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By Lisa Profera MD
When the Farm Bill was passed in 2018, hemp became legal. Any cannabis plant/product which contained less than 0.3% THC was categorized as “hemp.” This opened up the market for CBD (as I explained in my article in the October 2019 issue of BRICK). The botanical (and arbitrary) designation of hemp by the federal government opened up more “legal loopholes,” so to speak, as products containing other non-THC cannabinoids such as CBN, CBC, and CBG are also becoming more popular on the market.
Despite many individual states in the USA legalizing marijuana for medical use, and despite the overwhelming body of evidence that it has many medical benefits (you can read more about the benefits of THC micro-dosing in my November 2020 article), Delta-9 THC is still classified as a Schedule I controlled substance having no medical value. That puts it in the same category as heroin, LSD, and ecstasy. In that case, is there a viable cannabis-derived THC alternative?
I present to you Delta-8 THC, a veritable “chemical cousin” (isomer) of Delta-9 THC. The subtle positioning of the double bond in the chemical ring makes all the difference (it’s attached to the eighth carbon atom instead of the ninth). This double bond is responsible for the intoxicating effects of THC. However, the altered position of the double bond in the Delta-8 molecule decreases these effects. Delta-8 has been described by some as “diet weed” or a lighter form of marijuana — less intoxicating than Delta-9 THC, but with all of the medicinal benefits.
What do we really know about Delta-8 THC? The research is limited. We know that Delta-8 binds to our cannabinoid receptors somewhat differently than Delta-9, but the exact mechanism still requires more study. People who use Delta-8 have reported similar effects as Delta-9 (euphoria, happiness, elevated mood, increased appetite, better sleep, and pain relief), but the effects are less intense. There may also be less anxiety and paranoia associated with Delta-8, meaning that people who are sensitive to Delta-9 may have a better experience with Delta-8.
Effects may vary, but in general, Delta-8 is thought to be less than half as potent. For example, a typical 10mg gummy of Delta-9 has roughly the same effect as a 25mg dose of Delta-8. The liver metabolism for both Delta-8 and Delta-9 is the same; the liver converts Delta-8 to 11-hydroxy THC, which also has psychotropic effects, with a similar onset of action to its more popular cousin (about one hour). People who have experience with inhaled forms of Delta-8 describe it as a clearer high with less paranoia. The onset of action when inhaling cannabis products is pretty immediate, making it easier to determine your dose. It would be prudent to treat these products with the same caution as you would with traditional Delta-9 products.
A good synopsis of the both sides of the legal argument appears on the Project CBD website — this is definitely a gray zone. Since Delta-8 and Delta-9 are both THC compounds, they are considered federally illegal, per the Controlled Substance Act and the DEA. People who synthesize Delta-8 THC from hemp-derived CBD think it should be legal, citing the Farm Bill.
In short, we really don’t know if Delta-8 THC is legal or not in some states. Since both medical and recreational marijuana are legal in the state of Michigan, that’s a moot point. Just be careful when you’re in those states where only low-THC medical products are legal (Indiana, Tennessee, and others). For a state-by-state map, go to marijuanadoctors.com.
Just like CBD, Delta-8 products are being sold online and in stores. Since these products are currently not regulated, purity may not be guaranteed, so please be careful where you choose to purchase it. The safest option would be to go to a reputable licensed dispensary. Most dispensaries vet their products. At Apothecare Ann Arbor, we carry Delta-8 THC Soft Chews made by the Helping Friendly Hemp Company (which contain 25mg each). Prices for Delta-8 products are generally higher than those for Delta-9, since they’re more difficult to produce.
Delta-8 gummies are one of my favorite products to recommend for restful sleep. Another alternative product for sleep is the Earthbound Remedies Tincture Sleep Aid — a combo of CBN, CBG, and CBD. This product does not contain THC and is available in-store at Apothecare Ann Arbor along with their other CBD products.
As a certified medical marijuana doctor, I’m here to help people understand how to use cannabis products safely and effectively. To book a consultation with me, go to apothecareannarbor.com and click the Consultation tab.
Lisa Profera MD
Owner and Founder of PROJUVU MD
Aesthetics and Lifestyle Medicine in Ann Arbor, MI
Medical Director, Facial Innovations Medi-spa, Ann Arbor
Medical Director, Northville Beauty Spa
Certified Medical Marijuana Doctor
Certified doTERRA Essential Oils Expert
BEMER Independent Distributor
CrossFit® Level 1 Trainer
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Please note that the information in this article has been designed to help educate the reader regarding the subject matter covered. This information is provided with the understanding that the author and any other entity referenced here are not liable for the misconception or misuse of the information provided. It is not provided to diagnose, prescribe, or treat any disease, illness, or injured condition of the body. The provider of this information shall have neither liability nor responsibility to any person or entity concerning any loss, damage, or injury caused or alleged to be caused directly or indirectly by this information. The information presented is in no way intended as a substitute for medical counseling or care. Anyone suffering from any disease, illness, or injury should consult a qualified healthcare professional. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA.