Delta-8 THC

Updated: May 7

The mainstream and cannabis business press has recently become focused on a minor (and relatively rare) cannabinoid produced by cannabis and hemp called delta-8 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Delta-8 THC is not the infamous molecule responsible for the sometimes potent psychoactivity of marijuana when smoked, vaporized, or eaten. That compound is delta-9 THC.

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Delta-9 and delta-8 THC are chemical siblings that scientists dub isomers or analogs. This means that they are very similar in terms of their molecular structures and other characteristics. Their minor differences, however, result in variable binding affinities with the microscopic receptors that populate the human endocannabinoid system (ECS).


This change in cellular binding produces different outcomes from each compound. In some cases, the various outcomes of cannabinoid analogs are not only different, but polar opposite in response. An example is delta-9 THC, which stimulates appetite, while it’s varin analog THCV curbs appetite.


Delta-9 is molecularly less stable than delta-8, meaning that it transmogrifies, or degrades, into other molecules more easily. In commercial applications, products containing delta-8 THC feature the advantage of a longer shelf life than those formulated with delta-9. Delta-9’s relative instability means that it is prone to degradation, typically via oxidation or exposure to UV light, a process in which it converts to either cannabinol (CBN; a cannabinoid with an especially sedative effect) or delta-8 THC.

Despite their differences, delta-8 and delta-9 share many attributes. They both, for example, deliver psychoactivity. The discrepancy lies in their relative potency, with delta-9 THC being more psychoactive than the delta-8 variety. However, delta-8 and delta-9 also vary in the qualitative characteristics of their respective psychotropic outcomes. Patient and consumer testimonies indicate that delta-8 THC delivers a sativa-like effect featuring energy, focus, and creativity (helping consumers achieve what some label the flow state), but with a slightly lower psychoactivity level than delta-9.


In terms of its presence in an individual plant, delta-8 THC is relatively uncommon and, like other cannabinoids such as cannabigerol (CBG), typically occurs in volumes well under one percent.

In terms of its presence in an individual plant, delta-8 THC is relatively uncommon and, like other cannabinoids such as cannabigerol (CBG), typically occurs in volumes well under one percent. Rather than plant extraction, commercial production often employs the laboratory synthesis of delta-8 THC and use of cannabidiol (CBD) or delta-9 THC as the starting material.


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