You have probably heard about Delta 9 THC. But have you heard about Delta 8? This article is designed to give you an easy guide to help you understand all you need to know about this emerging cannabinoid. In the following sections, we will dive into how to use it safely, why you would want to, and what its legal status may be in your state.
What is Delta 8?
Delta 8, or delta-8-tetrahydrocannabinol, is an organically occurring cannabinoid compound found in certain cannabis plants, including hemp. It is an “analogue” of regular tetrahydrocannabinol (delta-9- tetrahydrocannabinol). This means that, chemically speaking, it has a very similar structure to THC. Its effects on both the mind and body are also similar to THC, albeit milder in general.
According to a 2004 report put out in the journal Neuroendocrinology Letters, Delta 8 has been found to have “potential antiemetic, anxiolytic, appetite-stimulating, analgesic, and neuroprotective activities.” (1) This means that it can help to reduce anxiety, pain, and nausea. It has also been found to help with insomnia.
Research into Delta 8 is just beginning and there is a lot that we simply do not know. What scientists do know, however, is that Delta 8 binds to the endocannabinoid system in much the same way as THC does. According to a report put out by the University of Virginia, anecdotal accounts are also finding that Delta 8 may be a better choice for pain management and relief than regular THC cannabis. (2) The U.S. National Cancer Institute (NHI-NCI) also states that Delta 8 THC can elicit cancer-protective and cancer-killing properties in the body as well. (3)
Delta 8 vs Delta 9
The biggest difference between Delta 8 and Delta 9 is its strength. Delta 8 is often called “diet weed” or “THC light.”
What creates the difference in strength between Delta 8 and Delta 9 THC? To explain this, we must dive into the world of cannabinoid chemistry just a bit.
Chemically, 8 and 9 are similar in that they have carbon atom “double bonds” in their structures. These “double bonds” also bind them to the endocannabinoid system and are what produce their psychoactive effects.
While Delta 9 THC has that double bond in the 9th atom, Delta 8 has the bond in the 8th. This means that the two types of THC, in turn, bind to the endocannabinoid system in a slightly different way and this is what causes the difference.
How Long Does Delta 8 Stay in Your System?
The short answer is between 2 to 30 days. That’s a big difference! The good news is that you can determine how long Delta 8 (and other forms of THC cannabis) may stay in your system based on several factors:
-Your rate of metabolism. Metabolism is defined as how fast (or slow) it takes your body to move substances in general through and out of your system. Metabolic rates can vary greatly depending on health and genetics.
-Your age. According to the New York Obesity Research Center amongst others, older people tend to metabolize substances slower than younger people. (4)
-Your gender. Women and men metabolize differently as well, since women on average tend to have more fat cells than men yet consume less calories on average. (5)
-Your weight. Or in other words, how many fat cells you have since cannabinoids bind to them.
-Your genetics. Genetics play a part in every expression in your body. One way that genetics may play a role in how Delta 8 is metabolized is the concentration of CYP3A4 liver enzymes you naturally have stored in your body. CY3A4 is the enzyme that is used by the liver to break down Delta 8 THC.
-Other drugs or substances. Other substances play a part because these substances will interact with Delta 8 THC in the liver. This goes for supplements as well!
-The method of dosage you are using as well as the dosage itself. In terms of the amount of Delta 8 ingested, it just makes sense that the more you ingest, the more time it will take to leave your system. See the section below for different dosage types.
-Frequency of use. The more you use, the more cannabinoids you will have stored in fat cells. Thus, the longer it will take to leave your system.
-Your general tolerance to THC and cannabis, and specifically to Delta 8. This may be affected by other factors not mentioned above.
Dosing Methods and Time-frames for Delta 8
All of these factors can also affect how long it may take for Delta 8 to kick in as well. The major factor for this, however, is the various methods used for dosing Delta 8. Delta 8 comes in a variety of dosing methods, including Delta 8 gummies, Delta 8 cartridges, Delta 8 edibles, Delta 8 flower, and Delta 8 oils and tinctures. The amount of time it takes for the effects of Delta 8 to be felt in the body vary from a few minutes to a few hours.
