Delta-8 Tetrahydrocannabinol (Delta-8 THC) is the primary psychoactive ingredient in cannabis. Delta-8 THC is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid that has been used as an anti-inflammatory and anti-convulsant. Tetrahydrocannabrutin and delta-8 THC have been used to treat pain, inflammation and epilepsy. Most Americans believe that delta-8 THC is illegal. It is not. There are very few legal methods to buy, sell or dispense delta-8 THC in the US and quite a bit of it is available on the black market.

Delta-8 (Δ-8) tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ-8) is a chemical compound that is a cannabinoid, and is the primary psychoactive component of the marijuana plant, known as cannabis or marijuana. This is also known as delta-8-THC.

Delta-8 THC, a trendy new cannabinoid called marijuana lite, has managed to slip through a loophole and onto the shelves of CBD retailers, head shops and convenience stores across the country. Many people are interested in delta-8 THC because they think it has many health benefits, is stronger than CBD, is relatively inexpensive, you don’t have to go to a dispensary to get it, and you get a little high – though it’s weaker and generally lasts less time than marijuana, says Michelle Ross, PhD, a neurobiologist who studies the medicinal uses of hemp and other plants and is author of CBD Oil for Health. But as a scientist and educator, I urge people to do their research before they try, she says.

The problem is that due to the newness of this product, there has been little research into its effects and little regulation to guide or protect consumers. Here’s what you need to know before you chew, drink or inhale it:

What is THC Delta-8?

Delta-8 THC is essentially the result of a clever chemist taking a substance from cannabis, which is legal under the 2018 Farm Bill and does not cause intoxication, and finding a way to alter its chemical bonds to create a close relative of marijuana while still staying within the bounds of what the law considers legal.

Confused? Yeah, it’s confusing. Here’s a little introduction to plant biology that may clarify things: Hemp and marijuana are closely related plants of the cannabis family. Each contains more than 100 cannabinoids, chemicals that have different effects on the brain and body. The two best known cannabinoids are delta-9 THC, which has psychoactive effects and causes the feeling of euphoria (this is what makes the herb an herb), and CBD, which does not cause euphoria but is often used to relieve anxiety and pain. Legally, cannabis plants containing more than 0.3% THC are called marijuana; plants containing less THC are called hemp.

Delta-8 THC is thus a subordinate cannabinoid that is chemically very similar to CBD and Delta-9 THC, but only occurs in negligible amounts in the cannabis plant in nature, so the real growth takes place in the laboratory. Products made with delta-8 THC must be produced chemically, Ross explains. They take cannabis with CBD and expose it to chemicals like acetic acid – or something much stronger and perhaps even toxic – to convert the CBD into delta-8-THC. According to the company, this process also produces a certain amount of THC Delta-9, so the manufacturer must chemically remove the Delta-9, which cannot be sold in concentrations above the magic limit of 0.3%. (In a small study conducted by the U.S. Cannabis Council (USCC), 15 of 16 THC-delta-8 samples purchased nationwide were found to contain THC-delta-9 at much higher concentrations, but that’s another topic).

When this is all over, only delta-8 remains, which is very similar to delta-9 THC, but with a chemical bond in a different place. Delta-8 has less affinity for the CB1 cannabinoid receptors in the brain, making it less effective at getting people high, although it can still have up to 75% of the psychotropic effects of Delta-9, according to the USCC report.

But there’s a catch: Delta-8 THC, which is sold in stores across the country, is not a natural product like CBD (or, for that matter, marijuana), says Ross, who calls it synthetic, which can potentially contain toxins.

Once produced, Delta-8 can be consumed in a variety of ways just like CBD and marijuana: by smoking cannabis flowers vaporized with Delta-8 extract, in tablets that dissolve under the tongue, in vape cartridges, and in chewables and treats. There are even coffee shops that sell drinks and pastries infused with THC Delta-8.


What are the effects of Delta-8?

Since little research has been done on Delta-8, you have to take the word of those who have tried it: You have many of the therapeutic effects we know from CBD, such as relief from stress and anxiety, but you also have a stronger sedative effect and a powerful pain-relieving aspect, says Vince Sanders, founder and president of CBD retailer American Shaman, which sells Delta 8 products. The advantage is that it is not accompanied by the heart palpitations and paranoia that many people experience with marijuana.

