While most of the attention on cannabis research and development of products is focused on cannabinol (CBD) and delta-9 THC, there has been growing interest in minor cannabinoids such as delta-8 THC for its potential wellness benefits, and as a legal way to achieve a psychoactive cannabis high.
When vaped, smoked, or ingested, delta-8 THC products produce a high very similar to THC in marijuana—but remain legal on a federal level due to unclear distinctions in cannabis laws, which is why hemp-derived delta-8 product sales have been rapidly increasing in the United States.
One of the biggest questions surrounding recreational cannabis and delta-8 THC is whether or not it's safe.
There are state health departments looking to ban the production and sale of delta-8 and other THC isomers in an attempt to protect the public against serious health risks.
States like Texas have attempted to ban delta-8 THC, but their efforts were unsuccessful as there wasn't enough evidence to suggest that delta-8 THC from hemp leads to serious adverse events that could pose health risks.
Overall, high-quality delta-8 THC products taken responsibly have been found to be reasonably safe for most individuals. The problems and risks lie in certain manufacturing processes.
In this article, we'll break down what exactly delta-8 THC is, how it's made, potential negative reactions, and whether delta-8 THC products are safe.
- Delta-8 THC is an isomer of the main psychoactive cannabinoid, delta-9 THC which is found in hemp and marijuana plants.
- Delta-8 from industrial hemp plants is considered legal under federal law, and many recreational cannabis users are using delta-8 products for its relaxing and mind-altering effects.
- Because delta-8 THC exists in very small concentrated amounts naturally, it's typically manufactured from CBD through a chemical process. As long as the manufacturer takes careful measures to remove all potential contaminants, the delta-8 THC product is safe for consumption. This is why third-party lab testing is so important for cannabis products.
- State laws have different viewpoints on delta-8 THC, so it's best to check with your local laws before purchasing.
- Beware of synthetically produced cannabinoids—that is chemical-based cannabinoids not found in nature like K2 or Spice as these are federally illegal and have been deemed a public health risk for their tendency for hospitalization and even death.
- Although most manufacturers use a chemical reaction to transform CBD into delta-8 for mass production, it's not considered a synthetic cannabinoid as it is found in nature.
What Exactly is Delta-8 THC?
You may have seen delta-8 THC products popping up all over the internet recently.
But what exactly is this cannabinoid, and what sets it apart from its more well-known cousin, delta-9 THC? To understand delta-8, we need to first take a look at isomers.
Isomers are molecules that have the same chemical formula but are arranged differently on an atomic level. This gives them different properties, even though they're made of the same exact atoms.
Both delta-8 and delta-9 THC have the chemical formula C21H30O2, but their molecules are arranged differently.
This gives delta-8 a slightly different effect than delta-9 in the endocannabinoid system.
Delta-8 is said to be about half as potent as delta-9 THC, but it's also said to be less anxiousness-inducing. Some people find that delta-8 provides a clearheaded high that's perfect for daytime use.
How Is Delta-8 THC Harvested From The Cannabis Sativa Plant?
Harvesting delta-8 THC from the cannabis Sativa plant is a process that begins with extracting cannabinoids from the plant material.
The most common method of extraction is supercritical co2 extraction, which uses pressurized CO2 to strip the cannabinoids from the plant matter. Once the cannabinoids have been extracted, they are then isolated through short path distillation.
This process involves boiling the cannabinoids down to their individual components, which allows for the delta-8 THC to be isolated from other cannabinoids in the extract. After the delta-8 THC has been isolated, it is then ready for use in products such as edibles, topicals, and tinctures.
The tricky thing about this whole process is that delta-8 THC is a minor cannabinoid—it doesn't exist in hemp plants in large quantities.
A commonly applied technique for yielding industrial quantities of delta-8 THC involves converting CBD from hemp into delta-8 THC through a chemical process with acids and solvents.
