top of page

Understanding the Delta-8 THC Controversy

Updated: Dec 23, 2023

Check out Higher Learning LV's new Cannabis for Cancer Hub, which offers convenient access to our collection of no-cost Study Summaries and Deep Dives about how cannabis/hemp/marijuana may help some cancer patients.


Delta-8 THC Controversy

At Higher Learning LV, we've been writing about the cannabinoids and terpenes produced by hemp and cannabis for almost 20 years. During that period, most of the controversy we have encountered has been over broad stroke topics, such as whether cannabis even helps patients or perhaps the consumption avenues that provide the greatest efficacy for particular conditions.

Other times, more philosophical debates have emerged, such as the ethical or moral implications of experiencing euphoria or the fairness of generating large profits from patients seeking a viable treatment for their disease state.

A vape cart with delta-8 THC
Is delta-8 safe?

Recently, we have witnessed much misinformation and misperception on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter about various aspects of delta-8 THC, a newly popular isomer molecule of delta-9 THC. Delta-9, of course, is the infamous compound primarily responsible for the psychoactivity and some of the medical properties delivered by the herb. (For the record, other cannabinoids also deliver psychoactivity, most notably the varin isomer of THC, THCV.)

"The delta-8 controversy harkens to an important topic addressed by Higher Learning LV recently: Cannabis misinformation."

The delta-8 controversy harkens to an important topic addressed by Higher Learning LV recently: Cannabis misinformation. With so much money at stake, some unscrupulous companies are preying on the ignorance of consumers and making false claims about their products. At the other end of the spectrum, uninformed activists warn patients to avoid delta-8 merely because it is commercially produced from sibling cannabinoids. Both perspectives are based on ignorance and sometimes result in harm or help prevent safe access for innocent patients and consumers.

Delta-8 THC Controversy: Facts

First, a cornerstone of a solid understanding of delta-8 THC is a clear comprehension that it is a naturally occurring phytomolecule (unlike delta-10 THC or HHC).

However, delta-8 is typically found in small quantities (under one percent) in most samples of cannabis or hemp. Thus, commercially viable volumes are produced by converting sister cannabinoids such as CBD, CBC, or CBN. The final delta-8 molecule is identical, regardless of whether it was converted from an existing chemical cousin or extracted from a fully organic and natural botanical source.

In other words, regardless of whether a delta-8 molecule is created by industrious laboratory technicians or in nature by a plant such as hemp, the final compound (and its molecular structure) is the same. This is important, because it is one of the most misunderstood facts about delta-8.

A vape cart with delta-8 THC.
Delta-8 is popular.

The course developers at Higher Learning LV wince somewhat at the term "synthesized" because it carries an undeserved tone of Frankenfood—as if the molecule is being created from scratch (not that this would make it inherently bad, but that's another story).

This homework assignment must stress: Regardless of whether the final delta-8 molecule is converted or organically occurring and extracted, it is identical. The cost of extracting naturally occurring delta-8 is simply cost prohibitive and does not incentivize businesses or provide an affordable cost to consumers. In fact, without large-volume laboratory conversion from common cannabinoids such as CBD into delta-8, we wouldn't be having this conversation. The same question has been asked about CBD for years. Is it different when derived from hemp instead of cannabis? No, it is identical. That said, the molecules surrounding the CBD will be different from one cultivar to another and between different plants. (According to master cultivators, even different branches of a plant feature varying cannabinoid and terpene profiles.)

In other words, without laboratory conversion of plentiful cannabinoids into delta-8, we wouldn't be having this conversation because it wouldn't be practical.

At Higher Learning LV, we are science-based trainers and educators. The objectivity of our take on topics like delta-8 is critical to the quality of our skills training. Thus, we don't take sides in political debates.

That said, there are misperceptions and misunderstandings on both sides of the controversial delta-8 issue. Some medical doctors and entrepreneurs are recommending delta-8 (properly dosed and from reliable sources). In fact, many are using delta-8 to allow heavy consumption patients to take tolerance breaks from delta-9, helping them reset their system and, in theory, save money by reducing the dose size necessary to positively impact their disease state.

Merely because a molecule is synthesized does not make it inherently undesirable or somehow magically steal its efficacy.

Merely because a molecule is synthesized does not make it inherently undesirable or somehow magically steal its efficacy. Those who harbor the mentality that "organic = good" and "synthetic = bad" are—from the hard perspective of science—missing the point and ignoring the true biochemistry.

Delta-8 THC Controversy: Caveat Emptor

A separate problem is how some companies allow bad molecules to commingle with good molecules (such as delta-9 or delta-8) within their product formulations. Vape carts, while super convenient for busy consumers, are known for sometimes containing fillers or other chemicals that are known to be or are likely unhealthy (especially when consumed in large quantities over lengthy periods of time).

The delta-8 THC molecule.
The delta-8 THC molecule.

This is particularly problematic in unregulated markets, like the current state of delta-8. However, consumers and industry professionals are warned to not taint their perception of delta-8 merely because some fly-by-night companies have cut corners on the quality of their particular delta-8 products. While the activities of some unscrupulous industry players may unfairly give delta-8 a bad reputation, the inherent characteristics and benefits of this molecule remain unchanged.

Delta-8 THC Deep Dive

Delta-8 THC Controversy. If you would like to cut through the misinformation about delta-8 THC to understand what the scientific research has to say about this hyper-popular and controversial phytomolecule, see the Higher Learning LV article Delta-8 THC Deep Dive.

The Higher Learning LV text logo.

Did you enjoy Understanding the Delta-8 THC Controversy? Are you a cannabis industry professional? Check out Higher Learning LV's Deep Dive Subscription that features dozens of long-form articles based on the latest peer-reviewed scientific research. Priced to accommodate personal and enterprise training budgets.

Recent Posts

See All


Couldn’t Load Comments
It looks like there was a technical problem. Try reconnecting or refreshing the page.
bottom of page