What is Delta-8 THC?

Delta-8 promises an enjoyable and therapeutic high without the overwhelming effects of THC.

Delta-8 THC oil tincture
Elsa Olofsson/Oracle
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Delta-8 THC is an analog of delta-9 THC. How does it affect you? Can it help you with anxiety and pain? Will it get you high?

What is delta 8 THC?

  • Delta-8 is a “minor” cannabinoid, a variant of delta-9 with small molecular differences resulting in unique effects
  • Delta-8 has many potential benefits: good for pain, inflammation, nausea, and appetite stimulation
  • Delta-8 causes a milder high than delta-9
  • Side-effects may include fatigue, drowsiness, dizziness, and headaches, as well as nausea and vomiting (in high doses)
  • Delta-8 is stuck in a federally legal grey area. Make sure it’s derived from hemp to guarantee federal legality or live in a state with legal marijuana use.
  • Delta-8 will show up in a drug test

Delta-8 THC

Type“Minor” phytocannabinoid present in all varieties of cannabis
DefinitionA variant of delta-9 THC
EffectsMildly psychoactive and intoxicating
BenefitsMay treat pain, nausea, inflammation, and appetite issues
Side effectsMild dizziness, fatigue, anxiety, and panic
BindingBinds to CB1 and CB2 receptors
LegalityFederally legal when sourced from hemp
Shows up in drug test?Yes

What is Delta-8 THC?

Delta-8 THC is short for delta-8-tetrahydrocannabinol. You may also see it referred to scientifically as Δ8-THC.

Delta-8 THC gummies. Elsa Olofsson/Oracle

Delta-8 is one of over 100 separate cannabinoids found in varieties of cannabis (marijuana and hemp). It’s also an “analog” or variation of delta-9 THC meaning it has almost the same molecular structure with small differences. These small differences are enough to cause unique effects in your body.

Delta-8 hasn’t received half the love it deserves, to be honest. CBD and THC are the two most popular and researched cannabinoids found in varieties of cannabis. Delta-8 THC is a lesser-known “minor” cannabinoid. Only a fractional percentage is present – maybe 1% at a push. 

But let’s not confuse “minor” for useless. Delta-8’s presence in cannabis isn’t in abundance but it’s abundantly clear this underrepresented cannabinoid could very well be an excellent alternative to the delta-9 THC juggernaut. 

Delta-8 vs. Delta-9

Delta-8 THCDelta-9 THC
Delta 8 THCDelta 9 THC molecule
Federally legal if sourced from hemp; federally illegal if sourced from marijuanaMore than 0.3% THC is federally illegal
Produces a mild-to-moderate intoxicating highProduces a strong intoxicating high
High binding affinity with CB2 receptors; less so with CB1Very high binding affinity at CB1; less so at CB2
Molecularly similar (double bond on 8th carbon chain) Molecularly similar (double bond on 9th carbon chain)

A closer look at the differences between delta-8 and delta-9 THC’s molecular structures (and what it means).

Delta 8 THC vs. Delta 9 molecules

To the untrained eye, the diagram above is just a bunch of shapes, lines, and numbers put together in a random sequence. What you’re actually looking at are the molecular structures of delta-9 THC and delta-8 THC. 

Structurally, delta 8 and delta 9 look practically identical, but if you look a little closer at both, there’s actually one very small difference. You can see both structures carry double bonds on their molecular chains. These double bonds are represented as lines inside the pentagon shapes.

If you look for the numbers “8” and “9” on the delta-9 THC diagram (below), you’ll see a line running from 9 to 10 but no line from 8 to 9 inside the pentagon. This illustrates a double bond on the 9th carbon chain.

Delta 9 vs Delta 8 THC

Now, if you look at the delta-8 diagram, the line inside the pentagon runs from 8 to 9. This illustrates a double bond on the 8th carbon chain.

How does this molecular difference affect how they interact with your endocannabinoid system?

