What is delta-8 THC & Is delta 8 THC legal? (The Ultimate Guide)
Seems like outta nowhere Delta-8 THC has been the new talk of the town and subsequently one of the most popular questions online is – “is delta-8 THC legal?”
I created this ultimate guide to give you all the answers you’re looking for and to cover just about everything you need to know about Delta-8 THC.
I’m going to go over topics such as:
- What is Delta-8 THC?
- How does Delta-8 THC interact within the body?
- How is Delta-8 THC distillate made?
- Is Delta-8 THC legal?
- Is delta-8 THC safe?
- And lots of other relevant information about Delta-8 THC
So if you’re ready to get the full insight about this cannabinoid and the reason why it’s become so popular, you’ll enjoy this guide.
My goal with this post is to simplify the terms, make things easy for you to understand and for you to walk away from here a lot more savvier than you were 25 minutes ago.
Alright, let’s get started.
What is Delta-8 THC?
Delta-8 THC is short for Delta-8-Tetrahydrocannabinol (If you think that’s hard to pronounce, imagine how many times I had to spell check).
It is one of the minor cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant – the 2 major ones being THC (Delta-9) and Cannabidiol (CBD).
See also – The Simple Guide to CBD vs THC
I understand all of this might end up being somewhat confusing so I’m going to backtrack just a little bit so the whole thing can make perfect sense.
Everything begins with the cannabis plant – The Cannabis Sativa plant to be specific.
CBD, marijuana, and in this case Delta-8 THC are all compounds derived from the C. Sativa plant.
But when most people talk about THC, what they’re really referring to is marijuana or weed or pot aka the stuff that gets you high.
Now this probably isn’t news to you but the scientific name for marijuana is Delta-9 THC.
I’m assuming for the sake of simplicity we chose to make things easier for ourselves so over time the name was simply shortened to “THC”.
Truth is Delta-9 is the most abundant cannabinoid so that probably explains the shortening of the name and why people simply refer to it as such.
Well we’ve since come to find out Delta-9 isn’t the only psychoactive compound found in the cannabis plant.
And that’s where Delta-8 THC comes in.
Delta-8 occurs naturally in most cannabis plants but in much more smaller concentrations compared to Delta-9 THC.
In so many ways both cannabinoids share similar properties but each one has a unique chemical structure and they also differ in how they interact within the body.
Let’s take a brief look at some of those differences and similarities.
Delta-8 THC vs Delta 9
We’ll begin with the easy part, the similarities.
The main similarity between Delta-8 THC and Delta 9 is the fact that they both have psychoactive properties – meaning they both affect or alter the mind.
The level of the high is completely different with each one but the theory still remains the same. (more on this in a later section)
The biggest difference however is in their chemical structure which happens to be the cause of the different levels of interaction.
I hope you’re a huge fan of organic chemistry because this is where all of those college credits kick in.
Delta 8 and Delta 9 are both comprised of what are known as double bond carbon chains.
Those chains are what bind the compounds together and are also responsible for how they attach themselves to the Endocannabinoid receptors.
The difference is Delta-8 THC contains its double bond on the 8th carbon chain while Delta-9 has its bond on the 9th carbon chain, hence their names.
That subtle difference in their chemical structure is all it takes for those compounds to have different effects on how your body reacts to them.
Some other differences worth noting are that Delta-8 THC is not as potent as Delta 9. In fact it’s only half as potent.
And research has also shown that Delta-8 THC does not oxidize to become cannabinol which makes it more stable and gives it a longer shelf life.
See also: Delta-8 vs Delta-9 THC
**Update on the Differences**
I shared this post on LinkedIn and got some amazing positive feedback but this particular comment stood out for me:
I absolutely love it for several reasons:
- It was constructive
- It was extremely helpful
- It was a reminder that you need to be diligent about your research on cannabis
Just in case you’re unable to see the image, here’s what it says:
– The “half as psychoactive” remains up for debate, and the legality issue is grey but leaning illegal.
– Safety is a real concern for more reasons than just contamination, albeit that is a larger one.
– Addiction is absolutely possible (especially to delta-9, but also delta-8) but is far less severe than many other substances.
– Lastly, delta-8 is more stable, but also degrades to CBN.
