Ever since Delta 8 THC burst on the scene, everyone has been wondering what is Delta 8 THC, and how is it legal? We’re here to break it down so you can learn more about Delta 8.
Cannabis is a complex plant with many different cannabinoids, with the most well-known being CBD and Delta 9 THC (the one that gets you high).
Until now. Delta 8 THC is quickly becoming one of the most well-known and popular cannabinoids.
What is Delta 8 THC?
Delta 8 THC is a minor cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant. Delta 8 is an isomer of CBD, which means it has the same number and types of atoms but that they are arranged differently. THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is a key component of hemp and marijuana plants and is known especially for its psychoactive effects. However, the effects of Delta 8 are milder than those of Delta 9.
Delta 8 effects include:
- Pleasant, mild buzz that won’t make you feel stressed
- Calming effect that may help you sleep
- Deep relaxation and less stress
- Mild euphoria and elevated mood
- Feeling motivated and energized
It should be noted that Delta 8 THC will show up as THC on a drug test. This is because the drug tests look for THC metabolites, and once Delta 8 THC is broken down by your body, the metabolites are the same as Delta 9 THC.
Delta 8 THC and Delta 9 THC
A minor cannabinoid, Delta 8 is growing in popularity because it is so similar to Delta 9. Two forms of THC found in cannabis, Delta 8 and Delta 9, have similar chemical structures. Because their structures are so closely related, they also have similar names and effects. And they both come from the cannabis plant. While both cannabinoids can make you feel high, Delta 8's effect is less psychoactive.
Both of these cannabinoids bind to the endocannabinoid system (ECS) and create pleasurable feelings of euphoria. However, their slightly different chemical structure makes the experience slightly different. Delta 8 and Delta 9 both have a double bond in their chemical structures, but they are located in different places on the carbon chain. Delta 8’s double-bond is on the eighth, and Delta 9’s in on the ninth.
This makes Delta 8 an analog of Delta 9 because both compounds have the same chemical formula, but the atoms are arranged differently. It is the double bond that is thought to produce the psychoactive effects of a high.
The double bond location in the Delta 8 carbon chain causes it to bind to the ECS differently than Delta 9 does. Consequently, the effects of Delta 8 are also different than the effects of Delta 9. Delta 8 is generally known for offering a milder, gentler high that doesn’t come with anxiety, paranoia, or panic, and you may feel more energetic and motivated, so you can still function. Many people consider Delta 8 as a middle ground between hemp, CBD, and Delta 9.
What Is the Endocannabinoid System (ECS)?
The ECS is a network of receptors that carry messages between your body and your brain. It is named after the cannabis plant that led to its discovery since its role is to interact with endocannabinoids and cannabinoids.
Three parts of the Endocannabinoid System include:
- Endocannabinoids (cannabinoids made by your body)
- Receptors that interact with endocannabinoids and cannabinoids
- Enzymes that break down endocannabinoids and cannabinoids
There are ECS receptors throughout your body, including the skin, which is why topical CBD and other topical cannabis products are effective.
Cannabinoids mimic natural brain chemicals, endocannabinoids, by plugging into the brain’s cannabinoid receptors. For instance, THC mimics a cannabinoid that kills pain, creates pleasure, and reduces depression. CBD mimics a cannabinoid that promotes relaxation, reduces anxiety, and can act as a painkiller.
Is Delta 8 THC Legal?
When people first hear about Delta 8 THC, they often ask, how can it be legal? After all, THC gets you high, so why would any THC products be legal? The legality of Delta 8 THC falls into a grey area created by the 2018 Farm Bill.
This bill created a distinction between marijuana and hemp, and in so doing, removed hemp from the Controlled Substance Act and put it under the jurisdiction of the Department of Agriculture. Although both hemp and marijuana are cannabis plants, a hemp plant has a concentration of .3% THC or less, and if the plant has a higher concentration, it is considered a marijuana plant.
According to the farm bill, any hemp-derived cannabinoid is considered federally legal. The bill goes even further to consider all derivatives and isomers in hemp plants legal, as long as hemp-derived products do not contain more than .3% THC. This includes isolates such as THCa, THC, CBD, CBC, CBG, CBN, and of course, Delta 8.
All of this means that Delta 8 is federally legal. However, many states and municipalities have enacted their own legislation around Delta 8 and other hemp isolates, so it is always a good idea to check your local laws. Even states where recreational marijuana is legal have enacted laws governing the legality of Delta 8 THC.
To add more confusion about the legality of Delta 8, the August 2020 Interim Final Rule (IFR) was released by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to confirm and update the differences between marijuana and hemp. This rule considers synthetically derived THC as a Schedule I controlled substance. THC products are considered synthetic if they are synthetically derived or extracted.
The fate of Delta 8 hinges on several factors. Will the Farm Bill’s definition of marijuana and hemp stand, allowing hemp products with less than .35 THC to be legal? Will the new language in the DEA’s IFR be adopted, and all THC be banned? Is the process of isolating Delta 8 from hemp considered synthetic? The new language is open for review until October 2021. If it is adopted, Delta 8’s federally legal status may depend on whether or not it is considered synthetic.
And, to make the issue even more complicated, the U.S. Senate is now proposing a bill that will remove the federal prohibition on marijuana. Until all these issues are settled, although its future legality may be in question, Delta 8 remains federally legal. Enjoy!