The molecular difference between delta-8 and delta-9 is small but significant. It changes the way both cannabinoids interact with your endocannabinoid system (ECS), a complex and naturally-occurring biological system within all vertebrate mammals responsible for regulating and maintaining core functionality (sleep, mood, appetite, pain, stress, etc). 

Delta-9 THC has a very strong affinity with your cannabinoid 1 (CB1) receptors, which are essential to your ECS and found all throughout the brain and central nervous system. When delta-9 floods the brain and grips tightly to CB1 receptors, a very euphoric high begins. 

Because delta-8 THC has a slightly altered molecular structure, it fails to bind to your CB1 receptors as effectively as delta-9. This, in turn, causes a less potent high. 

Delta-8 vs. THCV vs. THCA

Federally legal if sourced from hemp; federally illegal if sourced from marijuanaFederally illegal if sourced from hemp or marijuanaFederally illegal if sourced from hemp or marijuana
Mild-to-moderate intoxication in mild-to-moderate dosesNo intoxication at low doses; mild intoxication in larger dosesNo intoxication
High binding affinity with CB2 receptors; less so with CB1High binding affinity with both CB1 and CB2 receptorsVery little binding affinity with CB1 or CB2 receptors

Delta-8 vs. CBD

Delta-8 THCCBD
Federally legal if sourced from hemp; federally illegal if sourced from marijuanaFederally legal if <0.3% THC
Mild-to-moderate intoxication in mild-to-moderate dosesNo intoxication, but considered psychoactive
High affinity with CB2 receptors; less so with CB1Very little binding affinity with CB1 or CB2 receptors

Delta-8 causes a high (but not one you’d expect)

Despite the molecular similarities, delta-8 THC doesn’t cause the same outrageous high as delta-9 THC does.

In fact, many believe delta-8’s high creates a consistently clear-headed experience with very little paranoia and anxiety symptoms. This type of “mild” high is making delta-8 very popular and hugely accessible to casual, beginner users. 

Our experience with a delta-8 THC high:

We at CBD Oracle tried delta-8 THC in concentrate form a few weeks ago. We weren’t really expecting anything too impressive (we’re delta-9 purists at heart). However, once we gave it a go, we could see what all the fuss was about. 

A delta-8 high is similar to a three-beer-buzz. Not enough to affect your brain and body to the point of overwhelming intoxication but still sufficiently stimulating and uplifting. At no point did we feel groggy or nauseous, nor did we experience any sickness or vomiting. 

Comparing a delta-9 THC high with a delta-8 THC high is like comparing King-Kong to the dragon from Shrek. Both beastly in their own right but with very different temperaments. Delta-9 can be mentally destructive if you consume way more than you’re used to. Delta-8 is far tamer and easier to control. 

We still recommend going easy on your first go. Try a small amount and see how you feel. Listen to your mind and body. If you feel you can have more, go for it. Just don’t consume a huge amount right at the beginning.

Delta-8 THC’s legality is a little blurry and slightly more complex than delta-9 THC. 

We know delta-9 THC sourced from high-THC marijuana is federally illegal and classified as a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), alongside ecstasy and LSD. Under this scheduling, delta-9 THC has no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. If sourced from hemp, however, it’s federally legal but only if the product (CBD flower, CBD oil, or otherwise) carries less than 0.3% THC. 

For a while, delta-8 THC wasn’t explicitly listed as a controlled substance, nor was there any law banning it. The DEA changed this in August 2020, updating the CSA to include all “tetrahydrocannabinols” as controlled substances. 

However, delta-8 THC is only federally illegal if it’s derived from high-THC marijuana or the product you purchase carries more than 0.3% delta-9 THC. Essentially, it must be derived from hemp to be federally legal. 

The most important thing to remember is delta-8 THC is federally legal if derived from hemp and the product carries no more than 0.3% delta-9 THC

An update on delta-8-THC’s legality in the U.S.

Over the past couple of months, delta-8-THC’s legality across the US has been called into question, causing concern among cannabis users, manufacturers suppliers, and retailers within the cannabis industry. 

