Delta-8 THC, or ‘delta-8’ for short, is the latest craze amongst cannabis users and particularly so among the cannabis curious. It produces all the same effects of traditional THC (delta-9 THC) such as euphoria, relaxation, and pain relief, meaning yes, it can get you high. However, delta-8 is less potent than the original herb so the high isn’t quite as strong. Interestingly, these weaker effects have made delta-8 an attractive option for those who are new to marijuana or inexperienced.
Delta-8 is equally coveted, however, by those who live in a state where marijuana isn’t legalized yet, medical or otherwise. Both of these groups end up turning to CBD products that are widely available but lack the mind-altering effects of authentic weed. More importantly, CBD is legal. Delta-8, which is unregulated, would appear to be a perfect solution. Is this less-potent form of marijuana actually “the next big thing” and a viable CBD alternative as many have claimed it to be?
In this article, we’ll look into precisely what delta-8 is and how it’s different from normal marijuana, whether or not it’s synthetic weed (and why that matters), and whether or not it’s a safe alternative to CBD and marijuana.
Delta-8 THC: What Is It?
Delta-8 tetrahydrocannabinol is a cannabinoid extracted from CBD that produces mild psychoactive properties. It is an isomer, a molecule that’s virtually identical to that of “normal” THC (delta-9 THC), the compound responsible for marijuana’s psychoactive effects. The difference between delta-8 and delta-9 is the location of a double bond between carbon molecules.
The product available in stores today is the result of chemical manipulation. A glut of hemp in the 1960s led to more CBD than producers knew what to do with. In an attempt to move their vast quantities of idle inventory they ended up synthesizing a new molecule: Delta-8 THC.
Does That Mean Delta-8 THC is Synthetic?
In the eyes of medical professionals and regulatory agencies, synthetic cannabinoids (which go by names such as Spice, K2, fewer, or simply “fake weed”) are exceptionally dangerous. They are significantly more potent—up to 100 times more—and carry a much higher risk of severe reactions such as seizure, stroke, brain damage, psychosis, and even death.
Despite the majority of products on the shelves having been produced in a lab, delta-8 is not considered synthetic. The reason being that delta-8 is one of over 100 different cannabinoids that are naturally found in cannabis plants. Delta-8 does not occur in significant amounts, however, hence why most of it is synthetically converted from CBD in a lab.
Is Delta-8 THC Safe?
Delta-8 products can be found nearly everywhere that CBD and THC products can be found—gas stations, convenience stores, dispensaries, and smoke shops—and in many of the same forms such as gummies, soft gels, and vape liquids. To consumers, its widespread availability creates the impression that since it’s not a controlled substance it must be safe. Scientists and others in the cannabis industry, however, aren’t so sure.
The process of converting CBD to delta-8 THC requires chemicals that could potentially contaminate the end product. Further, the process itself can result in chemical byproducts that also carry the potential to be harmful. Painfully little is known about how delta-8 THC is produced and which chemicals are involved. Since these products are unregulated, there’s no way for the consumer to tell. According to the Federal Drug Administration, there has been an alarming uptick of incidents at poison control centers related to these compounds.
Proceed With Caution
The primary reason for delta-8’s sudden claim to fame is not its potency, but its legality—a status that is only just now beginning to face scrutiny. This new cannabis product came onto the market so quickly that there has been virtually no oversight by the government or formal investigation on its potential dangers.
Currently, there are no age limits or other restrictions imposed on who can purchase it. However, so little is known about delta-8 that it is advised against for use amongst adults, much less children. Individuals with an existing or a predisposition to mental illness should avoid this substance until more is known about its long-term effects.