Delta 8 THC, a close cousin of the Delta 9 THC associated with the euphoric “high” of marijuana, has rapidly gained in popularity in recent years. In fact, in some states, you can find delta 8 THC everywhere from boutique dispensaries to convenience stores. Delta 8 has been widely touted by hemp and cannabis aficionados as a mild alternative to Delta 9, with Delta 8 THC products ranging from tinctures and gel capsules to gummies and other types of edibles.
Much of delta 8’s popularity stems from the fact that, unlike Delta 9 THC, which is considered a controlled substance, the Delta 8 compound is legal for use in almost all states—at least for now.
Where is Delta 8 Legal? [As of 2023]
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- North Carolina
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
- Washington D.C.
Delta 8 THC currently is the fastest-growing hemp derivative on the market. In fact, Google searches for the term, “Delta 8” increased by upwards of 850 percent in the U.S. between 2020 and 2021, most notably in states where recreational marijuana currently remains illegal. And according to one recent study, approximately 16 percent of regular cannabis or marijuana users also report using a Delta 8 product. But because it exists in a legal limbo, it can often be difficult to determine whether state law in your area makes Delta 8 THC legal for purchase and use.
Of course, if you do your research and determine that Delta 8 THC is illegal in your state, you should refrain from attempting to purchase it. But even if you find that Delta 8 THC is legal for purchase in your state, you should consult your doctor, as always, before adding a Delta 8 product to your health and wellness regimen. If you’re already taking prescription medications, there’s a chance that it could cause an adverse effect.
As always, it’s important to make sure that any delta 8 product you purchase comes from a reputable distributor that can verify its purity and safety. Many responsible manufacturers and distributors will provide full, third-party verified laboratory documentation about their products, which can assure its safety.
What is Delta 8?
Delta 8 tetrahydrocannabinol, which also is known as simply Delta 8 THC, is a psychoactive compound that naturally occurs in the cannabis sativa plant. Delta 8 THC is one of more than 100 chemical compounds produced by the cannabis plant—hemp oil and CBD oil both are derived from the cannabis sativa plant. If you need a primer on the similarities and differences between hemp oil vs. CBD oil, our experts can provide clarity.
In terms of its chemical structure, Delta 8 THC is almost identical to the highly familiar Delta 9 THC, which is the most common psychoactive compound found within the marijuana plant, typically occurring in naturally high concentrations. Both chemical compounds behave in similar ways within the human body in that they both bind to the same receptors in the brain, particularly the cannabinoid type one receptor, which produces the high that THC is known for. But Delta 8’s bond with the CB1 receptor is generally weaker. For these reasons, you may see Delta 8 referred to as “marijuana lite” or “diet weed,” chiefly because the high it produces is milder than those associated with Delta 9. Side effects like anxiety and paranoia tend to be much less potent with delta 8 THC, if experienced at all.
It’s important to note that Delta 8 THC doesn’t naturally occur at high levels within the hemp or cannabis plant. In fact, Delta 8 accounts for a mere .1 percent of all compounds found in the hemp plant. Because the natural level of Delta 8 THC in hemp is so low, other chemicals must be added to it in order to convert other present cannabinoids, like CBD and CBDA and CBGA, into Delta 8 THC. This is known as synthetic THC conversion.
Why is Delta 8 Legal?
Delta 8 is legal chiefly because it is extracted almost entirely from hemp derived CBD, which has, by federal law, been legal to farm across the United States since the Agriculture and Nutrition Improvement Act of 2018, also known as the Farm Bill. These products can be sold so long as they don’t contain more than .3 percent Delta 9 THC. Unlike Delta 9 THC, Delta 8 TCH is in a legally gray area. The 2018 bill doesn’t explicitly mention delta 8 THC in any way; either to approve or deny its legality. Because of this loophole, distributors can sell Delta 8 THC without breaking federal law.
In many states, hemp products that contain higher amounts of Delta 8 THC can be bought and sold so long as they come from hemp that doesn’t register more than .3 percent delta 9 THC. Unlike CBD legality, the legal status of Delta 8 THC was essentially established by omission.
Even though Delta 8 THC naturally occurs in trace amounts in both hemp and cannabis plants, savvy manufacturers have developed a method of producing it from CBD. Because CBD products are legal, the argument is that any Delta 8 product also must be legal.