The federal government closing in on delta-8

Despite hemp-derived delta-8’s supposed legality under the Agriculture Improvement Act (Farm Bill 2018), the federal government and the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) believe it’s a Schedule I controlled substance.

In 2020, the DEA issued an interim final rule on hemp and its derivatives. This rule sought to bring the Farm Bill, which legalized hemp and hemp production, in line with the CSA. 

The DEA’s rule specifically proposed new regulations over hemp, hemp farming, and hemp production, including the production of hemp-derived products e.g. CBD oil. It also stated all “synthetically-derived” tetrahydrocannabinols were to be listed as Schedule I controlled substances. This is where all the confusion began.

To be synthetic or not to be synthetic

Delta-8 THC is a “minor” cannabinoid i.e. only 1% can be found in hemp or marijuana. In order for producers to make delta-8 THC products, it must be converted from CBD through a structural isomerization process. 

This isomerization process takes CBD, makes small but significant changes to its molecular structure, and converts it into delta-8 THC. The alterations are made using chemicals under laboratory conditions. 

Now, here’s where trouble starts. Since delta-8 is synthesized using chemicals or biochemicals and not sourced directly from hemp plants, the federal government and the DEA could view it as a synthetic or synthetically-derived substance. If this is true, delta-8 can be viewed as a controlled substance. 

U.S. states scramble to ban delta-8 THC

With the federal government closing in and the DEA still placing delta-8 and delta-10 alongside delta-9 in its Prohibited Narcotics List as controlled substances, US states are now beginning to take action. 

15 states have either banned or restricted the use, possession, sale, or production of delta-8, which includes hemp-friendly states such as Colorado, Kentucky, and Alaska. A further six US states are currently debating delta-8’s future as we speak. Delta-8 remains legal in many states including Texas (find out more about delta-8 THC legality in Texas here).

Will delta-8 THC products cause a failed drug test?

Yes. Delta-8 can cause you to fail a drug test. Why? Regardless of whether you’re consuming delta-8 THC, delta-9 THC, or THCV, your body will break down and metabolize all THC molecules and turn them into THC metabolites.

Drug tests aren’t advanced enough to know the difference between each metabolite and will essentially lump them all together. 

How long does delta-8 THC stay in your system?

Delta-8 THC metabolites stay in your body for a lot longer than you think, which is why it’s imperative to not consume any before a drug test. 

You see, there’s a common misconception that once the effects of any THC molecule wear off it’s now out of the body and undetectable. This just isn’t true. Generally, after a single session with THC (delta-8 or otherwise), it’s detectable for up to a week (if not more) depending on the dose. 

If you’re a frequent user, THC can be detectable for up to 3 weeks. 

If you have a drug test coming up, we recommend abstaining from any THC products for at least 30-60 days leading up to a drug test. If you want to guarantee a negative drug test, abstain altogether.

Benefits of delta-8 THC

Aside from being a gentle and very beginner-friendly beast, delta-8 THC boasts its own benefits. It focuses heavily on your cannabinoid 2 (CB2) receptors, which are located all throughout your immune system.

This affinity with CB2 receptors could result in the alleviation of pain and inflammation symptoms, as well as promoting appetite stimulation via the receptors in your digestive system. 

As for your CB1 receptors? Delta-8 THC’s affinity isn’t quite as strong. As we mentioned previously, it doesn’t bind as well to CB1 receptors as delta-9 THC does. The effects are slightly less potent, producing less of a high. 

What does the research say about delta-8 THC’s benefits?

1. Delta 8 as a possible anti-anxiety reliever 

Delta-8 THC exhibits anti-anxiety qualities but research is very limited and purely speculative. The idea behind delta-8’s alleged anti-anxiety qualities hinges primarily on anecdotal evidence. Many users on and off the internet believe moderate doses of delta-8 causes a reduction in anxiety and anxiety-related symptoms. 

Unfortunately, very little preclinical or clinical studies involving human test subjects exist. If true, however, delta-8 could potentially help you with a range of anxiety symptoms. 

2. Delta-8 showed no anti-depressant effects in rodent test subjects

Despite many across the internet believing delta-8 THC can produce antidepressant effects, studies on rodents show otherwise.