Vaping or smoking Delta 8 will render effects almost instantaneously. Tinctures and gummies can take effect very quickly too, between 15 to 30 minutes. Edibles with Delta 8 can take up to 2 hours. Likewise, for most people, if you vape Delta 8 or use an oil, the specific effects that you may feel will last a short time, between 1-5 hours. If you use an edible, the effects may last up to 10 hours because the substance has to pass through your digestive system.
If you are preparing for a drug test, be aware that hair follicle tests may pick up Delta 8 THC for up to 90 days! Unfortunately, Delta 8 THC will show up the same way as Delta 9 THC does.
Does Delta 8 Make You High?
Delta 8 can get you high. However, this high will not be strong as with regular THC, hence the THC-Light reference above. This may be of benefit for some people who do wish to experience a cannabis high (for pain relief, PTSD symptoms, nausea, or for a variety of other reasons) but they may not want a super strong high.
People describe the high that comes from Delta 8 as lighter, smoother, milder, and more energizing. Many people prefer this experience to the so-called “couch lock” that can occur with many other THC strains.
In addition, it should be noted that Delta 8 can still produce paranoia and anxiety in people who may be sensitive to THC. Again, these negative side effects may not be as strong as with regular THC.
Is Delta 8 Legal?
Everything that we have talked about so far in regard to Delta 8 is pretty straight forward. In the realm of legality, things are not so clear.
Delta 8 THC can be extracted from both cannabis or hemp, although the majority of Delta 8 currently being produced is extracted from hemp. The sticking point here is that hemp growers are producing Delta 8 THC in states where THC cannabis is legal and where it is not legal.
The reasoning behind this goes back to the Farm Bill of 2018. This bill made hemp legal to grow in the United States country wide. The logic goes that Delta 8 production technically comes from a federally recognized legal crop (i.e., hemp). So, no problem, right?
Yes and no. Just like with cannabis in general, the legality of Delta 8 often depends on the state you live in as well as that state’s interpretation of the language of the Farm Bill.
The Farm Bill states that “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” are legal.” (6)
According to some, this makes Delta 8 legal because it does not contain Delta 9. For other states who interpret this wording loosely, they have used the Farm Bill as the basis for making Delta 8 illegal in their state.
Currently there are not that many state laws which specifically address Delta 8 directly. Most laws focus on CBD and Delta 9 THC, or used to describe “cannabis,” “marijuana” CBD, and THC in general. Most Delta 8 producers sell only to states that have cannabis laws which adhere to a direct (i.e., “mirrored”) interpretation.
At the federal level, the DEA (U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration) is still undecided as to the legality of Delta 8. A DEA “Interim Final Rule” issued in August of 2020, states that: “all synthetically derived tetrahydrocannabinols remain Schedule I controlled substances.” (7)
At the same time, individual comments from DEA higher ups seem to indicate that this does not apply to Delta 8.
“…at this time, per the Farm Bill, the only thing that is a controlled substance is delta-9 THC greater than 0.3 percent on a dry-weight basis,” DEA Chief of Intergovernmental Affairs Sean Mitchell said in a Town Hall meeting with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services on November 4th. (8)
Is Delta 8 Safe?
As it turns out, there is another reason why Delta 8 is being restricted in so many states. That reason has to do with the safety of chemicals used in the manufacturing of Delta 8 THC. Delta 8 is derived from hemp through synthetic means. In order to extract and convert the substance, harsh chemicals are often used by manufacturers bent on cutting corners and producing the product cheaply.
