The popularity of Delta-8 THC products, like gummies and vape cartridges, is rising. Think that’s because of recent, groundbreaking research showing its superiority in benefits over cannabidiol (CBD) and Delta-9 THC (the main psychoactive ingredient in hemp)?
Well, that couldn’t be further from the truth. In actuality, the Delta-8 THC craze is driven by the exploitation of a legal loophole—more details on this in a bit—by profit-hungry cannabis producers. And unfortunately, consumers end up the biggest losers.
To understand why that is, knowledge of the difference between Delta-8 THC and Delta-9 THC would help. So, let’s start there.
Delta-9 THC vs. Delta-8 THC
First things first. Like Delta-10 THC, Delta-8 THC is an isomer of Delta-9 THC. All three can be naturally derived from hemp. As Delta-8 THC is only slightly chemically different from Delta-9 THC, it produces euphoric effects like Delta-9 THC. And that's where the legal loophole comes into play.
According to the 2018 Farm Bill, products made from plants that meet the legal standards of hemp (i.e., cannot contain more than 0.3% THC) are legal across most of the USA, except in three states.
But guess what? This THC limit refers strictly to Delta-9 THC content—even though, as mentioned earlier, hemp also naturally contains other types of THC, like Delta-8 THC.
That means products containing higher amounts of Delta-8 THC (think: 1%, 5%, 10%) are legal, so long as they come from hemp that doesn't have more than 0.3% Delta-9 THC based on the dry weight.
Let the implications of that sink in for a moment. You essentially have a fully legal drug that gets consumers high. The only catch? Delta-8 THC doesn’t naturally occur in large amounts in hemp plants. And to get around this issue, producers have resorted to several creative—and downright dangerous—production methods that synthetically convert cannabidiol (CBD) or Delta-9 THC into Delta-8 THC.
Delta-8 THC Could Be Unsafe
In general, without diving into the specifics, manufacturers may use potentially unsafe chemicals (e.g., toluene, heptane, or even metal) to make Delta-8 THC through the chemical synthesis process.
The result is a "soup" of Delta-8 THC mixed with unknown by-products and unwanted compounds. Of course, manufacturers can separate Delta-8 THC from unwanted reaction leftovers or by-products—but the fact is that most wouldn't spend additional time or resources to distill it (or use chromatography).
Worryingly enough, consumers are already bearing the brunt of these questionable production methods.
Between December 2020 and February 2022, the FDA received 104 reports of adverse events—including but not limited to hallucinations, vomiting, tremor, anxiety, dizziness, confusion, and loss of consciousness—in patients who consumed Delta-8 THC products.
And of these 104 adverse event reports, 55% ended up requiring intervention (e.g., evaluation by emergency medical services) or hospital admission.
Parents Should Be Extra Careful
Take a careful look at what’s available in your neighborhood gas stations and convenience stores the next time you’re there.
Chances are, you'd spot Delta-8 THC products that are packaged and labeled in extremely appealing ways (e.g., chocolates, cookies, and candies). Children and even teenagers may not realize what they’re purchasing. Most stores don't place an age restriction on the sale of these products. Any child with the money to pay for a Delta-8 THC product will be able to purchase—and consume—it.
To highlight the gravity of that situation: between January 2021 and February 2022, national poison control centers received 2,362 exposure cases of Delta-8 THC products, of which 41% involved pediatric patients. One pediatric case was coded with a medical outcome of death.
So, if you’re a parent, do be extra careful with the treats or snacks you grab at the convenience store, and make sure your children do not have access to purchase or consume them.
How Is Delta-9 THC Better than Delta-8 THC?
Okay, so we’ve established that Delta-8 THC is unsafe. But that isn’t necessarily the same as proving that Delta-9 THC is “better” than Delta-8 THC in any way.
Well, for starters: Delta-9 THC has been consumed for thousands of years—meaning the odds of discovering some previously unreported side effects are slim to none. It’s also natural—and doesn’t require the use of harmful chemicals to produce. And most importantly, it’s effective—as proven by the well-documented “entourage effect”, where taking CBD and Delta-9 THC together is more effective than taking either of them alone.
More specifically, by interacting with your cannabinoid receptors, the simultaneous usage of CBD and Delta-9 THC has been shown to positively affect your endocannabinoid system (ECS)—responsible for maintaining a state of balance in the body (i.e., homeostasis)—in turn, supporting synergy and overall wellness in the body.
So if you have the option between Delta-8 and Delta-9 THC, Delta-9 is definitely the safer bet. Additionally, when it’s hemp-derived and under 0.3% of the weight of the total product, in our opinion, that makes it federally legal.