Updated: Oct 10
Enjoy this homework assignment sample from Module 8: Alt Cannabinoids, Lesson 8: Review from our upcoming Cannabis Foundation course. This sample is available free until October 31.
A September 2022 study entitled "Delta-8-Tetrahydrocannabinol, an Emerging New Psychoactive Substance (NPS) and Other Structurally Related Cannabinoids" that was published in the journal Toxicologie Analytique et Clinique stated that its goal was to learn "why delta-8 THC is an emerging [cannabinoid] and why structurally related analogs like delta-10 THC, tetrahydrocannabivarin [THCV], and THC-O Acetate are also of concern."
Interestingly, the study's authors theorized that bans on delta-8 THC and other THC isomers, as with delta-9 THC, "will attract people to become interested in other isomers and structurally related analogs" of THC.
The design of the study was that of a review of previous research on the topic that analyzed "available scientific literature dealing with the biological and chemical synthesis methods of cannabinoids, including their precursors, conversion reactions, types of extractions, relevant by-products, and known pharmacological data."
The study reported that delta-8 occurs naturally, but in "very low concentrations in cannabis plants."
The scientists explained that, from a biochemical perspective, the only difference between delta-8 and delta-9 THC is "the location of a double bond between two carbons" in the chemical structure of the molecule. They reported that delta-8 occurs naturally, but in "very low concentrations in cannabis plants."
Image courtesy Leafwize Naturals
The study reported that delta-8 "can provoke psychoactive effects such as euphoria, visual and time distortion, relaxation, difficulty in thinking, speaking, and reading, and a dream-like state," but that the dosing required to achieve these effects "is unclear, as controlled dose-response studies of delta-8 THC in humans are scarce."
Delta-8 vs. Delta-9
The researchers reported that anecdotal evidence suggests that delta-8 is less potent than delta-9, "but a standard human dose has not been set." The study reflected the disjoined and confusing legal landscape for THC isomers such as delta-8, delta-10, and THC-O Acetate. "Several countries have banned or restricted delta-8 THC products, but elsewhere it remains legal and available for sale to individuals of all ages."
The delta-8 THC molecule
The study reported that delta-8 THC, in jurisdictions where it is not prohibited, "is often available at tobacco shops and convenience stores in various formulations, such as vape cartridges, dried plants, or candy gummies." It predicted that, as the popularity of alt cannabinoids such as delta-8 expands, medical caregivers "will encounter increasing numbers of patients who are under the influence of delta-8 THC."
CBD from Delta-8 THC
The study noted that legal cannabidiol (CBD), which—unlike alt THC isomer cannabinoids such as delta-8 and THC-O Acetate—is not psychoactive, but can be used "as a precursor in the process for converting CBD to delta-8 THC." Some thought leaders in the cannabis industry, including Dr. John MacKay from Bakersfield, California believe that almost all commercially available delta-8 THC in the United States is produced from hemp-derived CBD.
"CBD + acid + time = delta-8 THC."
"The basic process for converting CBD to delta-8 THC is simple: CBD + acid + time = delta-8 THC," reported the study. It described a chemical by-product of this conversion process, olivetol, which it said is "a precursor for the synthesis of THC...." It noted that the Swiss Federal Customs Administration "seized a total of 260 kilograms of olivetol...in 2019, an indication that some of the delta-8 THC on the market [in Europe] may be synthetically produced."
While delta-8 THC may be found to feature an acceptable safety profile via future research investigations, the health of by-product molecules resulting from commercial production processes, such as olivetol, will remain a critical issue. Some processing laboratories and companies may filter out most or all olivetol, making its potential positive or negative efficacy a moot topic.
The delta-10 THC molecule
Those that do not, however, are potentially putting consumers at risk. Obviously, much more research is required, including expensive and lengthy double-blind placebo-controlled human trials, before the health outcomes of by-product molecules such as olivetol are understood.
Obviously, much more research is required before the health outcomes of by-product molecules such as olivetol are understood.
Clearly, the issue of the health of commonly available delta-8 products in the United States and elsewhere is more complex than the characteristics of delta-8 itself. Consumers, regulators, and medical caregivers must be concerned with modern production methods and the quality and purity of final products.
"Another molecule of particular concern is the cannabinoid called THC-O Acetate (the acetyl ester of THC), which seems to be popping up in gummies and vapes," reported the study. It stated that this newly popular cannabinoid, which it noted is simply acetylated THC, "does not occur naturally in cannabis plants and can be called a New Psychoactive Substance (NPS)."
The THC-O Acetate molecule
The study noted that, currently, "no human studies on the effects of THC-O Acetate are available," suggesting that consumers are at risk when using such products due to the lack of scientific insight surrounding these newly popular alt cannabinoids (most of which have become popular and remain so in states and jurisdictions that continue to prohibit delta-9 THC).
The study summarized that "many cannabinoids can be obtained from ingredients extracted from hemp and by means of biotechnological processes" and concluded that "just because the starting material is legal does not make the resulting product(s) legal or safe."
"Just because the starting material is legal does not make the resulting product(s) legal or safe."
The study's authors proposed a number of policy positions to correct potential problems in the marketplace or threats to the safety and health of consumers from alternative molecules such as delta-9 and delta-10. "We recommend regulatory oversight, uniformity of delta-8 THC's status and its analogues, wide-scale scientific dissemination for law enforcement and the general public, [and] sufficient laboratory testing...and capacity," reported the study.
View the original study.