I’ll continue to update the post as I get more helpful comments like this so feel free to bookmark this page and come back for more.
Delta-8 THC and the ECS
I’ve spoken about the different levels of interaction within the body but what does that really mean and how does it really happen?
Let’s dive into the ECS.
So what is the ECS?
ECS is short for the Endocannabinoid System and it’s generally believed to be responsible for maintaining balance or homeostasis in the body.
The ECS has 3 main components:
- Endocannabinoids – which are molecules or chemicals produced naturally by the body.
- Endocannabinoid receptors – which is what the endocannabinoids attach themselves to and cause all the effects we experience. The 2 main receptors are CB1 and CB2.
- Enzymes – which break down and degrade the endocannabinoids after their work is done.
Delta-8 THC, Delta-9, CBD and any other cannabis extracts are what are known as Phytocannbinoids (phyto means coming from a plant).
They attach themselves to the CB1 and CB2 receptors in a similar manner as our endocannabinoids do.
But once again the chemical structure of each one affects their level of interaction within the ECS.
Our focus here is primarily on the CB1 receptors because they’re responsible for most of the psychotropic effects of THC.
Delta-9 has a much higher affinity for the CB1 receptor and the interaction between both is what causes the euphoric high after consumption.
Delta-8 THC has a lesser affinity for CB1 due to the alteration in its chemical structure which is why it has a lesser psychotropic effect.
In fact Delta-8 is known to cause what many people refer to as a “gradual” high and it also has fewer negative side effects.
Delta-8 also has the ability to interact with the CB2 receptor to monitor energy levels and relaxation unlike Delta-9 which does not.
There’s still a lot of research that needs to be done for us to understand the full potential of the ECS and its interactions with endocannabinoids and phytocannabinoids but current studies are definitely showing a lot of promise in this area.
Is Delta-8 THC Legal?
The 2018 Farm Bill passed in the U.S legalized hemp production and all of its derivatives as long as they contain no more than 0.3% (Delta-9) THC.
That means all naturally occurring hemp derivatives such as CBD, Delta-8 THC, CBG, CBN and so on are considered legal on a federal level.
All EXCEPT for Delta-9 THC.
That said, Delta-8 THC still lies in some sort of a gray area because in August 2020, the DEA made some amendments to the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) with the “Implementation of the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018”.
Basically the newly proposed amendments state that it is not enough that a product is simply labeled or advertised as “hemp” and all synthetically derived tetrahydrocannabinols remain schedule I controlled substances.
So if your Delta-8 THC is naturally derived from the hemp plant and is contained in a product with less than 0.3% Delta-9 THC then yes it is federally legal.
Remember this is only on a FEDERAL level.
State and local jurisdictions also have their regulations you need to be aware of and abide by.
You should always check the legality of cannabis products in any area you live in before making your purchase.
I am not an attorney and none of this information in any way supersedes the information you NEED to get from the right legal sources.
I’ve seen so many people get into trouble because of misinformation or for trying to jump through loopholes.
Cannabis legalization is an ongoing complicated topic and the nature of the law is constantly changing.
I’ll do my best to update this as the news changes but for inherent purposes, all of this information is for education only and is based on my own research at the time.
Why is Delta-8 THC so popular?
Despite the apparent legal gray area, Delta-8 THC has been gaining a lot of mainstream traction.
The biggest reason for that is because of its lesser psychoactive properties compared to Delta-9 THC.
For many people Delta-8 THC is one way to experience a high without doing anything necessarily illegal.
But who knows, we’ve seen the market for other novel cannabinoids such as CBG and CBN continue to decline and with Delta-8 THC being more expensive compared to other alternatives, we never know what direction it might take.
DEA and FDA regulations could also play a huge role in what the market could look like years from now.
But as it stands, there’s definitely an appeal for it and the demand for Delta-8 THC continues to grow as we learn more about its unique properties and uncover all of its wellness potential.
Is Delta-8 THC safe?
Personally I’m always hesitant to answer this particular question with a direct Yes or No response because Delta-8 is a relatively new product and admittedly there still needs to be A LOT of research in general.
But I understand you’re not looking for a technical response so I’ll do my best to give you what I believe to be a diligent answer.
