Is Delta 8 THC Synthetic?

Sophia Delphi July 27, 2022 - 8 min read
Fact Checked
Image of a Person holding Cannabis Buds

Despite being on people’s tongues for decades, THC (delta 9 THC) and CBD are now slowly giving the front seat to minor cannabinoids, such as delta 8 THC.

Unfortunately, many cannabis users don’t understand how the compound is extracted and whether it’s natural or synthetic.

The source of delta 8 THC is paramount for your safety, as synthetic cannabinoids have proven to be highly toxic throughout history.

In this article, we’ll clear the fog about whether delta 8 THC is natural or synthetic — and if it’s safe for consumption.

We’ll also cover the legal status of delta 8 THC, compare it to synthetic cannabinoids, and talk about potential side effects.

What is Delta 8 THC?

Delta 8 THC is a cannabinoid, so it’s a substance derived from cannabis. Like other cannabinoids, it interacts with the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS).

Delta 8 THC is a mildly psychoactive isomer of delta 9 THC — the one that people refer to as “THC”. It’s weaker than delta 9 because it has a double bond at the eighth position of the carbon chain, while delta 9 THC has this bond a the ninth chain.

What’s the Difference Between Delta 8 and “Normal” THC?

The effects produced by delta 8 THC are similar to those of delta 9, but reportedly, it’s about delta 8 is roughly half as potent.

Many beginner users who are afraid of getting anxious after regular weed is turning to delta 8 THC as a lighter option that allows them to moderate their high with greater precision.

Most delta 8 users tout it for its ability to calm the mind, relax the body, and provide a boost of positive energy or tranquility depending on the dose.

Delta 8 THC is also legal on the federal level, which is another major difference between delta 9. The latter remains federally legal despite 17 states having legalized cannabis for recreational use.

Is Delta 8 THC Synthetic or Natural?

Yes, delta 8 THC is a naturally occurring cannabinoid in hemp and marijuana. It doesn’t take any human intervention for delta 8 to appear in both plants. However, its natural quantities are by no means usable.

In most scenarios, delta 8 THC is made by extracting CBD from hemp plants and converting it into delta 8 THC using specific acids.

The levels of CBD in hemp are far greater than those of delta 8 THC, so manufacturers can achieve high yields of delta 8 THC process, making the production of delta 8 cost-effective.

Long story short, although delta 8 THC production involves human activity, it’s a non-synthetic cannabinoid that naturally occurs in cannabis.

What Are Synthetic Cannabinoids?

Synthetic cannabinoids are laboratory-made analogs of plant-derived cannabinoids. Both compounds activate the endocannabinoid system by stimulating the CB1 and CB2 receptors.

Synthetic cannabinoids can’t be found in nature. They must be made in laboratory conditions, or else they wouldn’t exist at all.

The two most popular synthetic cannabinoids are JWH-018 and HU-210, both often infused into the herbal mix known as “Spice” or “K2”.

A few years ago, these compounds were considered legal. Headshops used to offer them as “legal high” or “legal marijuana alternatives.” Unfortunately, synthetic cannabinoids have a very poor safety profile.

After an alarming number of hospitalizations, problems with addiction, and even several fatalities from synthetic cannabinoid overdoses in the 2010s, the US government, and several other western countries completely banned them.

Delta 8 THC isn’t a synthetic cannabinoid because it naturally occurs in cannabis plants. Researchers have discovered over 100 cannabinoids, including delta 9 THC, CBD, CBN, CBC, CBG, CBDV, and THCV.

The Difference Between Delta 8 THC & K2/Spice

As mentioned earlier, K2 and Spice are both names given to synthetic cannabinoids alongside other psychoactive and potentially dangerous compounds.

They use a similar mechanism of interacting with the endocannabinoid system to delta 9 and delta 8 THC, but they have a much stronger affinity with both cannabinoid receptors.

Delta 8 THC, delta 9 THC, delta 10 THC, CBN, CBD, and the other cannabinoids are considered “natural” and engage with the endocannabinoid system in a much gentler fashion.

