What Is Delta 8 THC?

Sophia Delphi May 25, 2022 - 13 min read
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The majority of people know what THC is by now. In case you were living under a rock for the past few decades, it’s the primary psychoactive compound of marijuana,

High-THC cannabis plants are federally illegal, but 17 states have legalized the adult use of the plant.

The legal status of delta 8 THC is a bit different. Since the cannabinoid can be extracted from hemp, many people argue that it’s legal on a federal level.

But what is delta 8 THC in the first place?

How is it different from delta 9 THC and why does this difference have so much to do with its psychoactive potential and legal status?

You’ll learn everything from this article.

What is Delta 8 THC?

Delta 8 THC stands for delta-8-tetrahydrocannabinol. It’s one of 100 cannabinoids — a group of closely related compounds unique to the cannabis plant.

Cannabinoids are any molecules (natural or synthetic) that engage with the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The majority of cannabinoids are non-intoxicating, so they won’t get you high.

THC — both delta 8 and delta 9 — are considered intoxicating cannabinoids.

THC activates the endocannabinoid system by binding to the receptors in the brain that are involved in regulating serotonin. By modulating serotonin levels, THC temporarily changes sensory perception and other processes associated with higher executive function.

Although delta 8 and delta 9 THC are strikingly similar at first glance, there are three distinct differences between them:

  • Molecular makeup – delta 8 THC has a double bond at the 8th carbon chain; for delta 9 THC, this bond is located at the 9th chain.
  • Effects – delta 8 THC is less stimulating and more relaxing than delta 9. It’s less likely to cause anxiety and paranoia
  • Legal status – delta 8 THC is subject to different regulations than delta 9 THC. It’s federally legal and available in most US states.

How is Delta 8 THC Different from Delta 9 THC and CBD?

When it comes to delta 8 vs delta 9 THC, we’ve just outlined most of the differences above. Taking delta 8 THC results in a milder psychoactive buzz that’s more about chill and fun rather than psychedelic vibes.

Delta 8 THC is about twice less potent than delta 9 THC, so you’d need to consume twice the amount of delta 8 to experience a similar cognitive alteration.

And how is delta 8 THC different from CBD?

Well, these are two completely different cannabinoids. CBD operates on different molecular pathways than delta 8 THC. It doesn’t interact directly with any cannabinoid receptors in the brain; its effects on the ECS are modulatory and aim for providing a balance between other components of the endocannabinoid system.

CBD is completely non-intoxicating; it won’t get you high no matter how much you take. If anything, it can make you feel deeply relaxed in very high doses, but that doesn’t have anything to do with getting you high. It’s just a result of lowered blood pressure and elevated levels of certain neurotransmitters.

The legal status of CBD is also much clearer. CBD is legal at the federal level and in all 50 states, while the availability of delta 8 THC products has been limited in several states (we’ll get to that later on).

How is Delta 8 THC Extracted?

Delta 8 THC is a natural cannabinoid. You’ll find it in hemp and marijuana plants — but only at very low levels.

Delta 8 THC occurs as a byproduct of delta 9 THC. When THC is exposed to heat or air for an extended period, it gets converted into two compounds. Most of it becomes CBN (cannabinol) and the rest forms delta 8 THC. Most cannabis flowers contain no more than 1% delta 8 THC.

One way of increasing the concentration of delta 8 THC is exposing the plant to UV light, which facilitates the transformation process. THC can then be extracted, purified, and separated into its delta 8 and delta 9 analogs.

However, any product made from cannabis plants that aren’t hemp — with more than 0.3% THC by dry weight — is considered federally illegal and may not be purchased depending on local state laws.

That’s why creative entrepreneurs have come up with hemp-derived delta 8 THC. Extracting the cannabinoid from hemp makes these delta 8 THC products at the federal level.

What Does Delta 8 THC Feel Like?

The cognitive change from delta 8 THC feels much more relaxed and clear-headed than delta 9 THC. People who struggle with anxiety and paranoia after using marijuana often turn to delta 8 THC for its more subtle nature.

Low doses of delta 8 THC provide more energizing and focus-enhancing effects. Many users prefer low doses (5–15 mg) while studying and working because they make them more productive. You may experience a productive flow state with a boost of mental energy and stamina.

High doses are more psychoactive but less intoxicating than delta 9 THC — and with a stronger body high.

Since delta 8 THC is about 50% as potent as delta 9, the incidence of anxiety and paranoia is also much lower. Taking too much delta 8 THC will likely result in sleepiness, lightheadedness, a huge increase in appetite, and confusion.

