Education

Setting the Record Straight on Delta 8

Written by Bryce Johnson

Delta 8 THC will be a defining point for the cannabis industry. Everyone thought that hemp couldn’t be psychoactive.  Now we are challenged as an industry to decide our own fate.

The major question that everyone wants an answer for- “Is Delta 8 Legal?” Alongside this query, we are presented a multitude of other questions, some likely without easy answers.

While I don’t claim to have all the answers, I believe that attempting to establish clarity through public discourse is one of the best ways to grow our collective consciousness. And in that spirit I seek to provide my own interpretation and understanding of things.

In this article, I will share some historical information about Delta 8 THC, which appears to be relatively unknown and could perhaps shed light on the historical use of this cannabinoid. I will also provide my own analysis of the importance of Delta 8 THC and some of its implications. Please do not regard this information to be without error. This is solely my opinion, not legal advice.

“Is Delta 8 THC found naturally in the Cannabis plant?”

Yes. It is well documented in a plethora of recent scientific literature that Delta-8 THC is a known psychoactive cannabinoid found naturally within the plant. It is sometimes referred to as Delta-6 THC, whereas Delta-9 THC also is known as Delta-1 THC.  The names can be used interchangeably.

The earliest record of Delta-8 THC (Delta-6 THC) can be found in Africa where “remains of two ceramic water pipe bowls excavated from Lalibela Cave, Begemeder Province, Ethiopia were radiocarbon dated to A.D. 1320 ± 80.” (Hashish, Robert Connell Clarke, 1998, pg. 50)

The traces of Delta-8 THC, the stable decomposition product of Delta-9 THC, indicates that pipes were used to smoke cannabis in Africa centuries ago.  Delta-9 THC over time will oxidize into CBN, yet Delta 8 is the stable THC Isomer, and therefore could be detected and identified hundreds of years later through testing.  What’s interesting is that this pipe could be the first piece of evidence that Africans smoked with a pipe prior to the introduction of Tobacco into the Old World by Post-Columbus. (Source: Hashish! By Robert Connell Clarke 1998)

Some people say “Delta 8 Isn’t the Real Thing”

It is commonly understood that Delta-9 THC is the main psychoactive part of the marijuana plant.  But to claim that Delta-9 THC is the only THC in the plant that is of importance, is to ignore the vast differences found in cannabis users across the world.  Cannabis users are diverse and everyone has their own preferences. Often people choose their product based on terpenes, flavors, even delivery methods. Is it too far fetched for people to be able to make a personal choice for different cannabinoids? Would it be so wrong to enable people to be able to select different experiences that work best for them?

It is fascinating that in many States with established recreational or medical marijuana markets, rarely can you find minor cannabinoid products available in the dispensaries.  While you may be able to find CBD and possibly CBN or CBG in lower percentages, hardly ever will you find THC Isomers. But just because consumers don’t know about these products does not mean they are not valuable. And just because we may not know what the future compounds look like, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t explore.

 

“Is Delta 8 THC is Synthetic?”

From a high-level conceptual standpoint, almost all isolate and distillate is processed in a lab facility after being harvested, whereupon the plant material is subject to various concentration methods and procedures, dependent upon the required final product desired.  Delta-8 THC concentration techniques are essentially a similar process to those used to concentrate Delta-9 THC, CBD, or CBN. The process which is probably most commonly used to concentrate Delta-8 THC is Isomerization, although alternative methods exist.

Arguably, the counterculture history of THC isomers and derivatives such as Delta-8 THC and THC-O Acetate begins with a book published in 1972,  from author David Hoye aka  D. Gold, called Cannabis Alchemy: The Art of Modern Hashmaking (Full Text Available  Here).  In the book, Hoye provides exact methods of producing Delta-8 THC, Delta-9 THC, and THC-O Acetate through isomerization and conversion using basic organic chemistry. Recognized as a cult classic, these instructions provided many people in the previously underground market with easy to follow methods for preparing different types of Hashish! There are some other methods, some which have been patented, some which have been shown in research studies. A really helpful site for learning more about Isomerization and other techniques of concentrating Delta 8 THC is future4200.com an open-source forum which, in this author’s opinion, has had a significant impact on spreading knowledge about extraction technology and creating a strong community.