While there are companies doing this fairly cleanly and responsibly, by ensuring there are no leftover hazardous materials left behind, there are some delta-8 THC products that contain traces of solvents and heavy metals that could lead to potential risks for certain individuals, especially those with a compromised immune system.
This is why third-party testing is key to sourcing high-quality hemp-derived cannabidiol and delta-8 THC.
Delta-8 THC Safety Concerns
Delta-8 and delta-9 THC share many of the same properties. They both interact with CB1 endocannabinoid receptors in the central nervous system to produce their effects.
Delta-8 THC has psychoactive and intoxicating effects.
Taking too much delta-8 THC can lead to undesirable side effects such as anxious feelings, paranoia, dry mouth, upset stomach, and drowsiness. If you're under the influence of delta-8 THC, you should not drive or operate heavy machinery as it can impair your judgment and reaction time.
There's also the issue that some companies selling delta-8 THC and CBD oil are marketing the products irresponsibly, making health claims that could put public health at risk.
The Food And Drug Administration (FDA) has not evaluated the safety of delta-8 THC products that are widely available at hemp stores, gas stations, or sold online, which means there are a lot of unregulated products on the market.
Steer clear from any brands that tell you that their CBD oil or delta-8 oil care cure, mitigate, or treat health conditions, which can stop people from getting professional medical advice they should receive from their doctors.
The FDA is cracking down on brands that do this with fines and pulling products off the shelf.
Delta-8 THC products may contain impurities that can cause adverse side effects. The FDA has received over a hundred reports of adverse events in patients from consuming contaminated delta-8 THC products. As a result, it is important to purchase delta-8 THC products from a reputable source.
Finally, Delta-8 THC can interact with other medications, so it is important to speak with a healthcare provider before using delta-8 THC products.
Despite these safety concerns, delta-8 THC products can be a safe and effective way to experience the benefits of cannabis without the intensity of delta-9 THC.
Why Is Delta-8 THC Legal?
Delta-8 THC became legal the same moment that hemp plants were removed from the list of federally controlled substances with the 2018 revision of the Farm Bill.
The United States Farm Bill is a piece of legislation that is renewed every five years. It sets agricultural and food policy for the country. Farmers and food producers lobby for their interests, and environmentalists and consumer advocates try to influence the bill as well. As a result, the Farm Bill is always a fascinating mix of politics and policy.
The 2018 Farm Bill was important for the cannabis industry as it created a legal distinction between hemp and marijuana.
Hemp plants, by definition, cannot contain more than 0.3% delta-9 THC by dried weight. It legalized the crop for farming and production into a myriad of products—including textiles, biodiesel, food, and hemp supplements made from its cannabinoids.
Delta-8 THC became legal through an interesting loophole in the 2018 Farm Bill, which didn't specifically mention other isomers of delta-9 THC. As a result, delta-8 THC derived from hemp plants, maintaining less than 0.3% is legal.
There are some states attempting to ban delta-8 THC altogether because of the potential health risks involved, which don't actually come from the cannabinoid itself but from how the cannabinoid is produced.
Is Delta-8 THC Safe To Smoke Or Vape?
Inhaling any product poses a certain level of a health risk as smoke and vapor can be damaging to the lungs.
Delta-8 THC itself has been found to be relatively safe in animal trials, with no lethal doses found that any person could have access to—but it doesn't mean it's entirely without risk.
The biggest concern is that smoking any cannabinoid produces stronger and faster-acting effects that can lead to higher instances of adverse effects, such as feelings of anxiousness, general discomfort, paranoia, dry mouth, drowsiness, headaches, and impaired judgments.
Another concerning factor is in the production of the delta-8 THC smokable products on the market.
Some hemp extracts may contain traces of chemicals that could be very irritating to the lungs, which is why it's so important to ensure you're purchasing high-quality hemp products to reduce harm and instances of adverse events.
What's The Safest Way To Consume Delta-8 THC?
Eating cannabis-derived products may be the safest way to consume delta-8. But just make sure the ingredient list checks out and that the company provides third-party lab tests to verify its potency, contents, and safety.