Still, it’s best to avoid very high doses to prevent mental discomfort.

Delta 8 THC Dosage: How Much Delta 8 Should I Take?

There’s almost no research regarding delta 8 isomers and their optimal dosage.

In essence, the effective dose of delta 8 is about twice as high as the dose of the delta 9 analog.

The most commonly reported doses of delta 8 THC can be divided into three categories:

  • Low dose – 5-10 mg
  • Moderate dose – 30–50 mg
  • Strong dose – 60+ mg

Two people may have different reactions to the above doses, so if you want to play on the safe side and get a smooth high without feeling edgy, it’s best to start with a low dose — and gradually increase it until you’re in the sweet spot.

Is Delta 8 THC Legal?

Yes and no. In fact, delta 8 THC remains in a bit of a gray area.

The U.S. federal government still prohibits the use of THC — but the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 doesn’t mention anything about the delta 8 isomers.

Better yet, the 2018 Farm Bill legalized hemp (Cannabis sativa plants that produce less than 0.3% THC) and all its derivatives. This includes delta 8 THC products, so manufacturers have a legal loophole to offer slightly psychoactive products without worrying about negative legal consequences.

Unfortunately, since the exact legal status of delta 8 THC isn’t clear — and the market lacks regulation — some individual states have decided to ban delta 8 products with all other forms of THC, be it natural or synthetic.

States That Have Banned Delta 8 THC

  1. Alaska
  2. Arizona
  3. Arkansas
  4. Colorado
  5. Delaware
  6. Hawaii
  7. Idaho
  8. Iowa
  9. Kentucky
  10. Louisiana
  11. Maryland
  12. Mississippi
  13. Montana
  14. Nebraska
  15. Nevada
  16. Rhode Island
  17. Utah
  18. Vermont

Types of Delta 8 THC Products

Cannabinoids can be infused into just about any product — you can find delta 8 THC tinctures, gummies, hemp flowers, cartridges, moon rocks, distillate, and much more. Manufacturers can get really creative when it comes to making cannabinoid-based formulations these days.

However, many of these products can be considered a pure novelty. The five most commonly used delta 8 formats that combine cost-effectiveness, ease of use, and availability on the market include:

1. Delta 8 THC Oils (Tinctures)

Tinctures and oils are among the most commonly picked consumption methods for cannabinoids. They’re the most precise, cost-effective, and relatively bioavailable product, providing a relatively fast onset of effects through the sublingual membrane.

Sublingual means that you need to hold the tincture under your tongue for about a minute. From there, a set of tiny blood vessels will transport the active delta 8 directly into your system. This speeds up the effects than if you just swallowed the oil or took a gummy.

Delta 8 THC tinctures come in many different potencies and flavors. Make sure to learn your tolerance to THC first before choosing your concentration; otherwise, the tincture may be too strong and you may not achieve the desired effects.

2. Delta 8 THC Capsules

Capsules are less popular than delta 8 THC tinctures because they offer lower bioavailability. They also come with a delayed onset because your digestive system needs to process the delta 8 THC before releasing it into the bloodstream.

But, if you dislike the distinct flavor of delta 8 tinctures, capsules are a decent alternative, especially if you want the effects to be extended in time.

3. Delta 8 THC Gummies

Delta 8 THC gummies offer the same features as capsules, but they’re definitely more fun to take. They come in various fruity flavors and are available in different shapes, sizes, and coatings to make your experience even more enjoyable.

Similar to capsules, gummies must be metabolized in the liver before they can work their effects, so you may need to wait for up to 2 hours before they kick in, depending on your metabolism and whether you take delta 8 gummies on a full or empty stomach.

Just be careful with the dosage. Delta 8 THC gummies are delicious, so you might be tempted to eat more than the recommended serving. It’s okay if you know your tolerance to THC, but if this is your first time with this cannabinoid, you’ll be better off keeping your sweet tooth on a leash.

4. Delta 8 THC Vape Cartridges

Cannabinoids like delta 8 THC evaporate quite easily and thus can be efficiently absorbed through the lungs.

People are turning to vaporizers instead of smoking because it’s a means of harm reduction; vaporization doesn’t damage the lungs as much, not to mention that it saves a lot of the active ingredients you’re trying to consume.

Delta 8 THC vapes are available in the form of cartridges. These products can be attached to an existing vaporizer, replacing the heating chamber and reservoir once a cartridge has been emptied.