Researchers discovered delta-8 had no antidepressant qualities at any of the doses given, believing it to be the result of weaker binding at CB1 receptor sites. Delta-9 THC, on the other hand, produced some antidepressant effects (due to its stronger affinity with CB1 receptors). 

3. Delta-8 THC could potentially reduce pain & inflammation symptoms

Delta-8 shows promise in reducing pain and inflammation symptoms in preclinical studies on rodent test subjects.

Applied topically, researchers discovered delta-8 combined with CBD activated both CB1 and CB2 receptors, thus producing a relatively potent analgesic effect. It’s unknown whether delta-8 THC can help with neuropathic pain or long-term chronic pain. Clinical studies are yet to be launched. 

Though research is still limited to preclinical studies, delta-8 could be a promising cannabinoid for acute pain caused by extensive physical labor or frequent high-intensity gym sessions. 

4. Delta-8 THC may stimulate appetite

Delta-8 THC could also be useful for appetite stimulation and the desire for food.

In an early 2004 study, researchers investigated the effects of low delta-8 doses on rodent test subjects for food consumption, as well as cognitive function. The rodents were given food 2.5 hours per day over the course of a 9-50 day period. On day 9, they discovered a 16% increase in food consumption and a 22% increase in the longer-term. Cognitive function also increased without overly-obvious side-effects. 

Again, research here is limited to preclinical studies. However, it’s not too far-fetched to assume delta-8 could be used medicinally for chemotherapy-induced appetite loss or eating disorders. The lack of obvious side-effects makes it far more desirable. 

5. Delta-8’s impressive anti-nausea and vomiting qualities 

In 1995, the official god of cannabis research, Ralph Mechoulam, conducted an experimental study on delta-8 THC’s potential antiemetic properties. He administered a dose of delta-8 to eight children aged 3-13 suffering from various hematologic cancers for up to eight months. 

During the entirety of the study, each child continued their course of antineoplastic (anti-tumor) medication. The doses of delta-8 were given two hours before administration of antineoplastic medication and six hours after for 24 hours. 

The results were staggering. Nausea and vomiting was “completely prevented” and no overwhelming side-effects occurred. 

Unfortunately, a 2005 clinical trial on delta-8’s effectiveness in combating chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting was terminated for reasons unknown to us. 

Delta-8 side-effects are dose-dependent (don’t take too much)

Is delta-8 THC safe? Despite delta-8 THC’s milder effects, don’t think negative side-effects won’t happen (no matter how uncommon they are). It’s still an analog of delta-9 THC and does cause intoxication, reduced blood pressure, and, by extension, rapid heart rate.

A combination of decreased blood pressure and elevated heart rate can bring on panic or anxiety, especially if you’re predisposed to any of the two. 

Other side-effects may include:

  • Mild drowsiness 
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Anxiety (in higher doses)
  • Panic (in higher doses)

We recommend the old saying “start low, go slow”. No need to take too much all in one go. Delta-8’s beauty lies in moderation. 

Our experience with delta-8 THC side-effects:

To be perfectly honest, we didn’t experience many side effects. We felt a slight drop in blood pressure and a bit of dizziness when we stood up but it wasn’t anything too out of the ordinary. Once the effects started wearing off, there was some slight tiredness and fatigue, which is to be expected from an intoxicating compound. The next morning there was no “weed” hangover. No nausea or light-headedness. Practically like any other morning. 

Where is delta-8 available to buy online?

Delta-8 THC products are available online from select cannabis brands. Delta-8 products are still in their infancy and only introduced into the market over the past year or two. You may also find a few delta-8 THC products in CBD stores. 

You’re not really spoiled for choice here. Delta-8 THC products are only just being developed and released into the market. We’ve tried a couple of them and we recommend three of the best below. See a full list of Oracle’s Picks for the best delta-8 THC carts, gummies, and flower.

