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2023 Study: State of Online Delta-8 Sales

Updated: Jun 5, 2023

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State of Online Delta-8 Sales

Delta-8 THC is a hyper-trending topic in the cannabis industry and an increasingly researched and reported alt molecule among others, including delta-10 THC, HHC, CBDP, and THCH.

A delta-8 THC vape cart from Leafwize Naturals in California
Is your delta-8 THC vendor legit?

State of Online Delta-8 Sales. A May 2023 study entitled "Assessing Characteristics and Compliance of Online Delta-8 Tetrahydrocannabinol Product Sellers" that was published in the peer-reviewed journal Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research explored the state of online sales of the alt cannabinoid delta-8 tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC.


"Delta-8 THC has been a controversial phytomolecule in the United States due to its abundant market share in states and jurisdictions that currently prohibit delta-9 THC."

Delta-8: Controversial Phytomolecule

Delta-8 THC has been a controversial phytomolecule in the United States due to its abundant market share in states and jurisdictions that currently prohibit delta-9 THC. Delta-8, unlike its chemical cousin delta-9, exists in a legal gray zone that has made it increasingly popular among consumers. Because delta-8, sometimes called "weed lite," delivers roughly 50-75 percent the psychoactive potency of delta-9, patients and consumers are understandably flocking to it as an alternative to delta-9.


Often, patients and lifestyle consumers prefer delta-8 over delta-9 due specifically to the former's lower psychoactivity. Despite a marketing culture steeped in Madison Avenue machismo and a seeming "go big or go home" mentality, many consumers simply do not desire intense psychoactivity. For them, there's delta-8.

The delta-8 molecular structure
Delta-8 THC molecular structure

State of Online Delta-8 Sales Study

"The debate over the legal status of many cannabis- and hemp-derived products, including delta-8 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), is in question," reported the study. It noted that low concentrations of delta-8 THC are legal at the federal level, but that many states have implemented their own laws and regulations regarding delta-8. "Of concern, sellers with unknown legal credentials have appeared online and are actively selling this product," noted the study's authors.


"The debate over the legal status of many cannabis- and hemp-derived products, including delta-8 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), is in question," reported the study.

State of Online Delta-8 Sales Study Goals

The research had the goal of characterizing the marketing, sale, and compliance of online delta-8 THC sellers using the following:

  1. Data collected from the Twitter Application Programming Interface with delta-8 THC-related keywords

  2. Unsupervised topic modeling using the Biterm Topic Model to identify clusters of tweets involved in marketing and selling

  3. Inductive coding to identify marketing and selling characteristics

  4. Web forensics and simulated shopping to determine compliance with state restrictions for delta-8 THC sales.

The study analyzed a total of 110 unique hyperlinks associated with 7,085 tweets "that included marketing and selling activity for delta-8 THC." From these links, the study's authors conducted simulated online purchases of delta-8 THC products during January 2021 with the goal of identifying compliant and noncompliant websites.

A delta-8 THC vape cart from Leafwize Naturals in California
Are delta-8 THC vendors playing by the rules?

State of Online Delta-8 Sales Study Results

The study found that, among all vendors analyzed, more than half (54 percent) did not verify age. Also, sixty percent of these vendors did not report a physical address. Sixty-five percent of the vendors sold delta-8 THC in a direct-to-consumer model.


In addition, the majority of the delta-8 THC vendors (91 percent) shipped delta-8 products to addresses in states that prohibit sales of this alt cannabinoid. Roughly 65 percent of the internet addresses (Internet Protocol) for the delta-8 companies reviewed were located in the United States.

A hemp plant on a legal farm in Indiana.
Most delta-8 THC is converted from hemp-derived CBD

State of Online Delta-8 Sales Study Conclusions

"Our analysis suggests that online storefronts are illegally selling and shipping cannabinoid derivatives to U.S. consumers," concluded the important study. It cautioned, however, that additional research is necessary to properly understand the "downstream health and regulatory impacts from...unregulated access" to delta-8 THC.


View the original study.

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