What is Delta-8?

Even with the widespread adoption of cannabidiol (CBD) derived from hemp, the legalization of industrial scale hemp cultivation and the decriminalization of marijuana in many areas of the country, a heavy stigma still surrounds any products related to the cannabis plant.  

Considering that the War on Drugs has been waged for 40 years, starting in 1971 and continuing to this very day, it is not entirely surprising new cannabis innovations are met with resistance. An aversion to the cannabis plant seems hardwired into the DNA of regulators and lawmakers. Delta-8 is a great case study of this phenomena.

Hemp versus Marijuana 

There is no taxonomical difference between hemp and marijuana. They are the same species of plant. Hemp describes a cannabis plant that contains 0.3 percent or less Delta-9 Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) by dry weight. Delta-9 THC is generally referred to simply as THC.  

Hemp is a legal term and not a scientific one. Not to put too fine of a point on it, but hemp is simply marijuana that does not have psychoactive properties because of the low THC content. This is how hemp legalization made it into the 2018 Farm Bill.  

THC is just one of many cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant and is responsible for most of marijuana’s psychoactive properties. Stripped of the ability to get the user high, hemp still has many functions. Its fibrous properties make it ideal for paper, clothing, textile, and plastic production.  

Hemp agriculture is viewed as being more sustainable than rival crops because it is fast growing. Hemp also has nutritional value. The seeds are a source of protein, and it is used in the manufacture of animal feed, protein powders, hemp oils and even hemp milk.

Manufacturing CBD 

Hemp has many novel uses but it is best known as being the source of CBD. While CBD can also be made from flowering marijuana plants rich in THC, any legal CBD you find on store shelves is being extracted from legally grown hemp plants.   

There are several reasons this is the case. The first is legality. CBD extracted from hemp is legal in all 50 states. Hemp also contains more CBD, and far less THC as discussed above, than marijuana. The final reason is price. With widespread legal agriculture allowed, hemp is currently far less expensive than THC laden marijuana.  

CBD is naturally occurring in the hemp plant but just one of many compounds. Delta-8, Delta-9, Delta-10, and countless terpenes are also found in the plant. Extracting CBD from the stems and leaves of a hemp plant to create a usable oil requires processing. Carbon dioxide (CO2) extraction is one method of extracting CBD oil from the hemp plant. Taking advantage of CO2’s ability to function as a liquid solid or gas, the final product is some of the purest CBD. The equipment is expensive, and a deft hand is required to operate the three-chamber system efficiently.  

For this reason, the safe, simple, and effective method of ethanol extraction is more common. While very time efficient, ethanol extraction does destroy the cannabis plant waxes, and any cannabinoids contained within. The resulting pure oil is ideal for CBD vape pens and similar products.  

The use of liquid solvents is the most efficient way to produce CBD oil from the hemp plant. Reputable manufacturers can easily avoid some of pitfalls of this method, particularly the inability of some solvents to remove chlorophyll which has a bitter flavor and other impurities.

Purifying CBD Oil 

Distillation is one of several methods used to refine CBD oil for consumption. Distillation takes advantage of the varying boiling points of the constituent parts of the hemp oil.  

Another method of purifying the final CBD oil product is winterization. The extracted CBD oil is mixed 200 proof alcohol to create a solution which can be filtered. After filtering the CBD oil to the desired purity, the alcohol is evaporated off and only CBD oil is left behind.  

What is Delta-8? 

Hopefully we did not get too far into the weeds when discussing the cultivation and extraction of CBD. Delta-8 is not present in high concentrations in either hemp or marijuana plants. It is extracted from the same CBD that you find on store shelves. The manufacture of CBD is the first step of two steps necessary to produce Delta-8 in a commercially viable manner.   

Note that because it is derived from CBD and hemp, the raw materials used to make Delta-8 can be traced back to the US grown hemp that was legalized by the 2018 Farm Bill. Legal hemp is a tightly regulated industry and the limitations on THC content are strictly enforced. 

Delta-8 is one of many cannabinoids found in both hemp and marijuana. The current cultivars of marijuana have been selectively bred for high Delta-9 THC content and as a result Delta-8 is only present in minute quantities.  