This practice of marketing and distributing Delta 8 THC isn’t without controversy, though, and many states have moved to restrict or ban its use as a controlled substance. This response is primarily connected to the fact that there is currently little to no oversight of Delta 8 THC products. This, combined with the fact that it’s a synthetic cannabinoid, introduces tremendous opportunity for product contamination with other cannabinoids and heavy metals, along with predatory marketing and distribution practices that raise serious safety concerns for consumers. In other words, what’s listed on a product label may or may not reflect what’s really in a product—both in terms of Delta 8 potency and the presence of unwanted contaminants.
Does Delta 8 Show Up on Drug Tests?
When considering the legality of Delta 8, it’s also important to consider drug testing. Because Delta 8 is a THC compound, it may result in a positive drug test if it’s in your system. Existing drug testing technology cannot distinguish between Delta 8 and Delta 9 THC, so if you are regularly tested for THC or know you have a drug test coming up, you should avoid using Delta 8 products.
It’s also important to remember that the use of Delta 8 THC remains a volatile law enforcement issue, and at least 12 states have implemented specific state law against it. So, although a state may be listed as defining the use of Delta 8 as legal, state law can change at any time. Be sure to check on the legal status within your particular state before moving forward with any Delta 8 product purchase. In several states, the legality of Delta 8 is currently pending, and state law may be subject to change at any moment.
What are the Benefits of Delta 8?
It’s important to remember that there is very little clinical research into the benefits of Delta 8, so most claims are anecdotal in nature. Because Delta 8 is a THC compound, it does produce a sense of euphoria and relaxation, though these feelings are less potent than the “high” associated with Delta 9 THC. For many Delta 8 users, that’s a key benefit. The psychoactive effect of a Delta 8 product is generally milder, and its side effects are less severe than those experienced when using Delta 9 THC.
Many users of Delta 8 also say that, especially when used adjunctively, Delta 8 can help with symptoms of anxiety and depression. There also are reports that Delta 8 can help with nausea and pain relief, and can help stop vomiting in patients undergoing chemotherapy treatment. Additionally, users report that Delta 8 can increase appetite and boost mental health. However, none of these claims are supported by clinical evidence at this point.
Keep in mind that if you’re seeking a Delta 8 product for therapeutic effects, you may also see similar effects when using CBD products or other hemp products. If you’re unclear on the therapeutic benefits of CBD vs. THC, Farmer & Chemist can help.
What are the Drawbacks of Delta 8?
The chief drawback of Delta 8 is the question of its safety for the end user. It’s an unregulated and untested product, so a distributor can essentially make any claim when marketing a Delta 8 product. If you’re not careful, you could end up with a Delta 8 THC product that contains more harmful elements.
In fact, both the United States Food and Drug Administration and the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have issued health warnings about Delta 8 THC, reporting that calls to poison control centers regarding synthetic THC products have increased in recent years, along with reports of adverse events severe enough to require medical attention and sometimes even hospitalization.
In fact, national poison control centers estimate they have received more than 2,000 calls about Delta 8 between January 2021 and February 2022. They also report that 41 percent of those calls involved children who accidentally ingested products containing Delta 8 THC.
Additionally, one recent study from the U.S. Cannabis Council found contaminants in Delta 8 products that were tested. And scientists at the University of Rochester published findings in which none of a set of 27 Delta 8 products contained the amount of Delta 8 their product packaging claimed. In fact, all 27 were found to include potentially harmful byproducts—like other cannabinoids and heavy metals, including lead and mercury.
Some users of delta 8 have reported side effects including confusion, low blood pressure, increased or dramatically slowed heart rate, drowsiness, numbness, and anxiety. Others report dry mouth, red eyes, memory loss, lack of coordination, and slowed reaction time—all similar side effects to those reported with Delta 9 THC use, but reported at a lower level of intensity.
Delta 8 THC: Here to Stay or Passing Fad?
Delta 8 THC currently lives in a murky legal area that may raise serious questions about its safety. Evidence suggests that, while Delta 8 THC may be no more dangerous on its own than Delta 9 THC, the fact that it’s completely unregulated, plus the fact that it must undergo a synthetic production process, introduces plenty of opportunity for unsafe and potentially predatory practices that could harm consumers.
If you’re considering trying a Delta 8 THC product, be sure to discuss all of your options with your physician first, along with verifying state law in your area. You may be able to find alternative products, like lab-tested CBD products, that are safer and more effective for meeting your therapeutic needs.