Delta-8 Demystified

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Unraveling the differences between hemp, marijuana, Delta-8, and Delta-9 THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) can be a bit tricky, but having an understanding of the differences makes a person a smarter and safer consumer, especially now that marijuana for recreational use is legal in New York State.  

Delta-8 THC is a hemp cannabis product, a cannabinoid derived from the hemp plant, and now a booming business after legislators passed the 2018 Farm Bill making it legal to grow hemp for the first time since 1937.  

Hemp and marijuana are actually the same species of a flowering plant, Cannabis sativa, in the Cannabaceae family. So, when does hemp become marijuana? When the levels of THC in the plant exceed 0.3 percent, the plant is considered marijuana, containing Delta-9 THC, the main component that produces psychoactive effects. This is what makes growing hemp, a legal enterprise, tricky business. Stressors on the plant, including drought, flooding, excessive or not enough nutrients, heat, and cold, can cause THC levels to spike, turning a legal hemp crop into “hot hemp,” as growers call it.   

The hemp plant itself contains very small concentrations of THC. However, producers of Delta-8 products extract Delta-8 from the hemp plant, concentrate it, and make it into products such as gummies, vapes, tinctures, smokables, and gel caps. Like its Delta-9 cousin, Delta-8 does produce a euphoric feeling, but one not as potent as marijuana. According to Food Safety News, Delta-8 has 50 to 75 percent of the psychoactive effect of the Delta-9 THC in marijuana.  

If you want to get your science on, this is the difference between Delta-8 and Delta-9. Although they both have the same molecular formula (C21H30O2), they are chemically different due to where a particular double bond is on the chain of carbon atoms. Delta-8 has the double bond on the eighth carbon chain (that’s where the “8” comes from in its name), and Delta-9 has the double bond on the ninth carbon chain. This small difference in chemical structure means that Delta-8 and Delta-9 affect the body differently.   

Just like the market for lower alcohol by volume products like hard selzters is booming, so is demand for Delta-8 THC products. The percentage of Delta-8 THC in a product can be determined by looking at the lab results for the product, something a reputable retailer should provide. This way, a person knows how much is being consumed.