If you’re familiar with cannabis, you’ve probably heard all the fuss around delta-8 THC. This cannabinoid is weaker than regular THC but can still get you high.
Delta-8 THC made from hemp is federally legal because of a loophole. That’s why many people use it as an alternative to cannabis in states where recreational use is banned.
In this in-depth article, we’ll explain what delta-8 THC is and cover four key facts about this controversial compound.
What is Delta 8 THC?
Short for delta-8-tetrahydrocannabinol, delta 8 is a form of THC, the cannabinoid that gets you high. It’s one of over 140 phytocannabinoids naturally found in the cannabis plant. ¹
When people talk about THC, they’re usually referring to delta-9 THC, its most abundant form. Delta-8 is an isomer of delta-9, which means it has the same chemical formula but a slightly different arrangement of atoms.
Delta 8 works just like delta-9 — by binding to cannabinoid type 1 receptors (CB1) in the brain and causing psychoactive effects. But it’s only about 66% as strong as its better-known cousin. ²
A loophole in the 2018 Farm Bill means that hemp-derived delta-8 THC is federally legal. It has exploded in popularity by offering a “legal high” in states where recreational cannabis use is outlawed. That’s why some states are starting to ban or regulate it.
Fact #1: Delta 8 is Made From CBD
The natural levels of delta-8 THC in cannabis (including hemp) are low — usually less than 1%. Extracting it to make products is simply not cost-effective.
But you can also make delta-8-THC out of hemp-derived cannabidiol (CBD), the popular non-intoxicating cannabinoid. And since prices of hemp and CBD have been dropping, using them to make delta-8 THC has become a lucrative alternative.
The process is fairly straightforward: you dissolve pure CBD into an organic solvent and add an acid catalyst. The resulting mixture is rich in delta 8 with smaller amounts of other THC isomers, including delta-9 and delta-10 THC.
Fact #2: Delta 8 is Federally Legal but State Legality Varies
Delta 8 is legal on the federal level because of a loophole. The 2018 Farm Bill legalized hemp and hemp-derived products across the country as long as they contain no more than 0.3% of delta-9-THC.
By that definition, delta 8 made from hemp-derived CBD is perfectly legal. The only problem is that it was never meant to be that way.
Federal lawmakers legalized hemp because it has great economic value and contains too little THC to cause intoxication (except for people who are highly sensitive to THC). They never expected that there could be a way to make intoxicating substances from hemp.
Some critics also argue that delta-8 THC is illegal because it breaks other laws, like the 1986 Analogues Act that bans compounds “substantially similar” to controlled substances.
Despite this, the Drug Enforcement Agency recently confirmed that it considers delta-8 THC derived from hemp to be legal.
Delta 8 State Legality
While delta 8 might be legal on the federal level, individual states can regulate delta-8 THC as they see fit.
At this time, delta 8 is illegal in Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Idaho, Iowa, Louisiana, Montana, New York, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Utah.
In some states, including Washington, Mississippi, and Kentucky, the legal status of delta 8 remains unclear. Others, like Nevada and Michigan, regulate delta 8 THC in the same way as recreational cannabis, so you can only buy it from licensed sources.
This leaves about 30 states where delta-8 THC is legal and unregulated. But the laws are confusing, contradictory, unequally enforced, and subject to change.
Fact #3: Delta 8 is Similar to Delta-9 THC
The effects of delta-8 THC are milder but virtually identical to delta 9. Although more research is needed, one early study comparing the two reported feelings of euphoria, relaxation, and introspection. ²ᵇ
Delta-8 THC can also cause the same side effects as delta 9, including:
Anxiety and paranoia
Distorted perception of time
Fatigue and sleepiness
Impaired memory and coordination
Meanwhile, anecdotal user reports mention other cannabis-like effects, including happiness, sleepiness, increased appetite, improved mood, and pain relief.
But as we mentioned earlier, delta 8 is only about two-thirds as potent as its cousin, so the high and overall effects are weaker. For example, one 1995 study of children given delta-8 THC to prevent vomiting noted that it had “nonsignificant side effects.” ³ᵃ
Another difference is that delta 8 is also more stable than delta-9 THC, which gradually breaks down into cannabinol (CBN).
Fact #4: Delta 8 is Popular
Delta-8 THC is the fastest-growing segment of the hemp-derived cannabinoid industry.
That’s not surprising because delta 8 is legal in many states that don’t allow recreational cannabis use, such as North Carolina. It’s also popular in states like Kansas that have restrictive or non-existing medical cannabis programs.
Additionally, some people that have access to medical cannabis turn to delta-8 THC because it has a lower chance of causing anxiety and other side effects.
