What is Delta-8 THC, and why are states issuing bans?

If you have been following cannabis and hemp news lately, you have seen a story or two about Delta-8 THC or even Delta-10 THC and probably wondered what it was and why all the states seem keen to ban it from their dispensaries.

Colorado, Arizona, Iowa, Delaware, and Rhode Island, have issued bans for Delta-8 THC.

Many other states are lining up to take it off their shelves, with New York being the latest to issue a ban against the substance. But what is Delta-8 THC, and why is everyone banning it?

This article explains exactly what Delta-8 THC is and why states that legalized cannabis don’t want their residents consuming it or their dispensaries selling it.

What is Delta-8 THC?

Before we get into Delta-8 THC, it is crucial for you to know that the ordinary cannabis that people smoke recreationally for the psychotropic effects contains Delta-9 THC. That is the naturally occurring THC found in cannabis plants.

Now that we are on the same page, let us introduce to you Delta-8 THC. This is the type of THC that is synthesized from CBD, which is got from hemp. So Delta-8 THC is a psychotropic substance that is not derived from cannabis but rather from hemp.

Delta-8 THC has caused just a buzz in the cannabis and hemp industries as many were hailing it as the smokable hemp, which creates a similar ‘high feeling’ to cannabis (Delta-9 THC) among users, albeit a much less intense one.

For this reason, Delta-8 THC had been nicknamed cannabis’ little brother because it gives the user a much more mellow high than the Delta-9 THC found in cannabis.

Many have even gone so far as to suggest that Delta-8 THC could be used to treat conditions like anxiety, depression, and loss of appetite, but no conclusive research has been done on that subject at the point of writing this article.

Is Delta-8 THC legal according to Federal law?

In addition to the recreational and alleged medicinal benefits of Delta-8 THC, one more thing made it appealing to consumers before the recent wave to ban it engulfed the nation. Delta-8 THC is synthesized from CBD, which is extracted from hemp. Why is this important?

It is essential because hemp is legal according to Federal law in the United States. This means that unlike Delta-9 THC derived from cannabis, Delta-8 THC could be smoked from anywhere in the United States because it is made from hemp. Or so we thought.

Recent clarifications to the law have declared it illegal, however, and as a result, several states have banned Delta-8 THC from their dispensaries.

What is the source of the confusion about Delta-8 THC?

The confusion over the legality of Delta-8 THC has to do with the specific wording of the 2018 Farm Bill that made hemp and all hemp-derived cannabinoids fall under hemp, which is a legal crop that is no longer a controlled substance.

However, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration issued an interim final rule in late 2020 intended to clarify the 2018 Farm Bill declaring: “All synthetically derived (THC) remain Schedule I controlled substances.”

The keyword in that ruling by the DEA is ‘synthetically’ because Delta-8 THC is not a naturally occurring cannabinoid in hemp, at least not in the amounts feasible for commercialization.

Delta-8 THC is lab-made, synthesized from CBD through the process summarized below.

Because Delta-8 THC is not a natural extract but rather a synthetic THC, it remains a Schedule I controlled substance and therefore illegal for recreational consumption.

How is Delta-8 THC synthesized?

Converting CBD to Delta-8 THC has been around for a few decades now. A variation of the method was patented by G.R.Webster, Leonard Sarna, and Raphael Mechoulam.

Below is a summary of synthesizing Delta-8 THC from CBD that is laid out in a video by ExtrakLab.

Guidelines to synthesizing Delta-8 THC

  1. Dissolve CBD into Solvent of Choice. The most commonly used solvents are alkanes like heptane.
  2. Add acid of choice into solvent solution and stir. Maintain the mixture at a temperature of 100 degrees Celsius while stirring for upwards of 18 hours (stirrer hot-plate required).
  3. Note that different acid-solvent combinations will yield different results. There are dozens of different combinations possible, which can all convert CBD into Delta-8. Each formula delivers different results. Depending on the blend, the chemical reaction may take anywhere from one to 18 hours. The combination highlighted in the patent is hydrochloric acid in ethanol. 
  4. Wash and Dry. Once the chemical reaction is complete and the upper phase is separated, it’s time to wash and neutralize the solution. The patent suggests washing with an aqueous 5% NaHCO3 (sodium bicarbonate)
  5. Test the viscous synthesized liquid. Using high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC), the washed, converted mixture is separated into its many cannabinoid parts. Testing is critical throughout the process to confirm purity.

As you can see from the guidelines above, synthesizing Delta-8 THC is a complicated process with a chemical reaction, indicating that this is not a natural extraction process.

This lab process of synthesis is why the DEA rejected the claim that Delta-8 THC was legal because it was made from hemp.

What is the future of Delta-8 THC?

For now, it seems like Delta-8 THC is on its way out. Even states that have recreational cannabis laws, like Colorado and New York, have banned it.

Marielle Weintraub, president of the U.S. Hemp Authority, says states will continue to ban delta-8 THC because it is a synthetic THC which is a controlled substance under federal law.

However, if researchers can prove that Delta-8 THC has some medical benefits, like mentioned earlier in this article, then it might have a way back to the market.

Only this time, it will be returning as a medical product and not a recreational one.

The biggest losers in all this are the labs that had been set up to synthesize Delta-8 THC from CBD and the hemp farmers that were hoping to cash in on the cannabis wave engulfing the nation. Delta-8 THC was their ticket to that party.

Gerald Ainomugisha is a freelance Content Solutions Provider (CSP) offering both content and copy writing services for businesses of all kinds, especially in the niches of management, marketing and technology.