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Delta-8 is a form of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Most of us are only familiar with delta-9 THC, which is what most people refer to when they say THC. Delta-8 is an isomer of delta-9 THC, which means it has the same molecular formula as but the atoms are arranged differently. THC actually has four different isomers: delta-7, delta-8, delta-9, and delta-10.
Research suggests that delta-8 is about 66% as potent as delta-9 and has similar effects (1). This means it can get you high and produce other typical effects of THC, such as sedation. Delta-8 THC also appears to have a lower chance of causing anxiety and other common side effects of delta-9 THC, which is another reason for its popularity.
Delta-8 THC is controversial because it offers a “legal high” in states where recreational cannabis is banned. It’s all because of a loophole in the 2018 Farm Bill that legalized hemp across the nation.
The bill limits hemp-derived products to no more than 0.3% of delta-9 THC but has no such limit for delta-8 THC. Cannabis and hemp plants naturally have low delta-8 THC levels, so legislators never bothered to mention it in the bill.
But you can also make large amounts of delta-8 from hemp-derived CBD through a fairly simple chemical process. By the bill’s definition, this delta-8 THC is considered legal.
Delta-8 THC has also generated debate about whether it counts as synthetic. The process used to create delta-8 from CBD is clearly not natural.
Some also argue that delta-8 THC is illegal because it violates the 1986 Federal Analogue Act, which bans substances that are “substantially similar” to controlled drugs.