An April 2021 study sponsored by the U.S. Cannabis Council analyzed various Delta 8 products purchased from unregulated, unlicensed stores in 8 states. They found solvent levels determined to be “not safe for human consumption” in almost all of the products. This was especially true for vaping products. Some of the specific toxic substances found in Delta 8 products include heavy metals such as chromium, nickel, copper, and lead. Solvents found included methanol, ethyl acetate, acetone, hexane, and isopropanol. (9)
Known health risks associated with solvent overexposure include dizziness, headaches, sleepiness, brain damage, and liver damage. (10) Known health risks associated with heavy metals include endocrine damage, brain damage, and liver damage. (11)
According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), from December 2020 to July 2021, that organization received 22 “adverse event reports” from consumers as well as law enforcement pertaining to Delta 8 THC products. The majority of these reports were because of hospitalizations caused by vomiting, dizziness, hallucinations, and loss of consciousness.
The FDA also reports that poison control centers nationwide received over 600 reports regarding Delta 8 THC between January 1, 2021, and July 31, 2021. A large percentage of these reports involved children under the age of 18. (12)
Types of Products that Contain Delta 8
These are dire statistics indeed. The fact, however, is that Delta 8 in and of itself is a natural cannabinoid and, therefore, poses little (to no) health risk. The risk happens when irresponsible manufacturers skirt the law as well as ethics to use sub-par methods and harsh chemicals in creating their Delta 8 products, especially cartridges for vaping. (13)
To ensure that your Delta 8 product is free from harsh chemicals, always make sure that you obtain it from lab-tested brands as well as from pharmacies and dispensaries that are licensed and regulated by your state. Never get Delta 8 products from illegal or unregulated stores.
Delta 8 is available in many of the same dosing methods that Delta 9 THC is. These include:
- Delta 8 gummies,
- Delta 8 edibles (such as brownies or cupcakes)
- Delta 8 cartridges for vaping
- Delta 8 oils and tinctures
- Delta 8 infused patches or creams
- Delta 8 flower for smoking, vaping or making your own products
You may notice that Delta 8 can also be purchased in flower form. To create Delta 8 flower, manufactures infuse organic hemp flowers with Delta 8 THC. This creates a mellow high as well pain relief, nausea relief, and more. Again, quality brands will not use harsh chemicals for this process.
Where is Delta 8 available?
Delta 8 products can be found in many legal, regulated, and licensed pharmacies and dispensaries in states where it is not banned. As of October 2021, Delta 8 sale is restricted (and in some cases banned altogether) in the following states: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Kentucky, Idaho, Iowa, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, New York, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Texas, Utah, Vermont, and Washington.
As you can see, some of these states allow cannabis use in all forms (except Delta 8). Others are medical marijuana only states. One state on the list, Mississippi, is a “no cannabis use” state across the board.
Delta 8 products can also be obtained via mail or online as well, but only where Delta 8 is currently legal. The best thing to do is to first check the current legality of Delta 8 products in your state. Then check the procedures and stipulations regarding Delta 8 for the brand and product you want to purchase to make sure that it can be shipped or obtained in your region.
State laws around Delta 8 are constantly changing. Remember that even if medical cannabis is legal in your state, Delta 8 may not be.
Be sure to check the Delta 8 status in your state regularly and to take it a step further, meet with a medical professional who is well versed in cannabis and in this case, Delta 8 and Delta 9.
Check out these other articles on Delta-8
- Pharmacology of Cannabinoids
- Delta-8-THC: The Latest Cannabinoid
- Body composition changes with aging: The cause or the result of alterations in metabolic rate and macronutrient oxidation?
- Sex Differences in Energy Metabolism Need to Be Considered with Lifestyle Modifications in Humans
- USDA Farm Bill
- Implementation of the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018
- Town Hall with USDA and DEA
- Delta-8 THC Table of Contents
- Organic Solvent Neurotoxicity
- Toxic Mechanisms of Five Heavy Metals: Mercury, Lead, Chromium, Cadmium, and Arsenic
- 5 Things to Know about Delta-8 Tetrahydrocannabinol – Delta-8 THC
- What Does it Take to Manufacture Delta-8 THC?