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What Is Delta-8 THC? A Beginner’s Guide

What Is Delta-8 THC? A Beginner’s Guide

If you’re a cannabis enthusiast, there’s a good chance you’ve recently heard of delta-8 THC. Thanks to a legislative loophole, this intoxicating cannabinoid provides a legal way to get high. As a result, delta-8 products have exploded in popularity over the span of a few months, especially in states where recreational cannabis is prohibited. What is delta-8 THC? Is it truly legal? Is it safe?

Read on for a detailed beginner’s guide to the hottest new cannabinoid.

What Is Delta-8 THC? A Beginner’s Guide Cannabis plant

What is Delta-8 THC?

Delta-8 is short for delta-8-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), one among over 120 cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. It’s a form of THC, the main cannabinoid that gets you high. When people talk about THC, they’re referring to delta-9 THC, which is the more common form of this intoxicating compound.

Delta-8 and delta-9 THC have a similar structure but their atoms are arranged differently, which is why delta-8 THC has weaker effects. Delta-8 THC has gained notoriety as a legal way to get high. Whereas recreational cannabis and delta-9 THC are illegal federally and in most states, delta-8 remains accessible in most places.

That’s because delta-8 THC can be derived from hemp, the legal, non-intoxicating variety of cannabis. Nonetheless, delta-8 remains in a legal gray area and lawmakers are debating its legal status. But that hasn’t stopped countless companies from creating hemp-derived delta-8 THC products to meet the growing demand.

Delta-8 vs Delta-9 THC Differences

Delta-8 and delta-9 THC share the same chemical formula. They also work in a similar way by activating cannabinoid 1 (CB1) receptors in the brain, which makes you high and produces other effects, such as sedation.

However, one of their carbon double bonds is in a different position. As a result, delta-8 doesn’t bind to CB1 receptors as strongly as delta-9 THC, making it roughly 66% as potent as its better-known cousin. 

This may explain why people report that the delta-8 high is not as strong and produces less anxiety than delta-9 THC.

Another difference is that delta-8 is more stable than delta-9, which means it has a longer shelf life and is more suitable for medical applications. In comparison, delta-9 THC breaks down into cannabinol (CBN) over time.

Effects Of Delta-8 THC

One early human study compared delta-8 and delta-9 THC, finding that delta-8 produced the same but weaker effects, including euphoria, relaxation, introspection, dizziness, dry mouth, red eyes, and impaired motor coordination, memory, and perception of time.

Another 1995 study found that delta-8 prevented vomiting in children taking cancer drugs. The National Library of Medicine chemistry database also notes that delta-8 THC has anxiolytic (anxiety-lowering) and neuroprotective properties.

Meanwhile, studies in mice and rats reported that delta-8 THC may:

  • Increase food intake more effectively than delta-9 THC, which is already used in medicine as an appetite stimulant
  • Have analgesic (pain-relieving) effects
  • Reduce pain and inflammation caused by corneal injury

These effects match up with reports of delta-8 users, which also mention relief from pain, increased appetite, reduced nausea, and other effects. Since delta-9 produces the same effects, it seems that delta-8 has identical properties.

Nonetheless, delta-8 THC is underresearched so more studies are needed to fully understand its effects and how it’s metabolized by the body.

Delta-8 THC Safety & Side Effects

The potential side effects of delta-8 THC appear to be the same as delta-9. They include dry mouth, red eyes, anxiety, paranoia, impaired memory and slowed perception of time. 

However, the extent and likelihood of these side effects seem to be lower because delta-8 THC is less potent than its cousin. This explains why some people who get anxiety and other side effects from cannabis are turning to delta-8. 

Notably, the study of children taking cancer drugs we mentioned earlier concluded that “delta-8-THC…was found to be an excellent pediatric antiemetic with nonsignificant side effects.”

Considering that the psychoactive side effects of delta-9 THC limit its medical use, this means that delta-8 holds serious potential in clinical settings.

However, the real danger with delta-8 THC comes from the fact that the industry is unregulated and has attracted some bad actors. 

There are many low-quality products that could carry residual solvents and other potential contaminants, as well as large amounts of delta-9 THC, which can produce stronger side effects in people new to THC.

The dangers of unregulated cannabinoid products were highlighted by the 2019-2020 outbreak of vaping-related lung injury caused by THC vapes contaminated with vitamin E acetate.

