What is Delta 8 THC?

Oct 4, 2021

What is Delta 8 THC?

Today, Delta 8 THC is the industry-leading buzzword— rapidly transforming into the market’s most alluring product. What exactly is it? Is it legal? And what benefits does it have? In this article, we’re going to give you the skinny on this wild and highly popular substance. We will provide all you will need to know to decide whether or not to give Delta 8 THC a try.

Same formula, different substances

Delta-8 THC is a similar molecule to Delta-9 THC, the psychoactive compound in responsible for the high associated with Marijuana. Delta-9 THC, however, while abundant in Marijuana, is present in Industrial Hemp only in trace amounts.  Delta-8 and Delta-9 THC are chemical isomers.  What does this mean?  Isomers are two or more compounds that share the same chemical formula, but have a different molecular structure.  Glucose and fructose are an example of isomers, which differ based on the position of a double bonded Oxygen atom but share the same chemical formula: C6H12O6.  Similarly,  Cannabinoid Isomers differ based on the position of double-bonded Hydrogen atoms.  In fact, not only are Delta-8 and Delta-9 THC isomers,  but CBD, CBN, and several other cannabinoids also share the same chemical formula with structural differences.

The biggest differences between all of these different isomers, however, is the way that they work on the cannabinoid receptors in the brain.  While CBD presents no psychotropic effects, Delta-8 and Delta-9 THC are psychoactive with the latter being the stronger of the two (which has been said anecdotally to be about 33-50% stronger).  It has been said by users that Delta-8 THC has less impairment, paranoia, and other negative side effects commonly associated with Delta-9 THC.  Another distinction between the two THC cousins is that even though Delta-8 THC is also only typically found in trace amounts in the plant, it can be sold in higher concentrations than Delta-9 THC because the 2018 USDA Farm Bill only specifies the legality of Hemp Products concerning the Delta-9 THC concentration.

We will explain the origins of Delta-8 THC later in this article, but in short, Delta-8 THC can be obtained from CBD isolate via a conversion process called “isomerization”- which has been helping to breathe new life into a market that has suffered an oversaturation of endless products coming from anyone who gets excited about all the industry buzz. When the 2018 Farm Bill was passed, all extracts, salts, isomers, and other forms and derivatives containing less than .3% Delta-9 THC were deemed an agricultural commodity, which opened up the doors to a whole new market of products which are available with increasing diversity and utility.  This regulatory elbow room allows Delta-8 THC shelving space in retail outlets across the United States without requiring the user to apply for a Medical Marijuana Card.

On the other hand, Delta-8 THC has been a widely debated and controversial molecule, and its legal status seems to be all over the place in various States around the Country.  Delta-8 THC is currently considered to be illegal in Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Kentucky, Idaho, Iowa, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, New York, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, and Washington despite meeting the definition of Industrial Hemp according to the 2018 Farm Bill.

Where does Delta 8 THC come from?

Delta-8 THC was first discovered in 1941 by Roger Adams and his colleagues at the University of Illinois.  They conducted a partial synthesis of the compound and the same research group conducted a study surrounding the physiological and psychoactive effects of Delta-8 THC the following year.  Delta-8 THC was not fully synthesized and isolated until 1965. In 1967 it was fully synthesized from non-cannabis feedstock using Olivetol, a composite organism commonly found in species of algae, and natural terpene called Verbenol.  Today, Delta-8 THC is converted using CBD isolate and organic catalysts to change the position of the double hydrogen bond.

To rewind a moment, we should first look at the distinction between “Hemp” and “Marijuana”.  To those of us who work in the industry, describing these differences are second nature, but most of the American public don’t encounter situations where this knowledge is necessary or pertinent.  The most obvious difference is in the final products that are derived from hemp- as previously mentioned, a Federally Legal hemp product must not contain more than .3% Delta-9 THC.  The number “.3%” seems to be arbitrarily chosen, and while we don’t know why, it is the law we must adhere to.  Before the 2018 Farm Bill, there was a 2014 version, and under that version, some states chose to adopt a slightly higher limit of 1% Delta-9 THC.  Some other countries still operate their hemp programs with other limits as well, such as Switzerland (1%) and Italy (.6%).

While we aren’t sure why these exact limits are chosen, the overall logic behind it comes from the genetics of the plant.  There are all sorts of misconceptions about what Hemp is, and we’ve heard them all: “Hemp is the male plant” or “Hemp doesn’t smell like that”.  Visually and aromatically, Hemp and Marijuana are virtually indistinguishable.  It’s the Cannabinoid Profile that differs; in fact, sometimes even the same strain can produce polar opposites when it comes to CBD and THC.  One example is the cultivar called “Cannatonic”.  Some say it is the strain that is responsible for it all.  If you plant 100 Cannatonic seeds, 50 of them will grow into plants producing equal ratios of CBD to THC, 25 of them will produce high CBD plants, and 25 of them will produce high THC plants.  You may recognize the name of the high CBD variant (or “phenotype”): “AC/DC”.  Since then, many high CBD varieties have been bred using all sorts of techniques like crossbreeding and “pheno-hunting” (looking for a specific version of a plant and isolating it) to diversify the offerings of the hemp genetic pool.

