Delta 8, explained
Although delta 8 is similar to delta 9 THC, it has a slightly different chemical structure. This difference in chemical structure might mean that it has different effects.
Delta 8 naturally occurs in cannabis plants in small, small amounts. As such, delta 8 products are typically made by synthetically converting CBD or delta 9 THC into delta 8. Very little is known about the effects of synthetic cannabinoids.
In 1973, a study Trusted Source looked at the differences between delta 8 and delta 9 THC. It found that delta 8 could have the following effects:
- visual distortions
- difficulties with thinking and speaking
More recently, a 2021 study surveyed delta 8 users. About half of people surveyed used delta 8 for medical reasons, specifically:
The study found that consumers felt that delta 8 was an effective substitute for delta 9 — in some cases, they felt that delta 8 had less intense side effects.
Another 2022 study Trusted Source authored by the same researchers surveyed 521 delta 8 users, many of whom claimed that the side effects of delta 8 products were not as bad as that of regular cannabis.
Anecdotal, delta 8 users on forums claim that delta 8 makes them sleepy and relaxed. Many people also claim that it stimulates appetite, a common effect of cannabis known as the “munchies.”
As a 2022 paper explains, there’s a worrying lack of research into delta 8 THC. We don’t yet know its potential benefits and risks — and given that it’s fairly easy to buy, this is concerning.
Delta 9, explained
Delta 9 THC is the most abundant form of THC in cannabis plants. When you buy products that contain THC, you’re typically getting delta 9 THC.
THC is perhaps most well-known for making people feel intoxicated, or high.
However, it might also have health benefits. According to research Trusted Source, it might help with:
- low appetite
- muscle spasticity
- obstructive sleep apnea
A synthetic form of delta 9 THC is used to create dronabinol Trusted Source (Marinol), a drug approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) to stimulate appetite in people undergoing chemotherapy, people with HIV or AIDS, and people with anorexia
There is very little research on the benefits and side effects of delta 10.
Anecdotal, delta 10 users claim that the high is mellow but energizing. People also claim that they feel more euphoric after consuming delta 10.
However, because there’s a lack of research, there’s no proof to verify these claims.
Side effects, risks, and overall safety
Typical side effects of THC include:
- red eyes
- dry mouth (“cotton mouth”)
- increased appetite (“munchies”)
- difficulty thinking and speaking
- slowed reaction times
- rapid heart rate
- memory loss
The FDA has said Trusted Source that it received 104 reports of adverse events in people who used delta 8 products between December 1, 2020, and February 28, 2022.
The reported adverse effects include:
- loss of consciousness
A major issue with delta 8 and 10 products is that they are not regulated. This means that it’s difficult for consumers to figure out whether they’re buying legitimate, high quality products.
There is no way to ensure that these products contain what manufacturers say they contain, or that they’re free from harmful contaminants.
Are delta 8 and delta 10 THC legal? The answer is complicated.
At a federal level, delta 8 and delta 10 are technically legal. This is because the Farm Bill of 2018 made hemp legal to buy, sell, and grow. The bill defined hemp as a plant containing less than 0.3% of delta 9 THC by weight.
Because the Farm Bill focuses explicitly on delta 9 and not delta 8 or 10, it’s a bit of a legal loophole: delta 8 and 10 products that are derived from hemp could fall into a legal gray zone.
It’s more complicated than that, though. Because cannabis plants contain only trace amounts of delta 8 and delta 10, they’re usually made synthetically.
Many states have laws against synthetic cannabinoids. Whether delta 8 and delta 10 are synthetic cannabinoids is debatable: both appear naturally in cannabis plants, but the legal definition of “synthetic cannabinoid” can be broad enough to include any cannabinoid that is made synthetically, including commercial delta 8 and 10 products.
Both delta 8 and delta 10 are explicitly restricted in certain states. And, given the controversy around delta 8 and delta 10, it’s possible that lawmakers will soon introduce more state-level laws that restrict these cannabinoids.
You can find out about your state’s laws by looking at the Norml.org map of cannabis-related legislation.
The bottom line
THC is the chemical in cannabis that is responsible for making you feel intoxicated. It can also have medical benefits. The THC found in cannabis plants is typically delta 9 THC.
Thanks to a legal loophole in the 2018 Farm Bill, delta 8 and 10 THC are becoming increasingly popular. Although delta 8 and delta 10 THC can cause intoxication, they are less restricted in certain states.
However, the safety and benefit of delta 8 and 10 remain to be seen. Both cannabinoids need to be studied further before we understand their potential side effects.