Most people are familiar with Delta-9 THC and cannabidiol (CBD) products, but these days other cannabinoids are seeing more fame and curiosity. Delta-8 THC is one of those cannabinoids, and at the top of the list of FAQs everyone seems to have is this question:
Is delta 8 a synthetic cannabinoid?
- No: Delta-8 THC is a natural cannabinoid, but it is usually produced from other cannabinoids by humans rather than directly extracted
- Delta-8 THC is a cannabinoid, like other kinds of THC or CBD, but with a few key differences
With the dangers you may have seen reported about other kinds of synthetics, it’s normal to wonder how safe those delta 8 flowers, vapes, tinctures, gummies and other edibles are, and where delta-8 products come from.
This article explains what Delta-8 THC is, whether it is safe to use, what cannabinoids, including synthetic cannabinoids, are, and covers the potential side effects and legality of Delta-8 THC, too. Ready to learn more about everything from cannabis plants, cannabinoids, and effects on down? Let’s go.
What Is Delta-8 Tetrahydrocannabinol?
What is Delta-8 THC?
Delta-8-tetrahydrocannabinol, or delta-8 THC, is a cannabinoid, a compound that forms in cannabis in tiny amounts and interacts with the body’s endocannabinoid system. Its psychoactive effects are similar to those produced by delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, the main compound in cannabis that gets you high, but milder, causing happiness, euphoria, symptom relief, sedation, and other psychoactive effects.
Structurally, delta 8 THC is an analog of delta 9 THC, both of which have a double bond in the carbon chain that is related to the effects of feeling high. The difference between them is the position of the double bond; it is at the eighth place on the delta 8 THC carbon chain and at the ninth place in delta 9 THC.
How Is Delta-8 THC Different From Delta 9 THC?
Delta-8, like regular delta-9 THC, causes a high feeling by binding to the body’s endocannabinoid system. Delta-8 THC and Delta-9 THC are chemically similar, both structured with a double bond that produces intoxicating effects.
However, although there is a chain of carbon atoms on each cannabinoid, they are chemically different in where they place the double bond. Delta-8 has the double bond on the eighth carbon, which causes it to bind to the endocannabinoid system slightly differently and produce less potent psychoactive effects than regular THC, whereas delta-9 has its double bond on the ninth carbon.
Delta-8 THC is also legally different from Delta-9. The legality of Delta-9 THC is clear: prohibited at the federal level and in many states as a controlled substance. However, except for in states that have taken specific action, in most of the US Delta-8 THC remains legal.
Is Delta-8 THC Natural?
Delta-8 THC occurs naturally in cannabis plants in tiny amounts. Thus, it is a natural cannabinoid. However, to exist in a consumable amount, it demands processing, and it is this process that causes some people to become confused.
Most often, Delta-8 THC is made by extracting CBD from federally legal hemp plants and converting it into Delta-8 THC. The concentration of CBD in hemp products is far greater than the concentration of delta 8 THC. This just means that to achieve a workable amount of Delta-8 THC it takes a great deal of human effort.
So although it requires human intervention to generate Delta-8 THC for retail use, Delta-8 THC exists in the cannabis plant and is a non-synthetic cannabinoid.
Delta-8 THC Side Effects
Delta-8 THC is a basic cannabinoid similar to THC-9, CBD, THCV, CBN, CBG, and others. Any cannabinoid may have some safety concerns, and Delta-8 THC products are no exception.
Like other natural cannabinoids, not only is Delta-8 safer than synthetic forms of THC, it also offers more benefits. Even so, delta 8 has some side effects. The side effects of Delta-8 THC are mostly very similar to those of delta 9 THC and are more likely with higher servings.
Here are the most common side effects of Delta-8 THC.
- A minor psychoactive effect
- Relaxation or mild sedation
- Dry mouth (“cotton mouth”)
- Increased appetite
- Intoxication (similar to THC)
- Red eyes
There are some ways to reduce your chance of Delta-8 THC side effects:
Testing. Always check for third-party lab tests when shopping for Delta-8 THC products. Δ8 THC itself is safe, but unsafe isolation or extraction methods can leave contaminants in the final product.
Labels. Read labeling—always. Even high quality D8 will leave you with very unexpected results if it’s mixed with other kinds of supplements like melatonin or vitamins, for example, so it’s important to be sure you know what you have.
Sellers. By purchasing from a reputable delta 8 THC vendor like an online specialty site or a dispensary, you’re more likely to have a safe and enjoyable experience.
Delta-8 THC vs Spice or K2: What’s the Difference?
Generally, K2 and delta 8 both interact with the endocannabinoid system and produce roughly similar effects, but they are significantly different. The comparison arises because K2 and Spice are synthetic cannabinoids that don’t occur naturally in cannabis plants, and delta 8 THC goes through processing as described above.
Classic Delta-9 THC, Delta-8 THC, Delta-10 THC, CBD, CBDV, CBN, and the rest of the gang are all basic natural cannabinoids with similar chemical structures. K2 and Spice are technically blends of synthetic cannabinoids that produce highly psychoactive effects that are potentially dangerous.
Legality is another important difference. Delta-8 THC is legal in most states, while throughout the US and most of the world, synthetic cannabinoids like K2 and Spice are illegal for possession, use, and sale.
The side effects of Delta 8 THC, Spice, and K2 vary widely. Users report unpredictable experiences from synthetic cannabinoids which can potentially be toxic. The adverse events of Spice are more dangerous than any associated with Delta-8 THC, but generally, Spice side effects include:
- Heart attack
- High blood pressure
- Kidney damage
- Muscle damage
- Suicidal thoughts
- Violent Behaviors
What are Synthetic Cannabinoids?
Any type of cannabinoid, natural or synthetic, stimulates the CB1 and CB2 receptors of the endocannabinoid system. Synthetic cannabinoids are compounds that engage in this action but do not occur in natural sources. They have different chemical structures, effect profiles, and potencies.
Essentially, they work in the human body the same way, binding with the cannabinoid receptors just as their natural cousins do. However, the legal status of most synthetic cannabinoids is restricted, even as newer compounds or analogs continue to be introduced on the market.
One benefit of using synthetic cannabinoids is that they are inexpensive, and harder to detect on standard drug tests. These are the reasons why they are easier to find in places like gas stations and smoke shops in many states.
So, Is Delta 8 THC Synthetic?
No—it just requires humans to get enough delta 8 THC together in one place to create products, and most manufacturers choose to get it via synthesis from CBD. But Delta-8 THC is a natural cannabis compound.
Is Delta-8 THC Legal?
According to the Farm Bill of 2018, cannabis plants with less than 0.3% dry weight of Delta-9 THC are legal for growth, production, possession, and sale, along with their derivatives—including potentially Δ8 THC. This means that currently, delta 8 THC is legal on a federal level in the United States if it is derived from those kinds of hemp plants.
So even where recreational marijuana remains illegal, Delta-8 THC made from hemp-derived CBD is legal in most states. Some states such as New York have prohibited THC isomers derived from hemp.
Check local laws first before using or buying Delta-8 THC, and always read labels! The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) isn’t doing this job for you with hemp products.
There is no question that Delta-8 THC occurs in nature in cannabis plants, but what you buy on the market in a final product may be synthetic or natural. The best move you can make is buy your delta-8 products from trusted sellers only.