We’ve just seen that Delta-8 is half as potent as Delta-9 THC and has a significantly lower psychoactive effect than its counterpart and that’s a good thing because it means you can still have some sort of cognitive function after consuming any Delta-8 products.
Inherently you also cannot overdose on Delta-8 THC but that doesn’t mean it cannot be potent or overwhelming in high doses.
Can you become addicted to Delta-8 THC?
Well there’s not enough concrete data just yet on Delta-8 addiction but when you consider the fact that many studies have shown marijuana users never come close to being addicted due to built-up tolerance, it’s safe to say we can assume the same for other phytocannabinoids.
That said, there are definitely a few reasons for you to be careful about where you’re getting your Delta-8 products from.
In order to produce Delta-8 THC, the hemp extract is often exposed to different reagents, solvents and acids through a process known as isomerization.
This is something quite common and normal within the industry but there have been reported cases of people using bleach or other harmful chemicals to make Delta-8 THC.
Nobody wants any contaminated products and bleach certainly isn’t something anybody wants in their body.
There’s also the fact that since the industry is still unregulated, there are many people out there trying to make a quick buck from the craze and so you end up with lots of low quality products.
My recommendation to you is this:
- Always request for a Certificate Of Analysis (COA)
- Ask as many questions as you can
- Talk to industry leaders
- Buy from reputable brands
So to answer the question, is Delta-8 THC safe?
Yes it’s considered generally as safe as any other legal cannabis product out there but it’s best to do your own research, stick to reputable brands and also remain aware of your tolerance levels or any significant mental changes you experience when taking Delta-8 THC.
Will Delta-8 THC Get You High?
If you’ve been reading along then you already know the answer to this question.
Yes, Delta-8 THC produces euphoric effects and can get you high.
The difference is the high is not the same as that of Delta-9 and you also experience less of the anxiety or paranoia as you would with marijuana.
Most Delta-8 users claim the experience is a lot smoother and the high is more of a gradual progression.
Think of it this way – Delta-8 THC is more potent than CBD but definitely not as strong as marijuana.
It’s a middle ground of sorts.
What is Delta-8 Distillate?
Delta-8 comes in a variety of products which we’ll go into later but first I want to talk about probably the most potent form of Delta-8 THC you’ll ever run into which is the Delta-8 Distillate.
How is Delta-8 Distillate made?
Delta-8 distillate is a highly potent form of hemp-derived concentrate that has been ultra-refined through a “short path distillation” process.
What you end up with is nothing but pure Delta-8 THC often in the form of a viscous oil with an upward potential of 80-99% purity.
Delta-8 distillate can be further used to make different D8 products but you can also purchase the concentrate for personal use.
If you do decide to purchase any Delta-8 distillate for yourself here are a few things you need to be aware of:
1- The color and consistency
Delta-8 distillate is a viscous oil and usually has a rose color or a light, amber yellow color.
Anything other than that and you need to start asking questions or probably should avoid it altogether.
2 - Clarity
A well refined distillate shouldn’t have any impurities.
Cloudiness or discoloration are never a good sign.
3 - Potency
The potency for Delta-8 distillates varies anywhere from 80-99%.
The choice of potency is yours and obviously comes down to your needs, expected outcomes and your level of tolerance.
The point here is you need to always make sure there is some verifiable proof that the distillate you’re purchasing is actually as potent as it’s being marketed.
4 - Reputation
Long story short, stick to reliable and trustworthy brands.
Those are the people who’ve done their due diligence and can guarantee that you’re always getting a safe and reliable product.
How Do You Use Delta-8 THC?
There are so many different ways you can take Delta-8 THC but they typically fall under one of the following categories:
- Oral Ingestion
- Smoking or Vaping
Even though we all have different experiences and different levels of reaction, I’m going to give you a general idea of what to expect depending on the kind of Delta-8 product you use.
Delta-8 THC Topicals/Creams
- Onset: 15-45 minutes
- Duration: 1-2 hrs (depending on the strength)
- Distribution: The application site only
Topicals typically have the slowest onset because it takes time for anything to be absorbed into the skin and they’re meant only to help the site on which they’re being applied.
Delta-8 THC Edibles
- Onset: 30 minutes – 2 hrs
- Duration: 6-12 hrs
- Distribution: Absorbed in the liver then spread fairly evenly throughout the body
The high from any edibles are noticeably different and take some time to get to their peak but the durations are often the longest.
