Delta-8 THC is making waves in the US as a popular alternative to THC, but this has medical professionals concerned as CBD oil gets more popular year by year and the industry grows.
But what is Delta 8 THC?
It is often produced without oversight and there are no regulations to control it’s sale.
It is completely legal in the USA as long as it does not contain more than 0.3% delta-9 THC on a dry weight basis. It is commonly added to oils, gummies and vapes and advertised as “delta 8”, “D8”, “legal weed”, or “weed lite”.
When hemp cultivation was legalised in the 2018 Farm Bill, this led to a rush of applications to grow the crop.
However, oversupply led to a slump in prices, and many CBD producers found they had more CBD oil than they could possibly sell.
To solve their oversupply problem, growers got creative with some basic chemistry to isolate other beneficial cannabinoids from the CBD oil.
Since delta-8 THC is not covered under federal law, this became a convenient loophole to allow sellers to profit on the THC name.
What's in this Guide?
What is Delta 8 THC?
Delta 8 THC is short for Delta 8 tetrahydrocannabinol.
It is a cannabinoid, like its more famous cousin delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol, more commonly referred to as THC.
Structural differences are small, but significant enough to allow sellers to sidestep the law.
For those interested in the molecular structure, delta-9 has a double bond on the ninth carbon while delta-8 has a double bond on the eighth carbon.
This small but significant change allows delta 8 THC to interact with the endocannabinoid system in a very different way.
It is the double bond that is thought to produce the “high”.
The location of this double bond on delta-8 THC is thought to make it less potent than delta-9 THC. More research is needed on the way delta-8 THC interacts with the endocannabinoid system.
While similar to delta-9 THC, delta-8 has a lower psychotropic potency. Fans of delta-8 THC refer to this as “weed lite”, claiming that it provides a similar high without many of the undesirable side effects.
It is also thought to cause less anxiety than regular THC does.
Delta-8 THC is the fourth-most commonly researched cannabinoid. Delta-8 THC was found to be effective in controlling nausea in pediatric cancer patients in an early study.
This treatment eliminated vomiting during chemotherapy treatment with negligible side effects.
Delta-8 THC was used to reduce corneal pain and inflammation in mice following ocular surface injury.
And finally, low-dose delta-8 THC was found to increase appetite. A test on mice saw an increase of 16% in food intake in a 9-day schedule and a 22% increase in food intake in the long term.
This was indicated as a potential treatment for the treatment of weight disorders.
Is Delta 8 THC Legal in the UK?
Delta-8 THC is not currently legal in the UK as it is closely related to THC. All THC derivatives and analogues are classified as Class B drugs and can carry up to a five-year sentence.
THC derivatives can be present in CBD oils up to 0.2% in the UK, while non-psychoactive cannabinoids such as CBD are legal in a lot of countries including the UK.
While the US only recognises delta-9 THC as a controlled substance, the UK believes that anything structurally close to THC should be restricted.
In the US, delta-8 THC is often referred to as legal weed, and the growth in demand for specific cannabinoids has led to some pretty unsafe practices.
Since there is very little oversight in delta-8 THC production, anyone can get into this business to capitalise on the growing popularity.
As long as cannabis remains a Class B substance in the UK, there is no reason to believe that delta-8 THC will ever be considered legal.
The UK government has covered all loopholes by ensuring that THC analogues and derivatives are Class B drugs and also by outlawing all synthetic cannabinoids.
In this 2016 ACMD report on phytocannabinoids, delta-8 THC was identified as psychoactive.
The recommendations in the report are that it should remain a controlled substance.
Is Delta 8 THC Safe?
There isn’t enough research available to know if delta-8 THC is safe. What makes the issue more difficult is that the production of the substance in the US is unregulated.
This means there could be vast differences in the quality of the cannabinoid between brands.
The issue of safety in this instance is two-fold.
First, we don’t yet know the effects of the cannabinoid on humans after long-term consumption.
And second, we don’t know if the delta-8 THC available for sale is produced to high standards.
Where is Delta 8 THC Available?
Delta-8 THC is not available in the UK as it is a controlled substance.
Therefore, anyone offering delta-8 THC substances for sale is either selling an illegal product or misleading the buyer.
Since there is no regulation of the UK CBD market, it is down to individual brands to decide if they want to share a lab analysis certificate.
This certificate will outline the cannabinoid content and may also include an analysis of purity. This measures for the presence of pesticide residue, heavy metals and microbial contamination.
Delta-8 THC will typically appear in low, negligible amounts in many full and broad-spectrum CBD oils in the UK. In the United States, delta-8 THC is available as the primary cannabinoid compound.
Is Delta 8 Synthetic?
While delta-8 THC is from a natural source, the way it is produced makes it synthetic.
Delta-8 THC occurs naturally in cannabis plants, but these plants aren’t allowed in commercial cultivation.
Since the commercial hemp plants used for CBD production contain naturally low levels of delta-8 THC, producers have to convert CBD to delta-8 THC in the lab.
When we talk about synthetic drugs, many people think of the synthetic cannabinoid, Spice.
Spice is a lab-made drug that was never meant for human consumption. Once the recipe was leaked, dealers exploited this loophole to get “legal weed” onto the streets.
Spice is incredibly dangerous and can lead to psychosis.
Delta-8 THC is not produced in the same way as Spice. All cannabinoids start out as cannabigerolic acid (CBGA), known as the mother of all cannabinoids.
Since all cannabinoids are structurally similar, the process of converting the CBGA into delta-8 THC is simple enough in a lab environment. This makes it a synthetic cannabinoid, even if they are from a natural source.
Cannabis Business explores the legal definition of synthetic cannabinoids in great detail, in the context of US law.