Similarly to how some states accidentally decriminalized cannabis last year, hemp-derived Delta-8 THC is a federally legal substance available for sale in the United States.
How Are Cannabis, Hemp, and Delta-8 THC Regulated?
The 2018 Farm Bill legalized all hemp production and everything in the composition of hemp other than Delta-9 THC, of which hemp must contain below 0.3%. This is the standard for hemp on the federal level, so CBD, CBC, and every other cannabinoid other than Delta-9 THC, including Delta-8 THC, are legal. Under state jurisdiction, the legality varies.
Consumer appeal for Delta-8 THC relies on the fact that this novel cannabinoid, like Delta-9 THC, is psychoactive. However, reported use claimes that the effects of using Delta-8 THC are markedly different than Delta-9 THC. Although this is interesting to note, the demand for the cannabinoid has yet to be made clear. Additionally, other novel cannabinoids, such as CBG, have found biomass value drop 82% over the last year. While interest in these substances peak at introduction, allowing them higher prices than traditional THC and CBD products, the inflated price of Delta-8 THC products will likely follow the pattern set by previous novel cannabinoids.
Additionally, the DEA may be coming after Delta-8 THC. On August 20th, they released the “Implementation of the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018”, which would make the production of Delta-8 THC illegal. While natural Delta-8 THC is present in hemp and cannabis, it is not present in extractable levels worth using. Instead, most Delta-8 THC on the market is synthesized from CBD, and the federally legal Delta-8 THC is mostly synthesized from CBD derived from hemp. While this is currently legal in a gray area, the proposed regulations would label all synthetically derived tetrahydrocannabinols as schedule 1 controlled substances.
The Importance of Delta-8 THC
Of course, Raphael Mechoulam was part of a relevant study published decades ago. The study described the substance in this passage: “Delta-8-THC is an isomer of delta-9-THC, the major natural constituent of Cannabis from which it differs only in the position of the double bond. The stereochemistry of the two isomers is identical; their chemical behavior is, in most cases, very similar ; their metabolism in vivo and in vitro follow the same pathways . The major chemical difference between them is that delta-9-THC is easily oxidized to the biologically inactive cannabinol; delta-8-THC is stable, does not oxidize to cannabinol, and has a very long shelf life. Due to their close structural similarity, delta-9-THC and delta-8-THC present essentially identical pharmacological profiles [19-21]. Quantitatively, however, delta-8-THC differs from delta-9-THC in being about twice less potent in most, but not all pharmacological tests.”
The study focused on children with different hematological cancers. Results showed that higher doses of Delta-8 THC than Delta-9 THC could be administered to the children without significant side effects. The amounts were 5-10 mg/m2 of Delta-9 THC typically used in adult patients and 18 mg/m2 of Delta-8 THC given to the children in the study. This dosage of Delta-8 THC completely prevented nausea and delayed nausea throughout treatment, while they would have expected the patients to vomit in most treatments without it. The study concluded, “In summary, the complete success in preventing vomiting due to antineoplastic treatment in children, and the essential lack of side effects, leads us to believe that delta-8-THC at a dose considerably higher than the doses of delta-9-THC usually administered to adults, can serve as a new, inexpensive antiemetic agent in pediatric cancer chemotherapy.”
Additionally, for therapeutic use, many adult users report Delta-8 THC to provide similar relief to Delta-9 THC without the adverse side effects, such as paranoia or anxiety. There’s enough research behind the legitimacy of Delta-8 THC as an alternative pharmacological agent, so it deserves at least more research.
The Future of Delta-8 THC
A few decades ago, no one saw cannabis legalization happening. Now dozens of states are flipping and giving in to the green wave. CBD was unlikely to be accepted until a few key cases swayed public favor. Delta-8 THC could likely follow a similar path to acceptance.
The outcome of the DEA’s proposed regulations will determine the market legitimacy of Delta-8 THC in the coming years; however, the fight for normalization has a strong case behind it. It’s impossible to read the future, but if cannabis’s past victories are anything to judge by, Delta-8 THC is the next substance to receive mainstream attention.