While several small studies in humans and animals have shown that CBD can control seizures, reduce anxiety, and relieve pain, few studies show that Delta-8 has the same effect. Nevertheless, it does get you high, although the intensity of the high can vary depending on the product and the person taking it. I tasted a piece of Delta 8 fudge, and I felt like I had taken an edible bowl of weed, reports a Gen X woman who wishes to remain anonymous. I’m quite sensitive to THC, and I can’t say this was any different. I also had the same appetite as when I used grass.

The answer is yes, but not in all states, and probably not for long. The legality of Delta-8 THC is part of an opaque and ever-changing story about the legality of all forms of cannabis, including CBD. As of June 2021, marijuana is legal for medical purposes in 36 states and for adult recreational use in 18 states, including New Jersey, Connecticut, California and Illinois. However, Delta-8-THC derived from cannabis belongs to a different category. The 2018 Farm Bill opened production of cannabis for use as CBD as long as the Delta 9 THC concentration is less than 0.3% (the law is silent on the Delta 8 THC concentration that created this legal loophole).

The Farm Bill states that, with the exception of Delta-9, all isomers of any part of the cannabis plant are considered legal. As luck would have it, a clever chemist looked at him and said: Wait a minute, delta-8 is an isomer of CBD! – Sanders said. This way we can legally convert CBD to Delta-8.

Therefore, as of 2019, companies have started selling Delta-8 CGTs without legal restrictions, although the situation changes from day to day. At the time of writing, 12 states have passed laws banning THC Delta-8. Other states, including states where marijuana is legal, such as New York, Illinois, Oregon and California, set rules that any form of THC, whether delta-8 or delta-9, can only be sold if it has been tested, verified and sold in a regulated market, according to the USCC report.

But to make this story even more confusing, some believe the push to ban Delta-8 in some states has more to do with health and safety: Sanders notes that many of the states that have banned Delta-8 THC, including Colorado and Arizona, are ironically states where marijuana for adult use is legal, and he believes the legal marijuana industry – which must abide by strict rules and collect sales taxes – is trying to protect its turf.

Is Delta-8 safe?

If we don’t know exactly what the positive effects of Delta-8 are, we don’t know what the negative effects are either. No one has died from cannabis yet, Sanders says. And while this claim is generally considered true (you can’t die directly from the physical effects of the drug, but you can die from reckless behavior under the influence of marijuana), it’s not necessarily THC that critics are worried about. That’s as much as an unregulated substance can hold. We’re at the tip of the iceberg, we’re learning all these things, we don’t really know yet what’s safe and what’s not, Ross says. Even Sanders admits that we don’t yet know anything about possible drug interactions or other harmful side effects.

Ross is most concerned about what happens when Delta-8 smokes in a vape pen. We basically know what happens when you ingest a food, she says. But we’re still learning what happens when Delta-8 is inhaled. You don’t know what other chemicals you inhale during the manufacturing process and whether they can cause headaches, nausea or other side effects. In other words, you’re not only inhaling a natural product into your lungs, but also a variety of other unknown substances, including possibly toxins (which is another problem with the vaping epidemic).


People see Delta-8 everywhere and assume it’s the same drug as CBD, but there’s a lot we don’t know, Ross says. She recommends that if you want to try it, tinctures are a safer option than smoking or vaping; and needless to say, it’s probably a safer decision to buy Delta-8 from a reliable CBD company rather than grab it off the shelf with a soda and a bag of chips. Ross advises pregnant and breastfeeding women to be especially careful (for the record, the American Pregnancy Association says the FDA strongly advises against the use of CBD, THC, and marijuana during pregnancy and breastfeeding), and parents should explain to their curious teenagers that the effects of delta-8 THC on brain development are still unknown. Ross adds that the picture will be much clearer when researchers can monitor the side effects and study the benefits over the next few years. I think we’ll know a lot more about TGC delta-8 by the end of 2021 or 2022, she predicts.

  • Delta-8 THC is an isomer of delta-9 THC, the psychoactive substance in marijuana.
  • It consists mainly of CBD, which is extracted from the cannabis plant.
  • It is found in vape pens, smoke blends, smoke dyes, drinks and even baked goods.
  • Proponents describe it as an intermediate product between CBD and marijuana, in that it provides a less intense sense of well-being.
  • Critics warn that there are many unregulated and untested products on the market.
  • Thanks to a loophole in the 2018 farm bill, it’s allowed in 38 states.
  • There is still much unknown about the risks and benefits of THC Delta-8.

Frequently Asked Questions

Delta 8 is the legal limit for THC in Colorado.

Delta 8 THC is legal in all states.

Delta 8 is federally legal.

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