Another key difference between delta 8 THC and synthetic cannabinoids is their legal status. Delta 8 THC is federally legal with only some restrictions in individual states. K2 and Spice, on the other hand, are illegal for possession, use, and sale throughout the United States and most other countries.

It’s also worth noting that the side effects of K2 and Spice are inconsistent and unpredictable, making the experience even more dangerous.

Delta 8 THC Effects & Side Effects

Just like all other plant-derived cannabinoids, delta 8 THC may have some undesirable side effects, especially if you consume too much.

The majority of people are familiar with the side effects of delta 9 THC. These are increasingly likely with higher doses. Most users report comparable side effects with both compounds, but they claim that the side effects of delta 8 THC are milder.

Commonly reported effects of delta 8 THC:

  • Relaxation
  • Euphoria
  • A cognitive change (on the verge of getting high)
  • Reduced stress and anxiety
  • Mild sedation

Potential side effects of delta 8 THC:

  • Dry mouth
  • Dizziness
  • Increased appetite
  • Intoxication (as with the THC high)
  • Red eyes
  • Fatigue and confusion

K2/Spice Effects & Side Effects

K2, Spice, and other synthetic cannabinoids are usually sprayed onto cannabis buds to produce a stronger effect on the user. The cumulation of the psychoactive effects of both cannabis and synthetic cannabinoids can be extremely uncomfortable. Researchers suggest that these compounds trigger up to a 100 times stronger high than natural cannabinoids.

The chemicals used in K2 and Spice can also be highly addictive and have a much stronger influence on the endocannabinoid system. Therefore, they can produce problematic effects on users, including death.

The effects of synthetic cannabinoids include:

  • Strong high
  • Euphoria

The potential adverse reactions of K2 and Spice are more abundant and dangerous than those linked to THC.

Synthetic cannabinoids can induce the following dangerous side effects:

  • Anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Delusions
  • Depression
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Dizziness
  • GI complications
  • Hallucinations
  • Headaches
  • High blood pressure
  • Irritability
  • Increased heart rate
  • Intense sedation
  • Kidney damage
  • Muscle damage
  • Psychosis
  • Stroke
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Violent behavior
  • Death

Other side effects of synthetic cannabinoids are possible and unpredictable. These substances come with a number of dangerous additives that enhance potency, and since they’re highly addictive, it’s best to stay away from them.

Is Delta 8 THC Legal?

As of this writing, delta 8 THC is federally legal in the United States and remains legal at the state level in most states. However, there are some limitations you should know about.

Currently, delta 8 THC is only legal if it comes from hemp plants. The 2018 Farm Bill has defined hemp as all cannabis plants with less than 0.3% delta 9 THC by dry weight. The same bill legalized the commercial use of hemp and its derivatives.

Hemp-derived delta 8 THC is legal in most states throughout the U.S., even in those where marijuana remains legal for recreational use.

Speaking of which, delta 8 THC can also be extracted from marijuana, so if you live in one of those lucky states, you can purchase high-quality marijuana-derived delta 8 THC products. However, keep in mind that they will also have more delta 9 THC inside, so the high may be more intense.

Delta 8 THC Is a Natural Cannabinoid. It’s Also Safe and Legal

Delta 8 THC naturally occurs in marijuana and hemp plants. The majority of delta 8 THC products available online and locally come from hemp.

That being said, you won’t find substantial amounts of delta 8 THC in both species. That’s why manufacturers have invented special conversion methods that allow them to transform CBD into delta 8 THC using various acids.

Delta 8 THC is becoming more popular in the cannabis space and beyond, so it’s no wonder people are asking questions. And asking whether delta 8 THC is natural or synthetic is a good one.

Unlike synthetic cannabinoids, which can be addictive and life-threatening, delta 8 THC is a natural cannabinoid, despite the little human intervention during the extraction. It’s also legal at the federal level and produces milder psychoactive effects than delta 9 THC — which makes it a good alternative to “normal weed.”


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