Cannabis is still considered a controlled substance. That fact doesn’t appear to be changing anytime soon. As states fight internally over legalization, researchers and scientists have long been exploring alternative solutions. This is where Delta-8 comes in. If you haven’t heard of it yet — don’t fret. But now is the time to learn, because the newest member of the cannabis industry is already making waves. So what is Delta-8? And how does it work? Without any further delay, let’s jump into the amazing science of this transformative THC, and where this new player fits into the world of cannabis.
The Cannabis Family
Delta-8 THC is one of the less common but naturally occurring compounds in the cannabis plant. Its close cousin is Delta-9 THC — the main psychoactive ingredient that gives the famous ‘high’ in marijuana. When you smoke cannabis, the Delta-9 is what you feel. The two compounds are very similar. The two molecules even look almost identical. But they bind to the receptors in the brain in very different ways, and that leads to two very different experiences.
Delta-8 is so promising because it offers many of the same effects as Delta-9, but less strongly. Users have reported a similar euphoria and the same calming sensation. The biggest difference? A reduction in paranoia. Less of the fogginess and distortion that accompanies high doses of Delta-9. The reported high is clearer, cleaner, and more energetic. And unlike cannabis and Delta-9, hemp-derived Delta-8 THC is federally legal. And it may stay that way.
You may be thinking right about now, “How is it possible that I’m just hearing of this alternative?” The term “Too good to be true” may come to mind. Bear with us for a moment while we simplify what is admittedly a fairly complex topic, and we will attempt to explain just that.
There are over 100 types of cannabinoids (chemical compounds) present in the cannabis plant. Each bond with a slightly different set of receptors in your brain, producing a range of effects. As I mentioned, Delta-9 THC is the big illegal one (when above 0.3% THC). It produces pretty powerful psychoactive effects. CBD is another cannabinoid found in the plant. It has recently become extremely popular, and you’ve probably heard of it. Don’t worry, CBD exists in its own classification. It is the brother of THC, and both are actually part of a group called “phytocannabinoids”. Delta-8 is not part of the CBD family.
Delta-8 naturally exists in cannabis in a very small quantity. Delta-8 THC is similar to it’s more familiar cousin in several important ways, but it also brings a number of distinct differences. The main one is the way the two molecules bond with the receptors in your body.
The name’s Bond. Double Bond.
Both delta-8 and delta-9-THC have one set of double bonds in their molecular chains. And while Delta-8-
THC contains that bond on the 8th
carbon chain, delta-9-
THC contains the bond on the — you guessed it — 9th
carbon chain. That subtle difference translates to noticeably different effects on how the body binds and responds to the two molecules.
Your body has a system called the endocannabinoid system (every cannabis system was required to have a long and complex name). It has two main sets of receptors: CB1 and CB2. There are a ton of different receptors, and as a whole they determine a lot about your waking experience. Your mood, energy level, hunger, happiness any many other areas are all affected by this system. It’s a very important system.
The first set of receptors are located mostly in your central nervous system and brain. This CB1 receptor mostly deals with the psychoactive effects. Delta-9 affects this set of receptors in a strong fashion. That’s why you might feel groggy, disoriented, and even paranoid after using cannabis. Delta-8, by contrast, also binds to the CB1 receptor, but in a very different way. This difference leads to less psychoactivity, making it reportedly easier to concentrate and stay engaged. Delta-8 also interacts with the CB2 receptors, which mostly sit inside your organs. Together these receptors interact with Delta-8 THC and reportedly lead to a more calming high overall.
Why medical applications favor Delta-8 THC
The biggest advantage of Delta-8 is a reported lower potency. Lower potency is thought to lead to lower psychoactivity. In many ways, it could be thought of as a much more tolerable version of THC. Users can still focus and go about their work, all the while enjoying the relaxing effects that are expected from THC. The high is much clearer, and comes without the worry and distortion. Users will notice the difference in mental state, but it will feel far less hazy, and instead more energetic.
An Uncertain Future
The Farm Bill of 2018 opened the door for a true functional alternative to make a name for itself. Delta-8 THC is already gaining a ton of attention for its wide-ranging applications.
Delta-8 is hemp-derived and federally legal. Citizens can still submit comments and testimony to help ensure it stays that way. If you’d like to add your name to the petition, click here
to go to the DEA website and comment. There are countless users, here at 3Chi and nationwide, that rely on Delta-8 for therapeutic benefits. Keeping it around would be a landmark win for the cannabis industry, and allow people to get the relief they need.
Have more questions? Check out our Delta 8 FAQ page