Extra-Strength CBD + Delta-8 THC Gummies by Kush Queen

Kush Queen was one of the first CBD brands to jump on the delta-8 THC hype. The brand’s delta-8 CBD gummies come with 10mg of CBD and 10mg of delta-8-THC. Nice and balanced. Not too potent but enough to give you the famous clear-headed high we’ve been talking about. Suitable for beginners. Highly relaxing. You only need one or two, preferably in the evening as a source of relaxation. Easy to use. Very convenient. Slow-releasing for a gradual buzz. 

Delta 8 THC gummies

Delta-8 THC and CBC Tincture by Arete Hemp

Arete Hemp has released one of the strongest delta-8 THC tinctures of all time. It’s very potent and carries a whopping 1200mg of delta-8 and 500mg of CBC, alongside medium-chain-triglyceride oil (MCT) as its high-absorbing carrier. Derived purely from hemp flower. Very limited batches, so get in there quick. Best for ultimate relaxation, euphoria, and focus. We recommend this product to an intermediate cannabis user, not beginners. The potency is a little too high. Best-used in the evening with a cup of herbal tea. If you’re looking for lighter options to start with, Arete Hemp also produces some of the best delta-8 cartridges we’ve reviewed.

Delta-8 THC Pre-Rolls by Genesis

CBD Genesis offers the most natural way to consume delta-8 THC. Made from organic CBD hemp flower specially-bred for high delta-8 content. Each pre-roll carries 1.3mg of grams of premium hemp flower containing 400mg of delta-8. Because this is a smokable product, 400mg is very potent and immediately effective. No need to wait around. Again, we recommend this to seasoned cannabis veterans. The high might be a little too overwhelming for beginners.

How to properly store delta-8 THC products?

The good news is delta-8 THC is a far more robust and stable cannabinoid compared to delta-9 THC, resulting in a longer shelf-life, making it a far more desirable cannabinoid to have, particularly for users and brands.

Does delta-8’s stability mean you don’t have to worry about correct storage?

No. You should always store cannabis products correctly (delta-8 or otherwise). Stability doesn’t mean invincibility. 

We recommend keeping the following storage tips in mind:

  • Make sure the container is suitable for longevity e.g. tinctures or oils should be in a dark, near-opaque glass bottle to prevent UV light from breaking down the delta-8 THC molecules
  • Avoid humid conditions (don’t store it in your bathroom)
  • Avoid direct sunlight (don’t store it on windowsills, etc)
  • Avoid high heat sources (ovens, heaters, etc)
  • Keep the lid on tightly after every use

Following these very simple rules will result in your delta-8 THC product staying fresh for up to a year, though it’s essential to remember natural degradation occurs no matter how careful you are. 

What happens if I consume an out-of-date delta-8 THC product? (Trust us, it won’t kill you)

If you’ve recently used a delta-9 THC tincture or smoked a very old delta-8 THC pre-roll joint, don’t start having a panic attack just yet. There’s no need to call your doctor in tears. It’s not toxic, nor will it cause you any harm. It will, however, be noticeably less potent and effective. 

We recommend purchasing a brand new delta-8 product for a fuller and better experience. 

Who is delta-8 best-suited to?

Delta-8 THC is a good all-rounder. Doesn’t kick your ass the same way as delta-9 THC but will still give you a nice and healthy buzz. Perfectly suitable for a relaxing day on your own or socializing with friends. 

Delta-8 THC is also good for focus and concentration. If you’re a university student, micro-dosing throughout the day could help you concentrate on your ever-growing pile of university coursework or assignments. 

If you’re working from home, we suggest some caution. You don’t want to be high at work and receive an unexpected conference call with all your workmates (even worse your boss!). 

If work or university stress is getting you down and you’re finding it hard to sleep, we recommend a delta-8 THC gummy as it’s slow-releasing throughout the night. It may help alleviate mild insomnia symptoms. 

Gym-goers and labor-intensive workers may also benefit from delta-8’s pain-relieving qualities. Best-used right after your gym session or work shift. If you need immediate relief, we suggest smoking a delta-8 flower and pre-roll product or vaporizing a delta-8 concentrate.

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