What's the Big Deal with Delta-8?
Have you ever heard of Delta-8 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)? This once little-known cannabinoid has made a big splash in the cannabis industry, having gained considerable popularity and national attention despite only being available on the market a few years.
In fact, a recent survey from the Brightfield Group, a CBD and cannabis market research firm, revealed that nearly a quarter of American CBD users have already heard of Delta-8, and half of those users had even tried the products themselves. This isn’t surprising, with Delta-8 gummies, vapes, and candies popping up in convenience stores and smoke shops across the country.
But Delta-8’s rapid rise in the market has customers and retailers alike starting to ask questions: What are its effects? How is it produced? Is it safe to use? Is it legal?
In this article, we’ll dive into some of the questions surrounding Delta-8, that way you can be a bit more informed if you’re weighing whether or not to try it yourself.
What is Delta-8?
Delta-8 THC is a naturally occurring cannabinoid found within the cannabis plant. In fact, it’s one of more than 100 different naturally occurring cannabinoids.
However, unlike major cannabinoids cannabidiol (CBD) and Delta-9 THC, only very small amounts of Delta-8 are produced naturally within the plant. As a result, most Delta-8 products that you’ll find on the market have been chemically converted from CBD.
What are the effects of Delta-8?
When reviewing the effects of Delta-8 THC, it’s important to remember that this cannabinoid hasn’t been extensively studied, and most of the reported effects are from anecdotal user experiences.
Delta-8 is considered a “cousin” to Delta-9 THC, which is the cannabinoid most commonly considered to be the psychoactive part of cannabis. And similar to its cousin, Delta-8 is capable of producing mind-altering effects. However, due to their slightly different chemical structures, Delta-8 THC is considered by many users to be somewhat less potent than Delta-9, and has even been referred to by some as “diet weed.”
However, as Delta-8 products are not yet standardized or regulated, inconsistent concentrations of the cannabinoid in many products can still produce notable psychoactive effects. Differences in individual biochemistry can also alter the perceived effects and intensity from person to person.
Some of the reported potential (positive and negative) effects from consuming Delta-8 include:
- Feelings of euphoria or relaxation
- Reduced aches and discomfort
- Anxiety and/or paranoia
- Feelings of drowsiness
- Increased appetite
Is Delta-8 legal?
The noise surrounding Delta-8 is mainly due to its somewhat complicated federal status. In 2018, the Agriculture Improvement Act (aka the “Farm Bill”) helped clear a path for hemp-derived products by removing the plant from its Schedule I status under the Controlled Substances Act.
While this move marked a big step forward for the hemp industry and proponents of hemp-based products, it also added some ambiguity to the status of certain cannabinoids.
For one, the Farm Bill differentiates between the cannabinoids derived from “industrial hemp” and the cannabinoids derived from “marijuana.” According to the Act, if a cannabis plant contains no more than 0.3% THC by dry weight, it’s classified as industrial hemp. But if the plant contains more than 0.3% THC by dry weight, the federal government considers it to be marijuana, which is still an illegal Schedule 1 drug.
So essentially, if any of your cannabinoids (including CBD) come from industrial hemp it’s all good… But if they come from marijuana, you’re breaking federal law.
Very recently, in May 2022, a California federal appeals court reasserted that Delta-8 THC and other cannabinoids derived from hemp are legal under the 2018 Farm Bill, even if the substances have psychoactive properties.
Another important thing to note is that each state maintains its own laws regarding controlled substances. Though Delta-8 is considered federally legal if it's derived from hemp, there are still 13 U.S. states that deem Delta-8 to be illegal according to their state statutes.
And even amongst states where Delta-8 is legal, differences in legal age limits can exist. For instance, in Oregon you have to be at least 21 to purchase Delta-8, but in Florida the legal age is currently 18. The point is, it’s smart to know your local Delta-8 laws!
Is Delta-8 safe?
As with any potentially mind-altering substance, safety is a concern. With Delta-8 being so new to the scene, the industry lacks formal regulation, and without proper regulation, manufacturers are able to cut corners…Meaning consumers might have to deal with inconsistent quality and manufacturing standards, improper extraction methods, and varying amounts of ingredients in their products.
Some have also raised concerns that most Delta-8 products use harsh chemicals to synthetically produce Delta-8 from CBD, leading to unknown byproducts that could pose risks to both consumers and the environment.
However, perhaps the biggest safety concern regarding Delta-8 ties back to how easy it is to buy. With an array of products available at gas stations, convenience stores, and online retailers, Delta-8 is now much more accessible than Delta-9 THC, despite causing similar (though potentially more minor) mind-altering effects. This raises serious concerns for parents who worry that their underage children can so easily purchase a psychoactive product.
When you combine that with how little is known about the long-term safety of using Delta-8, and add in a growing list of FDA adverse-event reports, it’s fair to assume that the cannabinoid will come under much more scrutiny in the near future.
How does the conversation about Delta-8 impact the hemp and CBD industry?
The growing presence of Delta-8 has sparked much debate within the hemp and CBD industry. Some are excited by its explosion in popularity, with a few CBD companies already thinking about adding the cannabinoid to some of their future product formulations.
However, this spark in attention has others feeling a bit uneasy, as they’re worried that any negative press around Delta-8 could have a trickle down effect on the industry as a whole.
And despite Delta-8 being psychoactive, many Delta-8 products are still being marketed as hemp, which is generally associated with non-psychoactive properties. This lack of distinction could blur the line between hemp products intended to support overall wellness with no psychoactive effects, and those intended to get consumers high – potentially opening up hemp to even more scrutiny.
Considering the uphill battle hemp has faced in its path towards legitimacy, any attention that could invoke stricter regulations and/or negative public sentiment is the last thing many hemp advocates want to see.
What’s Bluebird’s perspective on Delta-8?
Here at Bluebird, we’re in more of a wait and see mode.
On one hand, we hold a deep belief in the potential of plant medicines. We recognize many people are already enjoying success using Delta-8, and just because little is currently known about it, doesn’t make it inherently bad or diminish its potential. Not too long ago, CBD was in a similar boat as an understudied cannabinoid fighting for legitimacy.
However, given the aforementioned health, safety, and regulatory concerns, Delta-8 is not currently on Bluebird’s product development roadmap. While we won’t completely rule it out in the future, we will wait until more is understood about the cannabinoid’s safety and long-term effects on consumer health before considering it for any future product formulations.
For now, we’ll continue to focus our efforts on bringing you the best CBD, CBG, CBN, CBC, and full-spectrum hemp products on the market!