THC.
Δ8-THC is less powerful than Δ9-THC so some consumers may not like Δ8-THC as much because it is less potent, but those who prefer round edges to their high will be elated by the arrival of Δ8-THC.
Of course, the experience can vary a lot depending on the quality and amount of THC ingested, as well as the user. Things such as what a person has eaten and drank prior to use, as well as the way their body’s cannabinoid receptors react to THC, can alter their experience. That being said, most users report a good, clean high that comes with some of the normal effects. Among them are a feeling of contentment, pain relief, and (mild) euphoria. The side effects are also very similar: increased appetite, short-term memory impairment, and red eyes. In other words, the Δ8-THC experience is very similar to the Δ9-THC one, except a lower potency which makes for a smoother high.
Is It Legal?
The legality of THC is a complicated manner in this country and consumers should continue incorporating matters of law and law enforcement in deciding what is best for them.
Δ8-THC can be extracted from either hemp or marijuana plants. Almost always, Δ8-THC will originate from hemp plants. Hemp can be legally grown and extracted all over the country, thanks to the 2018 farm bill, making Δ8-THC de facto legal in those states where Δ9-THC is illegal and where states have not decided to make Δ8-THC illegal.
Eleven states have to date decided to ban Δ8-THC (even some that have very liberal cannabis laws): Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado , Delaware, Idaho, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, Rhode Island and Utah.
With Δ8-THC, consumers can—at least, for the time being—have the best of both worlds, they can get high on THC and be protected from prosecution using an extraction from a legally grown plant. Who said you couldn’t have your cake and eat it too?