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What Is Delta 8?

Medically Reviewed by Neha Pathak, MD on July 08, 2021

Delta-8 THC (or Delta-8-tetrahydrocannabinol) is a naturally occurring chemical compound called a cannabinoid that’s found in small traces in hemp and cannabis (marijuana) plants. Its popularity is on the rise, and you can find it everywhere from boutique weed dispensaries to convenience store shelves.

How Does It Compare to Regular Marijuana (Delta-9-THC)?

Why is there such a growing demand for Delta-8? For starters, its chemical structure is similar to that of its well-known cousin, Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Delta-9-THC), the main psychoactive compound found in marijuana. That’s what gets you “high.”

Both Delta-8 and Delta-9 are forms of THC. But when people refer to THC, they usually mean the Delta-9 that’s found in high concentrations in marijuana. Both produce a euphoric, fuzzy feeling, but Delta-8 causes a milder high.

In fact, Delta-8 is often referred to as “marijuana-lite” or “diet weed.” Other common THC side effects like paranoia, anxiety, and drowsiness are also less potent.

Is Delta-8 Legal?

Another reason for Delta-8’s growing popularity is that, unlike heavily regulated THC, Delta-8 is legal to use in most states. That’s because it’s extracted mostly from hemp-derived CBD, which is legal to farm across the U.S.

But Delta-8 sits in a legal gray area. Hemp’s legality stems from the so-called federal farm bill (the Agriculture and Nutrition Improvement Act of 2018), which removed hemp and its byproducts from the list of controlled substances. The reason: Hemp’s low THC levels (less than 0.3%). The bill doesn’t mention Delta-8 anywhere. Hemp advocates and others who sell it have used this loophole to legally market Delta-8 products, usually with no age restrictions. As a result, it’s now the fastest growing product from the hemp industry.

Because there’s little oversight or lab testing on what goes into Delta-8 products, chemists and other scientists have safety concerns. Products labeled as Delta-8 may contain impurities, including high levels of THC. As a result, around a dozen states, including New York and Colorado, are beginning to restrict or ban the use of Delta-8.

Where Can You Get It?

You can buy Delta-8 products over the counter at gas stations, convenience stores, weed and vape shops, and online. They’re sold as gummies, candies, vaping pens, oils, tinctures, edibles, joints, or beverages.

It’s important to note that there’s no quality control for these products and its ingredient list. It’s also easy to confuse Delta-8 products for CBD, which doesn’t cause a high.

Is It Safe?

There’s also a lack of research and evidence when it comes to Delta-8’s impact on your overall health. Many people have reported -- mostly via social media posts -- that they use Delta-8 along with their prescription medications to help with depression and substance use. Users say Delta-8 can also:

However, experts say these benefits are mostly word of mouth and there’s a lack of research on how it affects your health. Just because you can buy it off the shelves doesn’t mean it’s completely risk-free.

Some people have reported side effects like:

If you try Delta-8 products and notice any of these reactions, tell your doctor immediately. If it’s an emergency, call 911 or head to a hospital near you. If a child eats or is exposed to Delta-8 products, like gummies or candies, get immediate medical care.

Will You Test Positive for THC?

It depends. Delta-8 is a form of THC. Drug tests often look for traces of Delta-9, but Delta-8 could show up as a positive for THC. Whether it’s Delta-8 or Delta-9, people also react differently to cannabinoids depending on type of products they use and how long they use them for.

Currently, commercial urine drug tests don’t differentiate between different cannabinoids. So if you have a drug test coming up, it’s best to avoid Delta-8 products.

WebMD Medical Reference

Sources

SOURCES:

C&EN: “Delta-8-THC craze concerns chemists.”

University of Virginia Health: “Delta-8-THC: The Latest Cannabinoid.”

Project CBD: “The Delta-8 THC Controversy.”

Harvard Medical School: “Beyond CBD: Here come the other cannabinoids, but where’s the evidence?”

Wayne State University: “Michigan Poison Center issues warning about Delta-8 THC products.”

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