Scientifically, the only difference between Delta-8 and the more well-known Delta-9 THC (THC) is the location of the double bond between two carbons. Delta-8 an isomer of Delta-9 THC. The effects of Delta-8 are usually described as being roughly akin to THC but considerably milder. This is especially pronounced because selective breeding has really ratcheted up the THC content of modern cannabis plants.   

Delta-8 could technically be extracted from marijuana flower, which also contains CBD. As discussed above, hemp-derived CBD is both legal and economically viable. Its widespread availability is why a cannabinoid like Delta-8 can now be sold as a standalone product.  

Predictable Attacks on Delta-8 Manufacturing 

Delta-8 is manufactured from the very same CBD which is found in sundry wellness products. Yet unlike CBD, Delta-8 is not currently being treated with as a cannabinoid worthy of research and support.  

Instead, it is being treated like a Schedule I drug by regulators and like black market bath salts by the news media. Neither of these is a fair or accurate assessment of Delta-8. The fact that Delta-8 is extracted in from CBD in a controlled laboratory setting is expected to scare potential users.  

Of course, CBD is also extracted from the hemp plant but in 2021 it is immune to these criticisms. This due to the popularity of CBD and its long safety track record. The clear-cut legality of CBD also protects it such erroneous of these criticisms.  

There is no better way to scare the average American than to treat scientific processes as frightening or mysterious. Chemical names can be used to generate hysteria. Consider the early days of vaping when critics pretended like vape juice was made from anti-freeze because of the use of PG. Or critics of Botox claiming forgetting that the dose makes the poison and instead claimed that people were injecting Botulism into their face.   

Similar tactics are being used against Delta-8. The attacks on Delta-8 ignore the fact that everything is technically a chemical and there are plenty of things in “nature” that are exceedingly harmful. Arsenic and mercury are two examples. Fortunately, hemp products and Delta-8 extracted from CBD are not on this list.

How is Delta-8 Made? 

The Delta-8 currently available on the US market is made through the isomerization of CBD. This is simple chemistry. The most common concerns voiced about Delta-8 revolve around what could happen if a disreputable company made contaminated Delta-8. This exact same critique could be applied to any consumable product on the market, including food, beverages, health and nutritional supplements.   

A situation where bad actors could wreak havoc would seem to warrant supporting reputable manufacturers. Measured responses rarely follow when cannabis is involved and prohibition has been suggested instead, despite this approach never working. In unrelated news, there has been another organic spinach e Coli outbreak. 

Converting CBD into Delta-8 involves refluxing an organic solvent or using another acid as a catalyst. The reaction generally runs from 60 to 90 minutes. According to a feature in the American Chemical Society on Delta-8, “You basically close the ring on the CBD molecule.” The process converts CBD into Delta-8 with small amounts of Delta-9 and Delta-10 THC as a byproduct.  

Concerns that the byproducts generated when CBD is processed into Delta-8 are unfounded. Tranquil 8 uses the most exacting standards to make sure this is not the case. Distillation, chromatography, and pH testing can all be used to identify and remove any unwanted byproducts. Only after passing these rigorous quality standards is the final product ready for sale.  

The conversion of CBD to Delta-8 is an exothermic reaction that generates significant heat. Reputable manufacturers will use glycol chillers, dry ice, or acetone to keep the equipment and reaction cool.  

While it is conceivable that individuals and fly-by night operations will attempt to manufacture their own Delta-8, CBD is quite inexpensive in the United States. Reputable manufacturers have every reason to purchase both CBD and Delta-8 from established and certified labs. 

Delta-8 Legality 

Delta-8 is legal on the federal level. The science is clear cut. It contains less than the 0.3 percent THC limit outlined in the 2018 Farm Bill because it is made from hemp-derived CBD.  

Unfortunately, Delta-8 is seen as abiding by the letter and not the spirit of the law. Hemp is legal because it does not contain THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. The simple expedient of converting hemp derived CBD into Delta-8 allows companies to sell a product derived from CBD with mild psychoactive properties. Due to its lower potency, many prefer the milder impact of Delta-8.  

