What is Delta 8 THC?

It always amazes me how much the industry has evolved in the four years I’ve been working with hemp extracts. Hemp plants have been cultivated for thousands of years. Still, the first person who extracted CBD from flower buds only did so roughly fifty years ago, and its medicinal benefits weren’t well researched until decades later. There’s been much advancement in the industry in the last few years. While CBD products are rapidly gaining popularity in the niche markets in New York City and Venice Beach, congress made it more mainstream by decriminalizing CBD extracts from Hemp, provided that its THC, the psychoactive compounds in cannabis, is lower than 0.3%.

This THC refers to Delta-9 Tetrahydrocannabinol, one of the hundreds of chemical compounds (cannabinoids) found in the cannabis plant (I use cannabis plant here to include both Hemp and marijuana since both are in the cannabis Sativa family). CBD and delta-9 THC are two well-known cannabinoids. CBG and CBN, also cannabinoids, are also gaining popularity. One cannabinoid that has popped onto the cannabis scene is delta-8 THC.

Short answer: delta-8 or delta-8 THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is a minor cannabinoid found in hemp and marijuana plants. Currently, all delta-8 come from legal Hemp, but the legal status of delta is debatable. The main difference is chemical structure. However, it does get you high and show up on specific drug tests (explained below).

Long explanation: keep reading, and you’ll find answers to these questions –

  • Does delta-8 THC get you high?
  • Is delta-8 legal?
  • Effects of delta-8
  • How long does delta-8 stay in your system?
  • Does delta-8 make you fail drug tests?
  • Is delta-8 CBD?

Does delta-8 make you high?

The THC that we are all familiar with is Delta 9 Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC is a psychoactive compound, which means it gives you that high feeling. Delta 8 is similar in that the molecular structures of the two cannabinoids are almost identical with a tiny difference, which carbon has a double bond. In Delta 8, the bond is on the 8th carbon chain or at 2 o’clock. In delta-9, the double bond occurs on the 9th carbon chain, or 11 o’clock. Thus, Delta-8 gives you a “functional high,” whereas THC gives you a “psychotropic” or more “heady” high. Because of that, delta-8 has been described as marijuana lite.

Is Delta-8 THC legal?

In 2018, The Farm Bill legalized hemp production for all purposes. To be identified as hemp, its THC (Delta 9 Tetrahydrocannabinol) level needs to be below 0.3% dry leaf weight. This bill gave authority for state agriculture departments to form programs to approve and oversee manufacturers of hemp products.

So delta-8 from the hemp plant is legal, right? That depends. There are several delta-8 THC products out there, some are, and some aren’t. It all depends on the conversion process.

Delta-8 exists in tiny amounts (less than 1%) in most strains of Hemp. It is cost-prohibitive to extract delta-8 from Hemp. Therefore labs have figured out a way to synthesize delta-8 from THC and CBD, essentially “pushing” the bond from 2 o’clock to 11 o’clock. You end up with a highly processed compound that is 99% in Delta 8 concentration. Most delta-8 THC gummies, vape cartridges, and oils are made with this extract.

But The Farm Bill says all products from Hemp are legal, no? Again, not so simple… the DEA proposed a rule back in August 2020 that synthesized Delta 8 as a scheduled I drug. So is pushing the carbon bond from 2 o’clock to 11 o’clock considered “synthesizing”? That is left up the state agency overseeing the program, as well as local law enforcement to decide. To further complicate the issue, the state agency can propose a rule that says one thing. In contrast, the law enforcement agency says the other. This leaves consumers and manufacturers utterly confused.

We’ve been here before, though. Before the 2018 Farm Bill legalized Hemp, it was in this legal gray area. Is it marijuana? Or is it Hemp? I think we will eventually get the clarification on Delta 8 from various agencies. So now Delta 8 hangs out in this legal gray area. This hasn’t stopped some manufactures from taking advantage of the legal loophole, creating and selling products that give you a “high” without a license to process or dispense cannabis.

In recent months, 14 states – Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Idaho, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, Montana, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Utah- have blocked delta 8 sales, citing a lack of research into the compounds psychoactive potential. So delta 8 remains in the legal gray area.

Effects of Delta-8

Delta-8 consumers report many of the same effects as THC, such as mild euphoria, happiness, uplifting feelings, and relief from certain symptoms. However, adverse effects may be similar to those of THC, including dry mouth, red eyes, short-term memory, paranoia, and anxiety.

How long does Delta-8 stay in your system?

Delta 8 is a cannabinoid, so the way it is metabolized is very similar to other cannabinoids. In this post, I talk in detail about how long CBD stays in your system. We can expect delta-8 behaves the same way, in general 1-2 weeks. If you are a frequent and long-time user, it can stay in your system for 30-60 days.

Does Delta-8 show up on a drug test?

Yes, it is very likely to fail a drug test with delta-8 in your system. That’s because most drug tests are not sophisticated enough to detect delta-9 metabolites specifically. Instead, drug tests look for THC metabolites rather than a specific cannabinoid.

Whether you will fail a drug test or now depends on the type of drug test you are taking and several other factors, such as frequency of use, purity of the product (always ask for a certificate of analysis), your metabolism and weight, gender and age. Urine tests, for example, work to detect delta 9 THC’s primary inactive metabolite, also known as THC-COOH. These metabolites can be detected after use, especially in the urine, because they are stored in our fat cells. If you have no actual delta-9 THC in your system, this might be considered a false positive. Likewise, if you use a pure delta 8 product that contains 0.3% delta- THC or less, you may be able to explain.

Delta-8 vs CBD

Delta-8 and CBD are two different cannabinoids but has similar chemical structure. Most of the delta-8 products on the market are synthesized from CBD or THC. So although delta-8 isn’t CBD, it comes from CBD.

If I want to try delta-8, what products do you recommend?

At Maeve Organic Hemp and CBD, our number one priority is to provide you with healing products created with intention and love. The ingredients we choose only serve the purposes of that intention – to heal. And I believe the closer an ingredient to its roots (organic, whole plant-based, not synthesized or created in a lab), the more healing properties it has.

Delta 8 extracts on the market today are high synthesized. In addition, there’s very little research on how a synthesized delta-8 binds to cannabinoid receptors (cb1 receptors and cb2 receptors). Many companies realize the increase in demand and are quick to bring products to market without providing the proper certificate of analysis. You can even find them on shelves of convenience stores. This is especially concerning because pediatric cancer patients seek and use delta-8 for relief and are doing so at risk. Therefore at the current stage, I would NOT recommend any delta-8 products on the market.

If I were to formulate with delta-8 for healing, I would consider adding broad spectrum CBD to get the entourage effect. Some research has shown a 1:1 ratio of CBD to THC helps specific ailments more than 100% CBD. But in those cases, I would almost recommend a cannabis product that is as close to its origin as possible. Perhaps a population requires a product that calls for THC/CBD entourage effect but doesn’t want the psychotropic high. In that case, I would still have to demand a source for delta-8 that isn’t highly synthesized. That is a tall order right now as most labs are pushing cheap products out to formulators. But just like the hemp CBD market is ever-changing based on consumer demand, the delta-8 market may also evolve.


Mimi May