Is Delta-8 a Scheme?

According to a recent article from Fortune, Delta-8 THC is the fastest growing of the cannabis market—but what exactly is it?
Written by 
Alexa Peters, Cannabis Writer.
|Check IconMedically reviewed by 
Eloise Theisen, RN, MSN, AGPCNP-BC.
|Last Updated:

Delta-8 THC, is a form of THC in the cannabis plant. Commonly, when we refer to THC we mean Delta-9 THC, the more traditional cannabinoid credited with giving cannabis its high-inducing properties. Like Delta-9 THC, Delta-8 also naturally exists in cannabis, and has a similar yet milder intoxicating effect.

According to federal law, any cannabis with more than 0.3% Delta-9 THC is still considered illegal federally. But, with the passage of the Farm Bill, the legality of Delta-8 THC is much less straightforward. Because Delta-8 THC is present in hemp, and hemp is newly-legal, Delta-8 THC has become “technically” legal by proxy.

As a result, products containing Delta-8 THC are available in headshops, gas stations, even some upscale boutiques throughout the United States, despite its incredible similarities to illegal THC and mild high-inducing properties.

The widespread availability of Delta-8 THC has created much controversy—particularly when it comes to its hazy legality as well as the questionable safety and the accuracy of the products. After all, some experts have called the explosion of Delta-8 products purely the result of an “opportunistic approach to move product” discrediting other claims that Delta-8 THC provides the benefits of CBD and the positives of traditional THC, in a milder, more clear-headed form.

So, what’s the truth about delta-8 THC? Let’s explore.

Delta-8 THC first began to flood the market when the hemp industry over-produced hemp plants, causing a huge surplus of plants that tanked the price of CBD and led to the need to find new ways to monetize the plants.

Of course, Delta-9-THC and the cannabis plants that contain it are federally illegal. The only exception is hemp, a variety of cannabis that’s rich in CBD and that the Farm Bill made legal as long as it’s Delta-9-THC levels are under 0.3%. However, with a little ingenuity, the CBD industry found a way to make Delta-8 from CBD. In other words, Delta-8-THC products made from hemp-derived CBD offer a “legal high,” as long as their THC levels are below the legal limit.

“The reason behind the Delta-8 trend is due in part to the massive influx of interest from those looking to monetize in the CBD space.  An over-production of CBD biomass resulted in an opportunistic approach to move product,” she explained.

“In the cannabis space, we’ve known for a long time that THC could be made from CBD, so this is what the hemp industry decides to do to try to save themselves,” Christine Stenquist, the founder of Together for Responsible Use and Cannabis Education (TRUCE), told The Utah Bee.

Of course, this Delta-8 loophole is controversial because legislators never expected the cannabis industry to find a way to make intoxicating products from hemp. As a result, many states are attempting to legislate against the sale of Delta-8 THC. It’s also controversial because so little is known about how Delta-8 THC interacts in the body.

For instance, the FDA stresses that Delta-8 THC products have not been evaluated or approved by the FDA—and Delta 8 is slightly different than Delta-9 THC.

Unlike traditional THC, Delta-8 THC is not found in significant amounts in the cannabis plant, which is why concentrated amounts are most often derived from hemp. Once it’s derived from hemp it is not unlike Delta-9 THC in molecular structure and effect. Both types of THC interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system, and both have a double bond in their structures that has been credited with creating intoxicating effects in consumers. But, in Delta-8 THC, the double bond is on the eighth carbon rather than on the ninth carbon as it is in traditional THC, which changes the quality of a Delta-8 THC high.

In the end, many have called Delta-8 THC “diet cannabis” because it offers a “legal high” and it is much milder than its illegal cousin.

Is it a scheme? What our independent lab report found

With this history and controversy in mind, Leaf Report decided to look into Delta-8 THC and develop a lab report with third-party lab, Canalysis, to see about it’s legality, accuracy, and safety—and the results per product were all over the map.

In the process of testing 38 hemp-derived Delta-8 THC products, we found that the vast majority were incorrectly labeled for their amount of Delta-8 THC, which says a lot about the accuracy of the labeling on these new products.

“Out of 38 tested products, only 32% (12) had the advertised amount of Delta-8 THC. The rest were off by 10.7% to 102.7% from the label,” states the report. “Most of the products (68%) had less Delta-8 than advertised.”

As for the actual safety of these products in terms of additives and contaminants, all 38 passed heavy metal testing and were within safe levels. But, the inaccurate labeling of Delta-8 THC we found makes it difficult for the consumer to accurately dose the cannabinoid, raising the probability that the consumers takes too much or too little, which then impacts safety or efficacy.

“A product with less Delta-8 than claimed will be less effective,” reads the report. “A product with more Delta-8 than claimed can cause unwanted side effects.”

What’s more, the report found that more than 50% of the products tested over the legal limit for Delta-9 THC (0.3%) and that some contained as much as 15.2% Delta-9 THC. This means a large amount of Delta-8 THC products on the market are not only potentially harmful to consumers, but they also contain illegal amounts of THC.

How to avoid bad quality Delta-8 products

If you’d like to try Delta-8 THC, the best way to find high-quality products is to shop for brands that offer certificates of analysis (COAs) for you to read over. These COAs will confirm that the Delta-8 THC product in question does in fact contain the amount of the cannabinoid the label says it does, and that it is free of harmful contaminants. Reputable brands selling CBD and Delta-8 THC will make COAs easily accessible on their websites.

Additionally, after you’ve selected a product that’s been adequately tested, it’s smart to take the “low and slow” approach to trying it in order to see how your body responds. In other words, take half or a fourth of the suggested dose and increase from there, monitoring effects. This is the best way to prevent yourself from taking too much of the cannabinoid, which may cause adverse many of the same side effects as Delta-9 THC like drowsiness, paranoia, rapid heart rate, dry mouth, and more.

Delta-8 Products that passed the test

Of the 38 Delta-8 THC products we tested, there were a few that received our “A” rating in terms of the accuracy of their labeling for Delta-8 and had Delta-9 THC amounts that stayed within the legal limit. Those products were Euphorium Delta gummies, Chill Plus Full Spectrum Delta 8 CBD Oil, Blue Moon Hemp Delta 8 Gummies, Sconi Boys Delta 8 Tincture, Treetop Hemp Co Delta 8 Gummies, Utoya Delta 8 Chocolate Bar, and Holief Delta 8 Gummies.

If a consumer takes and finds benefits from one of these high quality Delta-8 THC products than of course, this new “diet cannabis” trend is not a scheme. But, it’s important to note that per our study, a large percentage of Delta-8 THC products you may find on the market are not high-quality and may in fact be a waste of consumer money and a risk to their health.

Remember, if you would like to try Delta-8 THC or experience adverse side effects from a Delta-8 product, consult with your doctor or a qualified health provider. Leaf Report’s content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

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Alexa Peters
Alexa Peters
Cannabis Writer
Alexa Peters is a Seattle-based freelance writer and editor with a specialty in arts & culture, wellness, and lifestyle journalism, as well as content writing. My cannabis and CBD-focused work has appeared in Leafly, CannabisMD, Healthline, Green Valley Nation, and many other publications.
Eloise Theisen
Eloise Theisen
RN, MSN, AGPCNP-BC
Eloise Theisen is a board certified Adult Geriatric Nurse Practitioner who specializes in cannabis therapy. For over 20 years, Eloise has worked primarily with cancer, dementia and chronic pain patients. In the last 6 years, Eloise has focused her efforts on cannabinoid therapies. Eloise has worked with over 6500 patients to help them effectively treat age-related and chronic illness with cannabis.

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