The health concerns of Delta-8-THC

Marijuana is recreationally legal in 15 out of the 50 states, 36% of Americans live in a legal state. If you could not already tell, the buzz is in the air and CBD shops have been popping up in states where marijuana is still not legal. 

In 2018 hemp was federally decriminalized if it had less than 0.3% Delta-9 THC. legalization of hemp included its 144 different cannabinoids and three kinds of THC: THCA, THCV and Delta-8 THC. Delta-9 THC is what gives users the potent marijuana high and is still federally illegal. Delta-8 is almost molecularly identical to Delta-9 and delivers very similar highs, but it is legal, sort of…

Chemical structure

Delta-8 has the same chemical formula as delta-9, but one of its carbon double bonds is located in a different position. Delta refers to the chemical double bond in the molecule’s structure. So delta-9 has a carbon bond on the ninth carbon ring, while delta-8 has its bond on the 8th carbon bond.

Production/Science/quick history

Delta 8 is one of the 144 naturally occurring cannabinoids; it naturally occurs in hemp only in trace amounts. Although delta 8 can be naturally extracted from hemp, this process is very inefficient. The natural levels of delta 8 in a plant never exceed one percent. Most producers synthetically create delta 8 from hemp or CBD isolate through a chemical isomerization process.

CBD isolate is dissolved in 0.005molar H2SO4 in glacial acetic acid ( or any kind of acid); after boiling and mixing the solution for 18 hours, the CBD converts into delta-8 and delta-9 THC. Then a process neutralizes the acid and extracts the THC from the solution. Another less common practice is thin-film distillation, where manufacturers utilize vacuums, temperature manipulation and scientific equipment to convert Delta-9 THC to Delta-8.


Delta-8-THC has been reported to have around half the potency of delta-9-THC because it binds to the CB1 and CB2 receptors less efficiently. Different unidentifiable THC isomers can be detected in many delta-8 extracts; this could be another reason for the reduced potency.


Chromatography is the industry standard for testing THC products. After some research, very few websites or producers provided full chromatography results of their delta-8 products. Certificates of authenticity show a breakdown of residual solvents and the different concentrations of THC in the product. 

Companies have been known to “shop” for COA’s or labs to approve their product. There are no widely accepted standards for identifying delta 8 peaks on a Chromatography. No industry standard exists to test for byproducts from the conversion process. The Delta 8 industry is completely unregulated. This means anyone can order CBD isolate from china and convert it to THC from their basement lab. Nothing stops a Delta-8 producer from lying about their products. Delta-8 has the potential to be safe, but the lack of regulation means extreme caution should be taken. 

Legality/opinion/political/call to action for legalization:

Last August, the DEA stated that the farm bill doesn’t cover synthetically derived tetrahydrocannabinol that doesn’t come directly from the hemp plant. Which would mean delta 8 falls under the controlled substances act just like delta 9. 

According to the New York Times, federal agencies such as the DEA are still considering the options for enforcement and regulation of Delta-8-THC. “Dealing in any way with Delta-8-THC is not without significant legal risk,” Alex Buscher, a Colorado lawyer who specializes in cannabis law told the New York Times.

Many lawyers argue that this doesn’t actually change the legality status and the farm bill remains uncontested in court. Untested cartridges have been known to test positive for illegal levels of Delta-9 and police are reported to have arrested people with Delta-8 products. 

Some states have already made Delta-8 products fully illegal. These states include Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Idaho, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, Rhode Island and Utah.

Dangerous synthetic marijuana alternatives have been killing people for years. The government needs to take decisive action to legalized and regulate the marijuana industry. Delta-8 is being sold to high school students at local vape shops in the Fargo/Moorhead area. The products are not being lab tested, which means dangerous bi-products from the chemical synthesis could be left in them. Something needs to be done about this legal loophole.

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