Delta-8-THC is an analogue of delta-9-THC, a.k.a. THC. Chemically speaking, the main difference between delta-8-THC and delta-9-THC stems from the position of a key chemical double bond they both contain, which is situated on the 8th and 9th carbon chain, respectively.
Unlike THC, delta-8-THC occurs in trace amounts in cannabis, hence its exclusivity and obscurity. However, as extraction methods and our understanding of cannabis science keep evolving hand in hand, we might start hearing more and more about this compound, which many experts consider to be the happy medium between THC and CBD in many regards.
On the one hand, delta-8-THC is basically a milder version of THC, leaving users much more functional and taming the potential side-effects, generally associated with THC, like paranoia. At the same time, it’s still intoxicating and provides that distinctive whimsical buzz, unlike CBD.
According to the National Cancer Institute, delta-8-THC has antiemetic, anxiolytic, appetite-stimulating, analgesic, and neuroprotective properties.
Like THC, delta-8-THC binds mostly to CB1 receptors, even though it has shown some affinity for CB2 receptors, too.
However, “delta-8-THC is chemically more stable, does not undergo oxidation to cannabinol and has a much longer shelf life than Δ9-THC.”  These attributes make it very desirable, especially to soft-core consumers who only seek to dabble in the cannabis experience every now and then and novices who want to develop a taste for cannabis step by step.
There are two ways to produce delta-8-THC.
One is extraction, which is far from the most cost-, time-, and energy-efficient way due to the cannabinoid’s aforementioned scarcity.
The other way is synthesis, the most popular path being coverting CBD into delta-8-THC.
But you can even convert delta-9-THC into delta-8-THC by mixing in 4% acidic alumnia silicate with your extracted and winterize crude oil, catalyzing “the rearrangement of the THC molecule from delta-9 to delta-8-THC.”
However, delta-8-THC isn’t safe from the murky waters of cannabis regulation.
“While Delta-8-THC is legal if derived from hemp, the process most commonly used to produce Delta-8 — synthetically altering CBD into Delta-8-THC — probably isn’t legal,” Joseph Hoelscher, founding member of the Texas Association of Cannabis Lawyers and longstanding member of the NORML Legal Committee, tells Rolling Stone.
“Probably” is the keyword – even experts aren’t entirely sure, because the DEA is apparently in the midst of implementing the 2018 Farm Bill into its system of rules.
In other words, the fate of delta-8-THC is currently being decided. If synthesizing it is forbidden, extraction will be the sole legal way of obtaining it, which would extremely stifle this compound’s industry potential, if not even render it feasible only in theory.
- Gul et al, Enhanced Solubility, Stability, and Transcorneal Permeability of Delta-8-Tetrahydrocannabinol in the Presence of Cyclodextrins, AAPS PharmSciTech.2011 Jun; 12(2): 723–731, Journal Impact Factor = 2.451, Times Cited = 25
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