Once we have grown an entire crop of high CBD plants, we then must extract the CBD from the plant.  This is done using various methods and solvents.  Our extraction division, called CannaVentures of West Virginia, utilizes SubCritical (or liquid) CO2  to produce an extract typically called CBD “Crude” (more on that later).  The raw extract contains the full spectrum of Cannabinoids and Terpenes that the plants have to offer.  This oil then gets refined by breaking it down into different derivatives, one of them being CBD Isolate, which contains no less than 99.5% CBD.  The isolate is then used as the feedstock for Delta-8 THC production.  A highly pure and clean CBD isolate must be used to minimize the production of unwanted byproducts during the conversion process.  The resulting mixture is then processed further and eventually distilled to remove the last of the impurities, yielding a lightly colored distillate usually containing more than 90% Delta-8 THC.

Is Delta 8 THC legal?

Delta-8 THC is federally legal thanks to the Farm Bill of 2018. It is not prohibited under federal law as of August 2021. Nonetheless, 18 states have banned or restricted it and 4 more are on the fence. What exactly does that mean?  This is where it gets a bit legally complicated.  In the DEA’s controlled Substance Act (CSA), Delta-8 is categorized as a Schedule 1 Drug, but for each drug listed, there is also a source listed- and the source listed for Delta-8 THC is Marijuana.  The most common legal interpretation of this is that as long as Delta-8 THC is derived from Hemp, it cannot be deemed illegal.

Here’s the kicker: in that same document, it excludes hemp from the legal definition of Marijuana- and it sites the definition of hemp as being “as defined by the 2018 Farm Bill” wherein it clearly states that ALL extracts, isomers (that’s the important one), salts, etc. are legal and shall forever be an agricultural commodity.  In fact, because the 2018 farm bill legalized hemp, the DEA was ordered to change the definition of marijuana in its document outlining the status of various drugs.  The conversion of chemicals is routinely practiced in many industries, such as the petroleum industry, and the conversion of CBD into Delta-8 THC has been published since 1941- so the obvious answer is that “of course it’s legal”- but it could be argued that these regulatory entities may have not predicted the Delta-8 market boom that is taking place.  We expect to see some sort of clarification on Cannabis’ various derivatives and their complex legal nuances sometime in the next few years, but only time will tell.  Until then, we have the current laws and regulations to guide us as much can be interpreted.

Where To Find Good, Safe, and Quality Delta 8 THC Products.

This is the part that has become the most controversial.  There are many unanswered questions about Delta-8.  As a molecule, there hasn’t been many alarm bells rung, but the production of Delta-8 THC is completely unregulated, so it’s difficult to vet suppliers or know who to trust.  This is where the rubber meets the road.  Here at Doc Jon’s, we live by the old adage “If you want something done right, do it yourself.”

We are a vertically integrated company, which means that we have several divisions:

The first part starts in the soil.  We have our own farming division which is run by third generation farmers right next to our facility.  We test the soil for contaminants, then the Department of Agriculture tests the plants for compliance.  After we harvest, we dry and cure the plants to perfection, setting aside the best tops for smokable grade flower.  Some of that flower gets infused with Delta-8 Distillate- and our infusion process DOES NOT use solvents like others.  We took the time to select the perfect instrumentation to achieve this without degradation to the distillate or the plants.  Then we tested for residual solvents to prove it.  The rest of the flower is reserved as “biomass” for extraction.  As previously mentioned, we use a SubCritical CO2 System that preserves the terpenes and other valuable characteristics of the plants.  This is important because we know the value in using actual hemp derived terpenes- OUR hemp derived  terpenes- in our products as they provide a natural and authentic experience you won’t find with other companies using only “botanically derived” (other plants that aren’t cannabis) or steam-distilled (barnyard-y smelling and full of thiols- which are sulfur alcohols) hemp terpenes.

Once we have isolated the CBD from the oil and converted it into Delta-8 THC, this is where many companies skip the work and just want to make the buck.  There are rumblings in the industry that many Delta-8 products may contain harmful byproducts if not properly cleaned up after the reaction process.  As soon as we heard this, we decided to expand our cleanup procedures.

After the reaction process is complete, we conduct a “washing” procedure where the solution is mixed with water and separated again to remove any residual nasties.  This is done 15 times to encompass a ph range of 1 to 12 and settling at a neutral ph of 7.2.  Following that, the solution is passed through a filtration system containing 5 specially selected and proprietary filter medias to remove any more potential contaminants at that stage.  Finally, the solution is reduced as the solvent is evaporated (the concentrated oil must be dissolved to be thin enough to filter as it’s highly viscous much like very thick glue) and it is distilled.  This removes any remaining traces of solvents and any other contaminants by separating the Delta-8 THC into a high temperature fraction.  Anything that is distilled outside of our very narrow temperature specifications is discarded including the first 10% of the main fraction to be certain.  Then we distill it again.

We believe this sets Doc Jon’s apart from so many fly-by-night companies with old test results and weird colored distillates.  Many folks can’t say they know where their Delta-8 comes from, but we are available for support anytime and we encourage our customers to ask questions because Cannabis can be confusing and overwhelming as this article highlights.  Doc Jon’s provides its customers with the highest quality products possible, and not just Delta-8 Products.  Check out our CBN, CBG, and CBD/CBDa products with new formulations always hitting the site.  We believe in transparency, traceability, and stick to small batches to ensure that we are doing what we say we are.  Doc Jon’s Private Reserve- Small Batch, Big Difference.