David Hoye actually created, patented, and sold a machine called the Isomerizer in three or four editions. This machine apparently could be used at home to make Delta 8 THC as well as super potent Delta9-THC and THC O-Acetate. Unfortunately, David was ahead of his time, and law enforcement shut down efforts to distribute this device.  It is however interesting to see that something almost the size of a coffee maker is capable of producing such pleasant extract.

 

“Isn’t The DEA is Raiding Delta 8 Shops”

Some have speculated that the DEA’s final ruling pertaining to hemp extracts may create a scenario in which hemp products are yet again controlled substances. This seems highly unlikely though for a few reasons.  First, the DEA has admitted that Delta 8 and other derivatives which meet the definition of hemp are not controlled substances. This can be confirmed by the Florida Townhall Meeting with USDA and DEA from June 29, 2021. Available for watch   here.  It seems to be evidently clear that Delta 8 is not considered a Synthetic or Controlled Substance by their statements and sentiment on the topic. When watching, it truly seems as though these people are doing their best to help this industry grow and I think we owe them our sincere thank you for their dedication.

While there have been news reports of shops getting raided for THC products, most of the reports after further investigation appear to show that the stores were selling Delta-9 THC products. To my knowledge, no one has been seriously charged for Delta 8 THC in any state at the present time.

Admittedly, the concept of hemp-derived psychoactive cannabinoids is entirely novel, and can be difficult to understand at first. Especially when Delta 8 THC is still listed as a controlled substance on the DEA’s website. However, this listing refers to Delta 8 THC that has been derived or extracted from a marijuana plant. All cannabinoids derived from a marijuana plant are still controlled substances under federal law. Remember, the important distinction between marijuana and hemp is the amount of Delta 9 THC in the original plant.  So D8 that is derived from a hemp plant is not federally recognized as a narcotic under the controlled substance act. But D8 derived from a marijuana plant is a controlled substance.  It really all depends on which plants you start with and in what state you operate.

 

So hemp-derived psychoactive cannabinoids appear to be federally legal. What does that mean?

I think this brings about novel questions that we as an industry must figure out how to work through. We got pretty lucky with Delta 8, as it’s documented and has been at least seen in published literature. So far it appears that no serious adverse effects have been reported. Delta 10 and to a somewhat lesser extent THCO appear to be mentioned over the last few years and more people are getting access to these products and trying them out as well.  Great!  It seems like we’ve had a lucky streak so far, but what do we do when we get to the new cannabinoids on the market, with little recorded history or safety data?

Establishing standardized quality control measures and creating methods of reporting adverse events are crucial to the success of new cannabinoid developments.

Despite cannabinoids being present in cannabis, and seemingly appearing safe through historical consumption, things change when we begin isolating them out and turning them into products. After years of restriction due to public safety concerns, we are finally able to explore and develop legal products. We should not turn  U.S. citizens into lab rats.

 

Conclusion

While Delta 8 THC and other hemp derived products appear to be legal in the USDA and DEA’s eyes, along with the State of Florida being an optimistic State towards the industry, Delta 8 has the potential to radically transform the cannabis industry. Rather than fighting amongst ourselves in the industry over who gets what cannabinoids for their licenses, we should embrace knowledge sharing and fight the true enemy, which is the public stigma on cannabis.

By being supportive of data sharing, and research methods, I believe that Delta 8 can be the binding force between the hemp and marijuana industry. We are the final piece of the puzzle to lay the groundwork for full scale cannabis interstate trade and import/export.

We have the power to explore and create new compounds, cannabinoids, and products. Now we must make sure to use this power responsibility. We must hold each other accountable. And we should not let a cannabinoid divide us. Whether you are a CBD store, pot user, delta 8 slanger, laboratory tester or anything related- I hope my message is clear. Alone we may fail, but united together, we may unlock the true destiny of the cannabis industry.

About the author

Bryce Johnson

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