Of the compounds within cannabis, the most often cited is Delta-9 Tetrahydrocannabinol, commonly referred to simply as THC. This psychoactive compound is the star in the marijuana world as it is responsible for the 'high'. It is less common knowledge that Delta-9 is not the only THC-named compound in the plant.
Through an aging process, this compound oxidizes into an isomer known as Δ8-THC. These two phytocannabinoids are analogs that share the same structural formula but have a slightly different arrangement of atoms. The molecular similarities provide similar therapeutic avenues with different psychoactive effects.
Activity: Psychoactive (Approx 50% less potent than Δ9-THC)
Molecular Mass: 314.4617 g/mol
Boiling Point: 200 °C (392 °F)
Like all other major cannabinoids, the synthesis of Δ8-THC begins with CBGA. From this stem cell molecule, THCA develops in mature cannabis. The harvested plant containing THCA is then decarboxylated via heat and time exposure into Δ9-THC. From there, an aging process through oxidation takes place, transforming the compound into Δ8-THC.
Because this lesser-known cannabinoid is created through oxidation, the resulting molecule is stable when exposed to air. This makes it an interesting compound for use in pharmaceutical applications. The molecule has shown promise in several studies but still has not seen widespread recognition or use.
The primary observations around the use of this compound focus on the lower potency, resulting in less significant psychoactive properties. Delta-8 has been observed as far less likely to induce stress in high doses when compared to its parent cannabinoid delta-9. This lower potency combined with a highly useful set of benefits led researchers to research and ultimately patent the conversion:
Based on information disclosed in US-issued patents:
Anecdotal experience notes:
Also notable - combining Δ8-THC with CBD diminishes the psychoactive effects even further. This points to the combination being an effective medicine while minimizing unwanted psychoactive effects.
Delta-8 THC is primarily found in only trace amounts in dried cannabis flower. These buds often contain less than 1% of the compound, meaning traditional means of smoking or vaporizing won't due. In order to produce a substantial amount of the molecule, a specialized extraction, isolation, conversion and refinement practice must be performed.
An example of the potency of a Delta-8-THC distillate, we look to manufacturer Oleum who produces a product called AquaTek D8. A sample batch resulted in the following chemical make-up:
Delta-8-THC = 58%
Delta-9-THC = 7.9%
Cannabidiol (CBD) = .35%
Since the compound shares such a close molecular design with delta-9 THC, it currently falls under the same legal status thanks to the Federal Analogue Act. This means not only that the public has a tough time accessing the compound, but research on the substance is difficult to conduct.
Currently, unless you live in a recreational or medically legal state, delta-8 THC is not accessible. Even more difficult is the fact that even in these states, the product is not widely available. Those who need the substance will have to search long and hard to come by it.
If you're looking to try this molecule in a potent form, you'll need to head to a state where marijuana use is legalized. There are some companies creating boutique products. For example, Oregon-based Oregrown creates a distillate that is available for sale across the state.
As with THC, CBD users won't be finding this cannabinoid in measurable quantities since hemp requires such a low THC profile. Since overall THC levels are restricted in CBD products, the amount of Delta-8 will almost always be negligible.
Originally published: September 17, 2018 | Last Updated: March 12, 2019
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