Can You Cultivate Delta-8 THC?

Written by Derek Johnson

Delta-8 tetrahydrocannabinol (delta-8) is an intoxicating cannabinoid, just like its relative delta-9 THC (delta-9), which much of the mainstream knows as the principal psychoactive component of cannabis. Delta-8 is not as potent as delta-9, but it is available in many places where delta-9 THC is illegal. Because of this, delta-8 is growing in popularity nationwide, and many cannabusinesses are producing it for sale.

The operative word is producing and not cultivating. Although delta-8 does occur naturally in hemp and cannabis, it does so at very low levels, and this makes it expensive and time consuming to extract using methods employed for the extraction of delta-9-THC and cannabidiol (CBD). Therefore, cultivating hemp or cannabis for delta-8, although possible, remains hypothetical.

Instead, producers use CBD to get the delta-8 they need. Through a process of isomerization, the CBD can be converted into delta-8. This same process can also be used to transform delta-9 into delta-8. However, the 2018 Farm Bill seemingly offers legal protection on the federal level for those dealing with CBD but not delta-9, which is a federally prohibited compound.

The word seemingly is important because the plain language of the 2018 Farm Bill would seem to cover delta-8. According to the bill, hemp is legal. And the definition of hemp is broad:

“The term `hemp’ means the plant Cannabis sativa L. and any part of that plant, including the seeds thereof and all derivatives, extracts, cannabinoids, isomers, acids, salts, and salts of isomers, whether growing or not, with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis.” Although delta-8 is a derivative of hemp, many legal and industry professionals are still unsure as to its legality. Why? Because the process used to convert CBD into delta-8 is not specifically covered in the hemp bill and may be considered drug manufacturing. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has ruled delta-8 to be a synthetic analog of THC and therefore illegal. However, legal action has been taken against the DEA by a hemp trade association and a hemp company. Obtaining cultivated delta-8 through conventional extraction methods would be perfectly legal. But, as stated earlier, delta-8 appears in such low levels in hemp that it is instead synthesized. Image Source: TerreDiCannabis_ via Pixabay

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Derek Johnson

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