Extracting Delta 8 THC from Cannabis

Written by Derek Johnson

Delta 8 tetrahydrocannabinol naturally occurs in cannabis just like cannabidiol (CBD) and Delta 9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). However, Delta 8 THC levels in cannabis plants (both hemp and marijuana strains) are extremely low, most often less than 1%. This low rate of occurrence makes extracting this cannabinoid costly and time consuming. For this reason, those interested in producing Delta 8 THC must synthesize it from CBD.

Before this can happen, the CBD must first be extracted from hemp plants. It is with this extract that Delta 8 THC will be synthesized. It’s important to note at this point that there are two types of CBD extracts: full-spectrum and isolate. Full-spectrum CBD extracts include more than the CBD cannabinoid-they also contain other substances and compounds that are naturally present in cannabis, including other cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids.

In contrast, isolate CBD is an extract that contains up to 99% CBD and none of the other compounds found in cannabis. It is with isolate CBD that Delta 8 THC is best synthesized.

Synthesizing Delta 8 THC from CBD is done through a process called isomerization. The isolate is dissolved in an acidic catalyst and then heated for hours, which transforms the molecular structure of the CBD isolate into that of Delta 8 THC. When the process is complete, it’s normal to have a product that is anywhere between 70-85% Delta THC. The other substances found in the extract are by-products and are usually marked as unknowns.

Delta 8 THC products are lighting a fire in the cannabis marketplace, principally because Delta 8 THC is psychoactive like its analog Delta 9 THC (although less so), meaning it gets you high. And because Delta 8 is isolated from CBD, which comes from legal hemp, there’s an argument to be made regarding Delta 8’s legality.

Furthermore, Delta 8 THC has been helpful at addressing the oversupply and resultant lowering of prices of CBD in the industry.  At between 1,500-2000 dollars per kilo for Delta 8 THC compared 600 dollars for CBD, there’s a strong incentive to convert overstocked CBD extracts into Delta 8 THC.

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Derek Johnson

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