It’s best to plan well ahead before taking any edibles and never try to indulge in more than the recommended dose.
Delta-8 Sublinguals & Tinctures
- Onset: 15-60 minutes
- Duration: 6-8 hrs
- Distribution: Rapidly absorbed through membranes into the bloodstream and distributed evenly in the body
Sublinguals and tinctures are what you’d consider mid-range products.
The onset and the peak effects are typically drawn out then you start to experience a gradual decline as time goes by.
Delta-8 Smokes & Vapes
- Onset: Almost immediately
- Duration: 2-4 hrs
- Distribution: Inhaled into the lungs then absorbed into the bloodstream which then affects your heart, your brain and the rest of your body as it’s distributed throughout. This is how your high happens.
The most popular Delta-8 products on the market are vapes and cartridges.
They are the quickest way for you to get the full effect of any cannabinoids.
Keep in mind none of these numbers are set in stone and there are a few key factors that come into play such as the strain of the hemp plant, the dose being taken and the actual individual who’s taking it.
Always go for the option that best suits your needs.
Benefits of Delta-8 THC
Much of the appeal for Delta-8 THC is the promise of a lesser high and fewer side effects but even with the limited research, there are definitely promising signs that it could have some therapeutic benefits.
Some of the potential benefits of Delta-8 THC include:
- Appetite stimulant
- Neuroprotective properties
- Lesser Psychotropic Effects
1 - Delta-8 THC as an Antiemetic
A 1995 study showed the potential for Delta 8 as an efficient new cannabinoid antiemetic in pediatric oncology.
The researchers gave Delta-8 THC to 8 different participants (aged 3-13 years old) and as a result were able to prevent vomiting due to the cancer treatment and all the children had negligible side effects.
2 - Delta-8 THC as an Anxiolytic
That same 1995 study noted that “most side effects of delta-9-THC, in particular anxiety, are more prevalent in an adult population than in a younger one and as a result, delta-8-THC could possibly be administered to children in higher doses than those given to adult patients.”
There are also many reported consumer cases of Delta-8 giving you a “high” without any of the anxiety or paranoia effects like Delta-9 THC.
3 - Delta-8 THC as an Analgesic and Anti-inflammatory
A much more recent study done in 2018 showed Delta-8 (and CBD) could reduce corneal hyperalgesia and inflammation in mice.
The study also showed the potential for treating pain and inflammation with topical cannabinoids.
4 - Delta-8 THC as an Antitumor
Research on the antineoplastic activity of cannabinoids showed “Lewis lung adenocarcinoma growth was retarded by the oral administration of delta9-THC, delta8-THC, and cannabinol (CBN), but not cannabidiol (CBD)”.
5 - Delta-8 THC as an Appetite Stimulant
A 2004 study showed that even very low doses of THC could increase food consumption and improve cognitive function, without cannabimimetic side effects.
Interestingly enough, the study also showed that Delta-8 THC increased food intake significantly more than did delta-9 THC which means low doses of Delta-8 THC could potentially play a significant role in the treatment of weight disorders.
6 - Neuroprotective Properties of Delta-8 THC
Several studies have also shown Delta-8 could have some viable potential for improving cognitive function.
Research as far back as 1987 using mice models showed that Delta-8 THC increased acetylcholine (ACh) in the cortex and hippocampus, while also decreasing ACh turnover in the hippocampus.
A separate study in 1994 on the suppression of experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis showed that Delta-8 THC significantly reduced the incidence and severity of neurological deficit in both rat strains.
7 - Lesser Psychotropic Effects
The main reason for the sudden interest in Delta-8 THC is because it exhibits a lower psychotropic potency than its counterpart Delta-9 THC and there is lots of clinical research to back up that theory.
Delta-8 could have a lot of medicinal potential but the “lesser high” is definitely what makes it such a big deal.
The research is promising but it’s also very limited and outside of subjective reports, there haven’t been many human trials for us to understand all the therapeutic potential and full benefits of Delta-8 THC.
Truth is the legal battles surrounding Delta-8 have definitely made it a lot more difficult for studies to be done and for us to get concrete data.
