Delta 8 is the latest craze to hit the hemp market. But before you head to one of the few dozen websites that sell delta 8 THC, learn more about the compound with very little research. First, is delta 8 safe? Also, you want to know if delta 8 THC is legal.
WHAT IS DELTA 8 THC?
Delta 8 is a naturally occurring hemp compound that’s growing in popularity across the country. The cannabinoid dubbed “THC-lite” by consumers produces an intoxicating eﬀect similar to marijuana but with less of a punch. The diﬀerence between delta 8 and delta 9 seems minor. Both compounds have the same chemical structure. The only exception between the two THC compounds is the bond location. Delta 9 bonds at the ninth carbon and delta 8 attaches to the eighth carbon.
EXTRACTION VS. CONVERSION
There are two ways to get the “THC-lite” compound. The ﬁrst is the traditional way. The producer uses a C02 or ethanol extraction process. However, because the plant produces less than 1% delta 8 THC, it’s not cost-eﬀective for companies to extract the compound. Instead, they’re converting CBD to delta 8.
This technique isn’t conventional. It involves the extraction of CBD derived from hemp and an isomerization process. The method, patented by Raphael Mechoulam and his team, is considered safe. But there have been minimal studies involving the process and using the products that result from it.
HOW DOES THE ISOMERIZATION PROCESS WORK?
Unlike CBD, delta 8 THC goes through the extraction process to remove the CBD. After, it enters another phase, isomerization, which is a four-step method. First, the manufacturer dissolves the CBD in a non-polar organic solvent, such as heptane. Next, they add an acid to the mix and cook it at 212 degrees Fahrenheit for 24-hours, stirring for 18 hours. Common solvent acids include hydrochloric acid in ethanol and sulfuric acid in cyclohexane.
But wait, don’t worry! They “wash” and neutralize the acid with sodium bicarbonate. Lastly, they test the synthetic compound for purity.
This process requires advanced equipment. Unfortunately, reports show too many producers are com- pleting this process in their residen- tial garage. As the Cannabis Tech ar- ticle points out,
… many of their products may have residual chemicals. For example, acetic acid is a common chemical used to create Delta-8 THC. The epidemiology fact sheets note that inhaling acetic acid can be very dangerous. If the Delta-8 manufacturer doesn’t perform the process properly, consumers may be inhaling more than they know.
IS DELTA 8 THC LEGAL?
Yes and no. When the producer extracts the compound from hemp and doesn’t change the chemical composition, yes, it’s legal. However, converting delta 9 THC to delta 8 THC isn’t permitted under the 2018 Farm Bill.
Many brands use the wording that deﬁnes cannabinoids in the law, which allows all compounds, including delta 9 THC. The only exception to this portion of the legislation is the THC level must be at or below 0.3%.
The term `hemp’ means the plant Cannabis sativa L. and any part of that plant, including the seeds thereof and all derivatives, extracts, cannabinoids, isomers, acids, salts, and salts of isomers, whether growing or not, with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis.
As mentioned, synthetically-derived THC is illegal. Therefore, any brand converting CBD to THC to make delta 8 THC is not selling a legal product.
As of 2021, brands selling delta 8 THC are using the loophole in the 2018 Farm Bill. Only an amendment to the law by Congress can close it. However, states and local jurisdictions can and are banning the compound dubbed “marijuana-lite.”
The current list of states that don’t allow the sale or use of delta 8 THC include,
WHAT DOES THE RESEARCH SAY?
That’s one of the problems. The research is minimal and doesn’t involve long-term studies with people. Christian Peterson, a co-founder of a cannabis company that sells delta 8, told Discovery Magazine,
The research isn’t there yet to know for sure.
Delta-8 THC may have a future for medical cannabis patients. However, it is a controlled substance that needs to be regulated and treated just like marijuana—With a prescription or limiting use to recreational states for adults 21 and older. Additionally, warning labels are necessary to prevent people from using the compound and driving, and pregnant or breastfeeding women shouldn’t use delta 8 THC.
IS DELTA 8 SAFE?
The answer is that no one really knows if the compound is safe. There’s no oversight for delta 8 THC. Moreover, it’s so new that the industry hasn’t developed safety protocols to protect customers. Some companies are oﬀering certiﬁcates of analysis to show these items are harmless. But without speciﬁc guidelines for screenings, these aren’t enough proof of safety.
Delta 8 THC goes through a more extensive extraction and conversion process. There isn’t enough information about the security of the synthetic procedure and the chemicals that could still be present in the ﬁnal product. In addition, most delta 8 products come in vape form. Heating these chemicals can compound the dangers.
THE BOTTOM LINE:
There are too many unanswered questions with delta 8 THC. Is delta 8 safe? Experts don’t know. Is delta 8 THC legal? It’s in a gray area, but most lawyers will tell you it’s illegal when converted from CBD. Although many report a “less-intoxicating” high than delta 9 THC, some consumers can’t even handle a small amount of THC. Using delta 8 unsupervised can lead to the same paranoia and panic attacks that many customers experience with marijuana. The bottom line on delta-8 THC is that it’s way too early to experiment with this compound. Stick with CBD, which has years of studies and many safety precautions to protect consumers from health and legal repercussions.