Updated: Feb 27, 2021
There is such a wide variety of legal cannabis products on the market that it can sometimes be overwhelming and difficult to truly evaluate your options. Products can vary based on how they are consumed, what they taste like and even what cannabinoids they contain.
Two of the most widely recognized cannabinoids right now are cannabidiol (CBD) and Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Delta-9-THC). You might know CBD as the legal compound that can be associated with numerous health benefits, and you might know Delta-9-THC as the illegal compound that can cause people to feel high. However, there is another cannabinoid currently gaining traction around the country, and it might shake up what you think you know about THC.
How do Delta-8-THC and Delta-9-THC differ?
Delta-8-tetrahydrocannabinol (Delta-8-THC) is a very similar compound to Delta-9-THC. The main difference is a chemical bond that appears on the eighth carbon instead of the ninth carbon.
Because the two compounds are so alike, they reportedly interact with cannabinoid receptors in a comparable way, which can cause similar effects on the body.
Dr. Peter Grinspoon, an instructor in medicine at Harvard Medical School, told Rolling Stone magazine that he estimates Delta-8 “has a portion but not all of the psychoactivity as Delta-9,” an opinion that Rolling Stone claims is consistent with the beliefs shared in much of the cannabis industry.
“People often report that due to its reduced potency, Delta-8 provides them with a smoother, milder feeling that is less sedative and more functional than Delta-9,” the article adds.
Dr. Max Mikheev, chief executive and science officer for biotech firm Biomedican, told Rolling Stone that people describe Delta-8 as having all the perks of Delta-9 without causing the anxiety or paranoia that can come with it.
Could the difference of just one carbon bond really be so noticeable? The answer that Grinspoon told Discover magazine seems to indicate that this is the case.
“I think it’s been shown that there’s a difference,” Grinspoon said. “People report [Delta-8] as being less anxiety-provoking, less sedating and a little more clear-headed than [Delta-9].”
Grinspoon reportedly added that Delta-8 has the potential to be game changing for patients who are looking for “less confusion and spaciness or stonedness” than medical marijuana offers. However, he cautions that there is still a significant need for research on the subject.
Isn’t THC illegal?
A United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) spokesperson told Rolling Stone in January that the agency is undergoing the rulemaking process for how the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 should be implemented. This reportedly includes “the scope of regulatory controls over marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinols, and other marijuana-related constituents.”
Like Grinspoon, this DEA spokesperson reportedly emphasized the importance of relevant research.
He said, “There is a lot to learn about the impacts of marijuana and its chemical constituents, and the DEA and the [Department of Justice] fully support these research efforts.”
Many details surrounding Delta-8 products are still unknown, but it seems that they could live up to the hype in situations where they are produced and sold legally. The current Delta-8 craze also serves as a reminder of the wonderful versatility of cannabis plants. These plants contain many cannabinoids, and as we learn more about these compounds, we seem to discover more and more benefits. Even previously overlooked compounds seem to end up having significant potential.