Delta 8 THC Safety
Although delta-8 THC can get you high, it appears to be a relatively safe substance with minor side effects. But that doesn’t mean delta 8 products are risk-free.
Residual solvents, chemical reaction byproducts, and other potentially harmful compounds can find their way into the final product if the manufacturer doesn’t follow proper cleanup procedures.
This is often the case because the rapid popularity of delta-8 THC has attracted plenty of shady and inexperienced companies.
In the words of cannabis chemistry consultant Bryan Boscia, “Delta-8 is good; it’s just the way people go about making it… Some people are very unscrupulous; some people just don’t know what they’re doing.”
It’s also common for delta 8 products to contain well over 0.3% delta-9-THC. That not only makes them federally illegal but can also result in a much stronger high than expected, especially for new cannabis users with low tolerance to THC.
These concerns were highlighted by a recent US Cannabis Council investigation. The group purchased 16 delta-8 THC products in April 2021 and sent them for independent testing to ProVerde, one of the leading cannabis testing labs in the country.
The tests found that all 16 products were over the legal delta-9 THC limit for hemp, with concentrations ranging from 1.3% to 5.3%. Many also contained pesticides, heavy metals, residual solvents, and unknown compounds.
These results highlight the importance of choosing reputable delta 8 vendors.
Delta 8 THC Dosage
The right dosage of delta 8 varies from person to person. It depends on many factors, like your genetics, body weight, tolerance, consumption method, as well as set and setting.
You should start with a low dose, wait to see the effects, and then gradually increase as needed. ⁴
The starting dose will depend on your experience with cannabis. Cannabis beginners may find that delta-8 THC has fairly strong effects, so they should start with very small amounts, such as 1-3 mg.
Meanwhile, experienced users are familiar with delta-9 THC, so they can start with bigger dosages.
Delta 8 THC Benefits & Research
Compared to delta-9 THC and CBD, delta 8 is underresearched.
So far, we know that it has antiemetic (anti-nausea), anxiolytic (anti-anxiety), appetite-stimulating, analgesic (pain-relieving), and neuroprotective properties. ⁵
Here’s a quick summary of the key studies done on delta-8 THC:
In a 1995 study, delta-8 THC prevented vomiting caused by cancer medication in children. ³ᵇ
In a 2004 mouse study, delta 8 increased appetite more than delta-9 THC. ⁶
In a 2018 study, delta 8 reduced pain and inflammation caused by eye injury in mice. ⁷
Still, further research is needed to fully understand delta-8 THC and its potential benefits and uses.
Overall, delta-8 THC appears to have the same benefits as its cousin. And since delta-9’s medical applications are limited by its psychoactive side effects, delta 8 has promise as a safer substitute.
How to Buy Safe Delta 8 THC
The rapid rise of delta-8 THC has attracted some unscrupulous individuals looking to make easy money. That’s why many delta 8 products don’t contain what’s advertised and might carry contaminants.
It’s common to see products containing far less (or more) delta-8 THC than advertised, as well as illegal amounts of delta-9 THC.
One third-party study of delta 8 products found that 68% contained the wrong amount of delta 8 and 53% were over the legal limit for delta-9 THC.
We recommend doing plenty of research when choosing delta 8 companies. You should never buy delta-8 THC products from gas stations or vape shops.
Instead, look for reputable online brands that are transparent about their production process and have positive customer reviews. More importantly, they should provide up-to-date third-party test results to verify the levels of delta 8, delta 9, and a lack of contaminants.
It’s best to check the test certificates of analysis (CoAs) yourself to make sure they match the label. You can also scan your product QR code to see the CoA for that specific batch.
Keep in mind that delta-8 THC is available in many forms, including vape cartridges, tinctures, gummies, capsules, distillate, and more. Vapes are arguably the most popular option because of their rapid effects but gummies aren’t far behind.
If you’re looking for an online delta-8 THC store with tons of options, Cannabis Life has you covered – with products ranging from gummies to capsules to tinctures infused with CBD.
Gleb Oleinik is a freelance CBD & cannabis writer from Vancouver, Canada. He’s read thousands of studies about cannabinoids and other beneficial natural compounds, helping him translate complex science into plain language. He’s also written third-party lab test reports of CBD products and knows the industry inside and out. When he’s not writing, Gleb likes to spend his time in the gym and out in nature.
Frequently Asked Questions
Delta-8 THC is federally legal because of a loophole in the 2018 Farm Bill. Its legal status in individual states varies – with most allowing it, others banning it, and some regulating it.
You can buy delta-8 THC products online or at unlicensed stores like gas stations, vape shops, and supplement stores.
Yes! Unless you have a high tolerance to THC, delta 8 is likely to get you high. But it’s weaker than delta-9 THC, the most abundant form of THC in cannabis.