Naturally, any effort to defy the spirit rather of the law is going to raise eyebrows. This is especially the case when cannabis is involved. Many states are cracking down on Delta-8, as it is viewed as a backdoor effort at legalization. Delta-8 also exists outside of the expensive dispensary licensing fees that many states use to raise revenue.  

Delta-8 Laws by State 

Federal law is clear cut, but state laws vary greatly. Laws are subject to change and court challenges, but Delta-8 is currently legal in Washington D.C. and 28 other states. These states are Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.  

Delta-8 is regulated in the same way as recreational cannabis in Connecticut and Michigan. There are five states where the legality of Delta-8 remains unclear. These are Arizona, California, Mississippi, Nebraska, and Kentucky. The fourteen states where Delta-8 is illegal are Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Idaho, Iowa, Louisiana, Montana, New York, Nevada, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Utah.

Effects of Delta-8 

Unlike the CBD from whence it came, Delta-8 does have psychoactive properties. It is viewed as less potent than THC. We recommended that anyone using it start slowly, carefully measuring their dose. If you had an adverse response to regular THC, you should also avoid Delta-8.  

The product strengths are listed on the packaging, making it easy to track your intake. Yet even veteran THC users should proceed slowly. 

Many of its advocates of Delta-8 claim it causes less anxiety or paranoia than traditional THC, but if either of these were an issue for you in the past, please refrain from using Delta-8.  

Greg Gerdeman, acting CEO and President of Nashville Commodities Exchange, has devoted his professional career as a scientist to hemp and derivative products. As he explained to the American Chemical Society, “The beauty of cannabis is you don’t get fatal overdoses, but it can make you feel absolutely horrible.”  

Lack of Research? 

Apart from the misplaced concerns over bad actors manufacturing Delta-8, an issue easily averted by purchasing high-quality products from reputable manufacturers, the lack of scientific research is also used to tar the reputation of Delta-8.  

This is double dealing at its worst. With common sense laws, there is no reason why selective breeding could not create a marijuana cultivar that is high in Delta-8. It is naturally occurring within the cannabis plant.  

The critique that Delta-8 has not been the subject of robust, gold-standard, peer-reviewed research in the US can be just as easily applied to CBD, marijuana and just about any health supplement on the market today.  

The lack of research on CBD and Delta-8 can be traced to the restrictive laws and criminalization of hemp for almost 40 years. The United States government forcefully and unequivocally limited cannabis research for decades 

Nor has the US government proved to be tan effective steward of public health when it comes to protecting the public. As reported by Rutgers Center for Alcohol and Substance Use Studies, a four sentence letter to the editor claiming that  Oxycontin was not addictive proved sufficient evidence to unleash a power opioid onto the market. Opiates now claim 100,000 lives through overdose alone annually.  

The adverse events related to Delta-8 can be largely averted when customers turn to reputable manufacturers. CBD, the source of Delta-8, is well tolerated but has no psychoactive properties. More detailed studies of adverse reactions to cannabis derived products would be possible with more sensible laws.  

For guidance, we can look to studies on Delta-9 THC, such as a Cambridge Study from 2007. This study found that less frequent cannabis usage and previous adverse responses to cannabis (i.e., anxiety, depression, neuroticism, and sensitivity) predict a higher frequency of adverse reactions to cannabis and higher distress levels. To put this in layman’s terms, if you have had a negative response to THC, it is best to steer clear of Delta-8 and CBD for that matter.   

Texas Delta-8 Ban Lifted 

As reported in Newsweek, a Texas court recently allowed Delta-8 to be sold in the state. Delta-8 was temporarily barred but retailers challenged the ban in court. The ban was based on a decision by the Texas Department of State Health Services to classify Delta-8 as a Schedule I drug.   

The district court in Texas found that the Delta-8 did not comply with administrative requirements. The pending court case is scheduled for January 28, 2022.  

Does Delta-8 Work? 

If you have had a negative response to THC or CBD, using Delta-8 is an exceedingly bad idea. Many who use it do swear by it. In a world with supercharged THC strains, the milder impact of Delta-8 is exactly what many people are looking for. While not as inert as CBD, fans of Delta-8 feel it is a better choice if you are looking to engage in a more productive lifestyle. Experiences vary greatly by person.  

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