Edibles tend to have a slower onset than other methods of consumption, so you can start with a low dose and see how you feel before increasing.
And since they're digestible, there's less risk of accidentally inhaling delta-8 fumes (which can be irritating to your lungs).
Is Delta-8 THC Safe While Pregnant Or Breastfeeding?
Health organizations strongly advise that pregnant and breastfeeding individuals stay away from all cannabis products as they may have detrimental effects on a developing fetus and babies.
Cannabinoids at fat-soluble and are known to store in fat tissue, which can then be passed onto the infant while breastfeeding.
It's not ethical to conduct scientific research studies on pregnant and breastfeeding human subjects. However, animal-based models have found that fetuses exposed to cannabinoids have higher instances of low birth weight .
Is Delta-8 THC Safe For Dogs And Cats?
When it comes to giving your pet delta-8 THC, the short answer is no, you shouldn't do it.
Psychoactive cannabinoid products are not safe for animals, period. Giving your pet a psychoactive substance can cause psychological distress.
If you're looking to support your pet's health and wellness with cannabinoid products, you could give them CBD oil. CBD is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid that many pet owners find helpful in supporting their pet's mood, sleep, nervous behavior, and general discomfort.
When shopping for CBD oil for your pets, make sure that it is designed for pets but made with human-grade materials.
Animals are much more sensitive to cannabinoids than we are, so a little goes a long way. You also want to make sure that you shop with a brand that can provide third-party lab tests to indicate the cannabinoid profile, potency, and safety of the product.
While there's no definitive evidence that delta-8 THC is harmful to pets, it's best to err on the side of caution and keep it away from your furry friends.
If you think your pet has accidentally ingested delta-8 THC (or any other cannabinoid product), contact your veterinarian immediately. They'll be able to assess the situation and provide any necessary treatment. In the meantime, try to relax—chances are your pet will be just fine.
How To Shop For High-Quality Cannabis Products (Delta-8 THC)
When it comes to shopping for high-quality cannabis products, there are a few key things to keep in mind. First, be sure to check the source of the product. Hemp that is grown in controlled environments is more likely to be free of contaminants and pesticides.
Second, look for products that are lab-tested and have a Certificate of Analysis (COA). This document provides information about the product's cannabinoid content and purity.
Third, make sure the product is packaged in a child-resistant container. This will help to ensure that only adults have access to the product. Finally, take the time to read customer reviews before making a purchase.
By following these simple tips, you can be sure that you're getting the best possible product for your needs.
The Takeaway: Is Delta-8 THC—Is It Safe?
Delta-8 is an isomer to the main psychoactive compound in marijuana, delta-9 THC. Delta-8 derived from federally legal hemp plants has become many people's alternative to achieving the mind-altering effects of a marijuana high.
Delta-8 is different from delta-9 in that it is less psychoactive and has potential therapeutic benefits without the "high." Delta-8 has been shown to reduce anxiety and nausea, and it also has neuroprotective properties.
So, is delta-8 safe? Overall, yes. However, it is important to start with a low dose and increase gradually as tolerance builds. As with anything, there are potential side effects, such as the dry mouth and red eyes. However, delta-8 appears to be a safe alternative for those looking for the potential benefits of cannabis without the high.
The biggest cause for concern is in the production of delta-8 THC, or any cannabinoid for that matter.
The starting raw material will have a big impact on the quality of the product.
Check to make sure the brand uses organic hemp crops, free from pesticides, and uses clean extraction methods like supercritical CO2, which doesn't leave behind solvents that can become irritating when consumed.
Since there's no way to take the company's word for the quality of their product and this industry is largely unregulated, always check the certificate of analysis from third-party lab reports that can vouch for the safety and quality of the product.
- Wu, C. S., Jew, C. P., & Lu, H. C. (2011). Lasting impacts of prenatal cannabis exposure and the role of endogenous cannabinoids in the developing brain. Future neurology, 6(4), 459-480.