We still have a long way to go but good news is there are a lot more patents pending and there are definitely people willing to do the research so we can get a full grasp of all these benefits.
It is also worth noting that the FDA hasn’t officially approved Delta-8 THC for the treatment of any diseases or conditions.
Much of the research is still preliminary so please use your own sound judgement and ALWAYS consult with the right healthcare professionals when you need to.
Side Effects of Delta-8 THC
I’m going to preface this by repeating what I’ve been saying all along.
There’s still very limited research on Delta-8 THC and not only is the legal battle fluid, it’s something that seems to be constantly changing.
So for those reasons alone, it’s tough for us to have any definitive information on all of the side effects you could experience after taking or using Delta-8 THC.
However here’s what we know so far:
The high from Delta-8 THC is definitely not as potent as that of Delta-9 but there’s still a high nonetheless and that’s something that may not be for everybody.
If you’re someone who wants to completely avoid any of the euphoric effects then simply stick to CBD products.
Increased Blood Pressure
A study done on rats showed that Delta-8 THC (and Delta-9) had some vasoconstrictive effects which led to increased blood pressure.
The resulting high blood pressure was also followed by longer hypotensive responses and bradycardia.
Increased Heart Rate
A 2018 systemic review showed that Delta-8 increased the heart rate in humans but caused bradycardia, hypotension and increased blood flow in animals.
They determined that THC acts differently according to species and experimental conditions but also concluded that the data is “limited”.
The overall gist is more (human) research is needed and even though there are suggestions that Delta-8 may have similar effects as those of Delta-9, much of that is inconclusive and ultimately comes down to personal experience.
Delta-8 THC Drug Test
So will Delta-8 THC show up on a drug test?
The short and simple answer is Yes, it’s possible for you to fail a drug test after taking Delta-8.
But for the whole thing to make sense you have to understand how drug tests work.
THC just like almost any other thing we consume is broken down into smaller molecules known as THC metabolites.
What most drug tests are looking for is the chemical signal or presence of those THC metabolites.
Although there are other ways to test for THC, in most cases you’ll end up taking a urine test.
Urine tests do not test for the level or type of THC you consumed. They simply test for the presence of ANY cannabis.
So it doesn’t matter if it was Delta-8 or Delta-9, whether you vaped, smoked or if it was an edible or whether it was just a one time thing.
If any level of THC shows up on your drug test, you’ll fail.
If you are a sporadic consumer and take products that contain the legal amount of 0.3% THC or less then you might be just fine.
But if you use regularly then the concentrations in your system could easily build up and your odds of failing the drug test are even higher.
Typically urine tests may detect THC metabolites within 1-5 days after occasional use, 1-3 weeks in regular users, and 4-6 weeks in multiple daily users.
If you are worried about the drug test you can always do your own private tests at home or maybe consider slowing down your rate of consumption and doing a cleanse prior.
I’m sure this may not be the answer you’re looking for but honestly the only way to be certain about passing your drug test is to refrain for a while.
Top Recommended Delta-8 THC Brands
If you’re in the market for some high quality Delta-8 THC products, here are a few of the top brands I definitely recommend:
What I like about Delta Effex is they specialize in nothing but Delta-8 which means you end up with nothing but high quality products.
They offer cartridges, disposables, edibles, pods and tinctures.
If you want to see my full list of the best Delta-8 THC brands then read this post.
Final Thoughts on Delta-8 THC
Current trends show that Delta-8 is growing in popularity and the fact that more products are becoming readily available is probably suggestive that more people are interested.
There’s still a lot of research that needs to happen and we obviously have to navigate all the legal issues involving the FDA, DEA, local jurisdictions and so on.
However there seems to be a lot of promise in terms of Delta-8’s potential therapeutic benefits and its use as part of wellness regimens.
If you ask me, I think we could be headed in the right direction as long as the industry as a whole can focus on nothing but high quality products.
However part of me also knows the jury is still out on whether Delta-8 is the answer many people have been looking for.
If any of this is new to you, my recommendation is always do your research first, start with small doses and keep track of any effects you experience.
Goes without saying you should always talk with the right medical professionals when in doubt.
I hope you found this article useful and I’d love to hear your thoughts on how you feel about Delta-8 THC or what direction you potentially see this going.