Delta-8-tetrahydrocannabinol (delta-8-THC) has exploded in popularity. But what is delta-8-THC? Why do consumers love this cannabinoid? In this beginner’s guide, we take a look at the basics of delta-8-THC according to science.
What is Delta-8-THC?
Delta-8-THC is an analogue of delta-9-THC, meaning that it is similar in molecular structure. The minor difference lies in the location of a double bond on the carbon chain; in delta-8-THC, the double bond is in the eighth position, and in delta-9-THC, the double bond is in the ninth position. Take a look at the images below; notice the bond (a) between positions 8 and 9 (delta-8) and 9 and 10 (delta-9).
What are the Effects of Delta-8-THC?
Delta-8-THC offers similar but weaker effects compared to delta-9-THC. A study from 1973 compared the two and concluded that the strength falls at a ratio of 2:3, making it “slightly weaker.”  These effects include:
- Increased body awareness
- Altered perspectives
- Time distortion
- Rapid flow of thoughts
- Memory impairment
The therapeutic benefits of delta-8-THC include anti-emetic (nausea-relieving), analgesic (pain-relieving), appetite-stimulating, anti-cancer, and neuroprotective properties.
How does Delta-8-THC Work?
Delta-8-THC acts on the body’s endocannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2) much like delta-9-THC.  More specifically, it is a moderate partial agonist, meaning it partially activates these receptors.  Endocannabinoid receptors are located throughout the brain and body; activation of CB1 receptors in the brain produces intoxicating effects, while activation on CB2 receptors in the body has effects like reducing inflammation.
How is Delta-8-THC Made?
You read that right: delta-8-THC is made rather than cultivated. Cannabis/hemp plants contain only marginal amounts of delta-8-THC. Extracting such low levels from plants is not feasible.
Most often, farmers grow hemp for cannabidiol (CBD). They transform the CBD into delta-8-THC with a chemical process. For more detail on this chemical process (which involves refluxing with an acid), check out this article.
Producers may also transform delta-9-THC into delta-8-THC. Spinning band distillation is one technique employed for this purpose.
Is Delta-8-THC Legal?
Delta-8-THC lives in a legal loophole. We can find it in many stores across many states. Hemp is legal under the 2018 Farm Bill, and most delta-8 comes from hemp. However, because delta-8 offers intoxicating properties, and governments fear these effects, several states have banned the compound, including Kentucky and New York.
We hope this beginner guide helps. Please let us know if you have any questions!
1- Hollister LE, Gillespie HK. Delta-8 and delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol: Comparison in man by oral and intravenous administration. Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics. 1973;14(3):353-357.
2- Morales P, Hurst DP, Reggio PH. Molecular targets of the phytocannabinoids: A complex picture. Prog Chem Org Nat Prod. 2017;103:103-131. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-45541-9_4