Delta-8 THC: Safety & Legality

Close-up on a cannabis dropper bottle and flower

Delta-8 THC is a cannabis compound that has risen in popularity in the past years. Delta-8 THC is similar to delta-9 THC, the main compound in cannabis that produces the cannabis “high.” As compared to delta-9 THC, delta-8 THC is less potent. Many questions regarding safety and legality of delta-8 THC remain, but emerging research into this compound shows promise for its future in the cannabis market.

What is Delta-8 THC?

When you think of cannabis and the term “THC,” the common cannabinoid delta-9 THC probably comes to mind. The large amount of delta-9 THC in cannabis makes the extraction process simpler and cheaper than that of delta-8 THC. Though delta-8 THC occurs naturally in cannabis, it only makes up approximately 0.1% of most cannabis and hemp plants, according to Chemical & Engineering News. Instead of extracting delta-8 THC from the cannabis plant, delta-8 THC is synthetically converted and synthesized from hemp-derived CBD

How Does Delta-8 THC Differ from Other Cannabinoids?

The difference between delta-8 THC and the much more common delta-9 THC boils down to molecular structure. Delta 9 THC, or delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, contains a double bind on the ninth carbon chain. Delta 8 THC, or delta-8-tetrahydrocannabinol, contains this double bind of the eighth carbon chain instead. 

The difference in location of the double bind impacts how the cannabinoid interacts with and attaches to the receptors within the endocannabinoid system. The difference in the way delta-8 THC’s structure binds to receptors results in a loss of potency, compared to delta-9 THC. While you can still experience a “high” from delta-8 THC, it is often described as a lighter, more mellow experience.

Where is Delta-8 THC Legal?

The legality of delta-8 THC is considered a gray area. This confusion comes from several factors, including the Farm Bill of 2018, which legalized hemp. This bill presented a loophole for delta-8 THC to be a federally unregulated substance, since it derives from hemp, an uncontrolled substance

As a result of this loophole, some states that have legislation against delta-9 THC still allow the use of delta-8 THC. On the other hand, many states are working to abolish this exception. Concerns about delta-8 THC as a psychoactive drug (despite being derived from CBD) has resulted 14 states banning the sale of delta-8 THC.

States that have banned the sale of delta-8 THC include:

  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • Colorado
  • Delaware
  • Idaho
  • Iowa
  • Kentucky
  • Mississippi
  • Montana
  • New York
  • Rhode Island
  • Utah
  • Vermont

It is important to note that substance laws change rapidly, so be sure to stay current on state cannabis laws.

Does Delta-8 THC Show Up on Drug Tests?

Delta-8 THC will show up on a drug test. Delta-8 THC’s lower potency and relation to hemp leads people think its consumption will not result a drug test failure. Despite its legal status as a hemp product, delta-8’s conversion to THC during manufacturing makes it strong enough to fail a drug test

The majority of common drug tests are not sophisticated enough to distinguish between different types of metabolites in the body. Instead of looking specifically for delta-8 THC or delta-9 THC cannabinoids, most drug tests look for the presence of THC metabolites in general. 

Is Delta-8 THC Safe?

When it comes to safety, several of factors involved in the production and distribution of delta-8 THC have been a cause for concern. 

Has anyone died from delta-8 THC?

According to the NCBI, no deaths have been attributed to the use of delta-8 THC as of this publication. Some scientists are cautious about the unknown effects of products related to delta-8 THC, but more research is needed to make definitive conclusions about the safety of delta-8 THC products. 

Byproducts from synthesizing Delta-8 THC

As of this publication, delta-9 THC is subject to the strict guidelines of market regulation and delta-8 THC is not. This means producers of delta-8 THC do not have to hold their products to quality control standards for sale and distribution. This could result in the production or consumption of harmful products created by bad actors in the CBD and hemp industries. 

Delta-8 THC is a manufactured product, as it needs to be synthesized from CBD. Part of this process involves using a solvent, as well as a strong acid or metal to act as a catalyst. Due to the lack of quality control in the delta-8 THC market, many producers fail to clean up their delta-8 products after synthesis. This carelessness could result in residual acids, metals, or other toxic reaction elements in the end product.

In addition to not being evaluated by the CDC or FDA, more concerns have risen due to reports of unidentified byproducts in delta-8 goods. A study from ProVerde Laboratories tested the contents of thousands of Delta-8 THC products and found that none would pass as purely delta-8 in content. Several other compounds are often found in delta-8 products, including:

  • Delta-9 THC
  • Delta-10 THC
  • Heavy metals (nickel, lead, copper, chromium)
  • Trace amounts of solvents used to in separating delta-8 from hemp (hexane, sulfuric acid, methanol, ethyl acetate, isopropanol, and more)

Looking Forward

Leaders in the cannabis industry have voiced concern that newfound trust in the recreational cannabis industry will be lost, due to the delta-8 THC market’s unregulated products and practices. In turn, many are calling for regulation of delta-8 THC. If delta-8 can be produced responsibly with consistent standards and quality control, the positive public perception of the cannabis market could remain intact.

If you’re interested in learning more about the emerging frontiers of cannabis science, or if you want more insight on navigating the cannabis industry, check out The Ultimate Guide To Cannabis Science. Be sure to become a Happy Valley Insider to be the first to know about weekly special pricing, new products, cultivars, store openings, and special events.

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