Delta-8 THC Dosage

The right delta-8 dosage depends on your experience with cannabis. 

If you’re a regular marijuana user, then delta-8 will feel like a weaker version of delta-9 THC. You can start with dosages and product strengths that are similar and expect delta-8 to be roughly 30-50% weaker.

However, if you’re new to THC, delta-8 can have a strong effect. On top of that, cannabinoids affect everyone differently depending on your genetics, body weight, product type, and other factors.

It’s best to start with a small amount of delta-8 THC and slowly work your way up. You might start with 3 mg or one puff, see how it affects you over two hours, and try a larger dose next time. Repeat this method until you find your optimal delta-8 dosage.

Is Delta-8 THC Legal?

The legal status of delta-8 THC is hotly debated. Technically speaking, delta-8 derived from hemp is federally legal. 

The 2018 Farm Bill legalized hemp and hemp-derived products across the nation, under the following definition: 

“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 we can see, the definition makes no mention of delta-8 and only puts a restriction on delta-9 THC levels. That’s because federal lawmakers never foresaw that the cannabis industry would find a way to create intoxicating delta-8 products from hemp.

As it turns out, it’s possible to turn hemp-derived CBD into delta-8 THC through a chemical reaction, which is how most delta-8 products are made. 

Such products fall under the above definition as long as they contain no more than 0.3% delta-9 THC, making them federally legal.

As a result of this legal loophole, delta-8 products have exploded in popularity, especially in states where recreational cannabis is prohibited. However, both state and federal governments have taken notice.

Many states recently passed legislation to ban or regulate hemp-derived delta-8 THC, with many others considering the same.

Additionally, the DEA added delta-8 THC to its list of Schedule 1 controlled substances, signaling its intent to treat it in the same way as delta-9 THC. However, this stance is only advisory unless adopted as an official ruling.

Another part of the debate is whether delta-8 made from CBD counts as synthetic or natural because synthetic cannabinoids are considered illegal.

How Delta-8 THC Is Made

Hemp and indeed all cannabis plants have naturally low delta-8 THC amounts, typically well below 1%. However, it’s possible to make delta-8 THC from CBD, the most abundant cannabinoid in hemp.

Typically, the CBD is extracted from hemp, refined into a pure isolate form, and turned into delta-8 THC through a chemical isomerization process. The resulting delta-8 distillate can then be used to formulate vape, edible, tincture, and other types of products.

However, this process is more expensive and requires more knowledge than making CBD. It can also produce significant amounts of delta-9 THC as a byproduct, which has to be removed to create a safe, legal product. 

This is one of the reasons why low-quality delta-8 products can be dangerous for people who have never used THC before.

Shopping For Delta-8

Most people buy delta-8 products online. They come in many forms, including vape cartridges, disposable vape pens, tinctures, gummies, and distillate. 

It’s important to exercise caution because there are many low-quality and potentially unsafe delta-8 products. 

We recommend doing plenty of research and only buying from reputable brands that provide complete potency and contaminant third-party test results, list where their hemp comes from, and have been selling CBD products for several years.

You’ll be able to buy delta-8 in most states. However, it’s illegal in Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Idaho, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, New York, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Utah.

Additionally, delta-8 is regulated in a similar way to recreational cannabis in Connecticut and Nevada.

Keep in mind that the laws are always changing, so we can expect delta-8 to be banned or regulated in more states in the coming months.

Delta-8: Popular But Controversial

Delta-8’s rapid rise has shown that there’s a serious demand for legal cannabis products that have a lower risk of psychoactive side effects.

However, the fact that lawmakers never meant to legalize this cannabinoid means that delta-8 remains in a controversial gray area.

As a result, there are many shady companies selling low-quality delta-8 products to make a quick buck. It’s common to see products with less delta-8 than advertised and illegal delta-9 THC levels. 

When shopping for delta-8, look for online brands that provide third-party potency and contaminant test documents to verify that you’re getting a safe and accurate product. Their websites should also provide information about how the products are sourced and made.


The information provided is for informational purposes only. We do not claim to treat or cure any health ailment or condition. Please consult your doctor or healthcare provider before trying any new product. We are not responsible for any adverse reaction(s) you may have to any of the products featured on this site. See our T & C for more information.

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