The delta 8 market is young, but the vaporizer space is already benefiting from other cannabinoids like CBD and delta 9 THC. As long as the cartridge works with your battery type, delta 8 carts can be used with most conventional vaporizers because they use a standardized 810 threading.

For less common devices, such as Juul, you might have a hard time trying to find a compatible vape cart infused with delta 8 THC.

5. Delta 8 THC Distillate

Distillate is the purest form of delta 8 THC you’ll ever come across.

They’re made by removing every compound except pure delta 8 THC. The concentrate has a thick, resinous consistency and can become fluid when heated.

Obtaining delta 8 in its pure form is difficult, so even the top-shelf concentrates contain small amounts of CBD, CBG, CBC, and CBN. Distillates are also combined with terpenes to achieve a more complex effect profile and accelerate the entourage effect in cannabis.

Using a distillate is simple; all you need to do is add it to the tank of a refillable vape pen, dab it in a rig, or add it to edibles.

How Long Does Delta 8 THC Stay in Your System?

The amount of time delta 8 THC stays in the body can vary between individuals. If you only take small amounts and use delta 8 THC occasionally, it should leave your body within 3 days, but usually, in no more than 24 hours.

If you’re a regular user that takes moderate to high doses, delta 8 THC can stay in your system for up to 30 days until it’s completely flushed from the body.

In hair, delta 8 THC remains detectable for even longer — up to 90 days from your last session.

How long delta 8 remains in the body depends on a few important factors:

  • Method of consumption – vaporized forms of delta 8 THC stay in the body the longest
  • Your metabolic rate – some people metabolize delta 8 THC faster than others
  • Your age – metabolism usually slows down with age
  • Frequency of use – the more often you consume delta 8, the longer it stays with you.
  • The dosage – higher doses take longer to get cleared from the body
  • Other supplements and medications – delta 8 THC may interact with certain supplements and medications, which can slow down its breakdown.

How Does Delta 8 THC Work in the Body?

Scientists have yet to explore the specific effects of delta 8 THC and its mechanisms of action. Current research indicates that delta 8 THC works almost identically to delta 9 THC.

Most cannabinoids either activate or modulate the endocannabinoid system (ECS) — which is the prime regulatory network found throughout the central and peripheral nervous system. The ECS works to support and maintain homeostasis (balance) throughout the body.

Delta 8 THC binds to both cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2), but unlike delta 9 THC, it has a weaker affinity to them — hence its lower potency.

On top of regulating essential several important neurological functions like satiety, hormone regulation, pain transmission, and stress response, delta 8 THC can increase the activity of the 5HT2A serotonin receptor. This is how both delta 8 and delta 9 THC produce their euphoric and sensory effects.

Is Delta 8 THC Safe? What Are the Side Effects?

Again, not many studies have been conducted on the safety profile of delta 8 THC, but since it’s almost the same as delta 9 (except for the lower strength), it can produce similar side effects to its analog.

The most commonly reported side effects of delta 8 THC include:

  • Dry mouth
  • Red eyes
  • Dizziness
  • Sedation
  • Increased heart rate
  • Anxiety (extremely rare)

Another bugging fact about delta 8 THC (from the user’s perspective) is that tolerance builds up much faster than in the case of delta 9 THC. If you’re a regular user, you may need to significantly increase your dosage over time.

Therefore, it’s important to control your use of delta 8 to prevent forming wrong habits around it.

Does Delta 8 THC Show Up On A Drug Test?

Yes, delta 8 THC can show up on a drug test. That’s because these tests are designed to detect THC and its metabolites; they’re not here to distinguish between different analogs of delta 8 THC.

If you know of an upcoming drug test at your workplace, it’s best to abstain from using delta 8 THC for that time — and celebrate a passed test with your d8 products.

Key Takeaways on Delta 8 THC

Delta 8 THC isn’t a new compound; it’s just been popularized recently.

Before 2020, people didn’t know how to extract usable quantities of delta 8 THC from hemp plants, but thanks to advancements in extraction methods, the cannabinoid is now available for commercial use.

Delta 8 THC is smoother, helps you maintain a chill vibe without getting you jittery, and bypasses many of the legal restrictions that prevent people from accessing the mind-altering benefits of cannabis.

When looking for delta 8 THC near you or online, make sure to purchase only from reputable suppliers who can deliver batch-specific certificates of analysis to prove the products’ quality and safety.