Short Answer: Delta-8 is a cannabinoid derived from hemp plants with similar effects as Delta-9 THC, the cannabinoid found in marijuana.
Long Answer: It’s complicated.
Let’s take a couple steps back and break down some of the terminology and chemistry here.
History and Physiology of Cannabis
Hemp and marijuana come from the same species of plant, cannabis sativa. What is unique about the cannabis plant is how it produces hundreds of unique compounds known as cannabinoids. The most commonly known cannabinoid is delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (Delta-9 THC) which is what most people associate with the euphoric “high” when consuming marijuana. It is this psychoactive compound (Delta-9 THC) that is considered illegal by the US Federal government under the Controlled Substance Act.
As Delta-9 THC binds with specific receptors in the body, users can experience effects that range from the creativity-boosting “head high” to the relaxed “body high.” THC also interacts with receptors in the body that control appetite and can lead to distinct food cravings. However, many users can also experience the downsides of Delta-9 THC which can include feelings of anxiety, paranoia or panic. Delta 8 tetrahydrocannabinol (D8-THC or simply Delta-8), which is derived from legal industrial hemp, holds very special properties that people are just beginning to appreciate.
Cannabis with more than 0.3% of Delta-9 THC is considered marijuana while cannabis with less than 0.3% is considered industrial hemp which was formally legalized in the 2018 Farm Bill. Hemp is now the source for a growing number of cannabinoids that are growing in popularity as their effects on the human body’s natural endocannabinoid system is discovered. There are ongoing studies exploring the unique properties of other distinct cannabinoids including cannabidiol (CBD), cannabigerol (CBG), cannabichromene (CBC), cannabinol (CBN) and most recently delta-8 tetrahydrocannabinol (D8-THC).
Delta-8 vis-à-vis Delta-9: Similarities
Delta-8 also shares many of the positive traits of Delta-9-THC. For starters, Delta-8, like Delta-9 THC can be used to boost your appetite, especially when you’re under the weather. Studies show that Delta-8 may also share Delta-9’s neuroprotective, pain-relieving, and anxiolytic qualities.
A cannabis strain that has a high concentration of Delta-9 THC could cause headache, dizziness, and oftentimes trigger anxiety and paranoia. No wonder many users are shifting to products containing a higher proportion of Delta-8 instead. Users also experience a less intense effect because Delta-8’s psychotropic potency is lower in comparison to Delta-9. Delta-8 effects will be more mild and mellow compared to Delta-9.
Legal Status of Marijuana and Hemp
Marijuana is legal in Washington state although it remains illegal on a federal level, despite the increasing number of states with a recreational and medical market for consumers. Industrial hemp and all of its extracts and isomers is also federally legal. Marijuana has been defined with having more than 0.3% Delta-9 THC while anything less is considered industrial hemp. It is from industrial hemp that dozens of benefiial cannabinoids are being grown, extracted and refined from. This includes CBD, CBG, CBN, CBC and now Delta-8.
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