Delta-8 THC: Natural High or Legal Grey Area?

Delta-8 THC is growing in popularity, marketed as a legal alternative to cannabis with a natural, smoother high. But what is it, exactly? Is it really natural? And is it safe to take?

What is Delta-8 THC?

Anyone who’s familiar with our work here at PurePower will have heard us talk about cannabinoids, naturally occurring compounds found in hemp and cannabis plants. There are well over 100 types of cannabinoids, but perhaps the most well-known among them are CBD (cannabidiol) and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol).  

While CBD is non-psychotropic (it doesn’t get you high), THC is psychotropic, and is the substance responsible for the characteristic cannabis high. CBD occurs in both cannabis and hemp, while THC only occurs in cannabis (hemp contains trace amounts). 

Just as there are different types of cannabinoids, there are also different kinds of THC. The most common type, found naturally in cannabis, is Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol or Delta-9 THC. 

Delta-8 THC is another type of cannabinoid, which is chemically very similar to Delta-9, though slightly less psychotropic. Some people describe it as a “smoother” high, due to its lower potency. Delta-8 only occurs naturally in trace amounts – we’re talking fractions of a percentage. In these trace percentages, it occurs in both cannabis and hemp, though nowhere near enough to get you high naturally.

Is Delta-8 THC Legal?

A few years ago, after the 2018 Farm Bill legalized the production of hemp across all 50 states, manufacturers figured out a way to synthesize Delta-8 THC from hemp plants. In theory, this means that it is legal to produce, sell, and get high from. In practice, it’s a little more of a grey area, and legislation varies from state to state. What’s more, the DEA is currently in the process of rule-making with regards to the 2018 Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018. As such, the loophole that makes Delta-8 THC legal could soon be closed. 

And Is It Safe?

But is Delta-8 THC safe? Well, the answer is that there just isn’t enough research available to be sure. In terms of its chemical composition and its effect on the body, it is similar to Delta-9. So if you react badly to cannabis you might not get on with Delta-8 either. 

In states where cannabis is legal, the market is tightly controlled, ensuring that all cannabis products, from vape pens to edibles, are safe to consume. However, because Delta-8 THC exists in a legal loophole, the market is not regulated in the same way. As such, there’s no sure-fire way of judging the quality or strength of the product. The hemp from which Delta-8 is synthesized could have been grown with harmful chemical herbicides or pesticides, or be contaminated with heavy metals. When buying Delta-8 THC or any hemp product, you should always ensure that it has been lab tested and that the company clearly displays the lab-test results. However, that may be easier said than done. Few Delta-8 THC companies currently seem to display independent lab results on their websites. 

Delta-8 THC: The Bottom Line

Yes, Delta-8 THC is derived from hemp and has a very similar structure to CBD and Delta-9 THC. However, don’t be fooled into thinking that it is a natural high. It is an artificially synthesized substance that currently exists in a legal loophole. As such, it is unregulated, resulting in products of varying quality with very little information available about strength and purity. In short, proceed with caution. 

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