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What Is Delta-8-THC and How Is It Different from Delta-9?

March 8, 2018
(Courtesy of Oleum)
Cannabis is a flower that has grown naturally in the wild for thousands of years. It’s chocked full of chemical constituents–some of which are known as cannabinoids–that mesh with receptors throughout our body, eliciting a spectrum of mental and physical effects. THC or delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol is by far the most well-known of these cannabinoids, but certainly isn’t the only powerful chemical compound native to the cannabis flower. Delta-8-THC, one of the four most common cannabinoids, is similar to its psychoactive relative THC, but with several key differences.

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What Is Delta-8-THC?

According to the National Cancer Institute, delta-8-THC can be defined as:

“An analogue of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) with antiemetic, anxiolytic, appetite-stimulating, analgesic, and neuroprotective properties. [Delta-8-THC] binds to the cannabinoid G-protein coupled receptor CB1, located in the central nervous system…This agent exhibits a lower psychotropic potency than [delta-9-THC], the primary form of THC found in cannabis.”

Delta-8-THC is chemically different from delta-9-THC by only a few atomic bonds and still offers a potent high of its own. While delta-8-THC only exists naturally in fractions of a percent, companies are finding value in concentrating esoteric cannabinoids for their unique effects and applications. Oleum Extracts, a top-tier cannabis extractor in Washington State, is currently producing an “AquaTek Delta-8 THC” distillate cartridge that demonstrates these properties.

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For me, the AquaTek cartridge delivered a semi-sedative physical sensation without much whimsical mental stimulation. The distillate’s pervasive effects cascaded over my body while imbuing me with a classic “stoned” contentment. The appetite stimulation was apparent, but never fully manifested as hunger. This might be partially due to delta-8-THC’s anti-nausea qualities, however AquaTek does contain a modest amount of delta-9-THC as well.

A jar of delta-8-THC distillate. (Courtesy of Oleum)

I wanted to know more about how this distillate was made, what it was made of, and why, of all the cannabinoids, did Oleum pick delta-8-THC. To get the full story, I talked with Oleum’s CEO, Graham Jennings, and Senior Lab Specialist, Aaron Palmer.

Leafly: How is the delta-8-THC distillate made?

Oleum: This product is made by employing a thin film distillation­–fractional distillation–of locally cultivated cannabis flower and trim. The isolation of the delta-8-THC compound in this process is accomplished through variations of temperature, vacuums, and scientific equipment to convert delta-9-THC over to delta-8-THC. This allows us to purify and isolate specific cannabinoids by removing any residual solvents, impurities, and any other undesirable compounds.

This yields the most potent and refined end-product that offers the user one of the most clean, potent and unique delta-8-THC products on the legal market today. Most dried cannabis flower contains less than 1% of delta-8-THC, so getting a product that contains a substantial amount of this cannabinoid can only be done through extraction, isolation, conversion, and refinement of dried cannabis flower. Our last batch of what we call AquaTek D8 Distillate, also known in the industry as Water Clear, tested at 58% delta-8-THC, 7.9% delta-9-THC, and 0.35% CBD.

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How was the distillate’s cannabinoid ratio determined?

Oleum: The cannabinoid ratios in our delta-8 products are completely determined by the ratios found in the starting material of the specific strain of cannabis we choose to process. There are no preservatives or additives present in our distillates, just raw, unadulterated oil.

“Our goal is to refine and isolate as many cannabis compounds as we can–delta-8 just caught our attention because of its novelty and potential benefits.”

In this case, we used Lost Coast OG from Virginia Co. here in Washington State. This cultivator employs an aeroponic growing process that results in a well-flushed, premium end product ideal for extraction.

By keeping our delta-8 distillations strain-specific, we are able to record data and use that information in future extractions and processing to create identical or similar cannabinoid profiles and keep products consistent for our clients and consumers.

(Courtesy of Oleum)

With over 100 cannabinoids available to isolate, why delta-8?

Oleum: Our passion has been and always will be cannabis extraction, processing, and refinement. Our goal is to refine and isolate as many cannabis compounds as we can–delta-8 just happened to catch our attention because of its novelty and potential benefits to the consumer.

What should consumers know about delta-8 THC?

Oleum: For one, delta-8-tetrahydrocannabinol has a lower psychotropic potency than its close cousin delta-9 THC, which is the most abundant cannabis constituent found in cannabis.

Second, it is known to connect to both CB1 and CB2 receptors in our bodies. A study was conducted in 1995 by Dr. Raphael Mechoulam in conjunction with Shaare Zedek Hospital, Bikur Holim Hospital, and Hebrew University in Jerusalem. In this study, delta-8 THC was administered to eight children ranging from 3 to 13 years of age with various hematologic cancers. These children had been treated with different drugs and [chemotherapy] for eight months prior to treatment with delta-8-THC. The delta-8-THC treatments started two hours before each session of chemo and continued every six hours for 24 hours. With this treatment, vomiting was completely prevented and side-effects were reported as negligible.

With the help of science, we too hope to influence and advance the benefits of delta-8-THC as well as all other cannabis-derived compounds.

●   ●   ●

The efficacy and stability of delta-8-THC make it an extremely valuable cannabis-derived chemical compound. The distillate’s benefits and effects serve both medical and recreational consumers alike, and it illustrates the power of individual chemical constituents within cannabis. As science defines and refines the applications for cannabis’s eclectic collection of cannabinoids, we will benefit, one puff at a time.

Jeremiah Wilhelm's Bio Image

Jeremiah Wilhelm

Jeremiah Wilhelm is a former strain researcher at Leafly.

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  • Angel Vasquez

    Are you sure that any Delta8THC is produced via the plant? Is there a Delta8THC synthase in Cannabis? Or like the case with CBN is it THC degradation or lab analysis artifact?

    • DCBC

      Could you please stop calling this chemical change a DEGRADATION, it’s only a degradation if you only like THCA., Aside from growing a healthy, ripe and potent plant to start with, harvest and curing is the beginning of a chemical change that can go on for months, The only degradation is if you want only a THC high i don’t know anyone that wants that.

      • Eric D. Ryser

        Lol! Wow. Could you please stop trying to apply your own idiosyncratic “language policing” to chemistry terms? Degradation definition: Chemistry: Decomposition of a compound. That’s a real, specific, objective phenomenon, and it has NOTHING to do with “valuing” or desiring one compound over another, or in fact with desiring anything at all. Zero to do with desire. Now please re-read Angel’s remark with that proper understanding.

        So, looks like you owe Angel Vasquez an apology for your silly lecture and scolding, both of which reveal nothing but ignorance of the basic subject matter. and, oh look! three simpletons “liked” it.

        • MXJ222

          And “so, it looks like you owe” DCBC an apology for your unnecessary condescending remark directed at him and whoever “liked” his comment. Your “silly lecture and scolding” demonstrates significantly more ignorance about treating people with respect than any ignorance of the subject matter he may have had “and, oh look! thirteen simpletons “liked” it.”

          • Mirk

            Eh, being correct often wins out over being polite. You can actually be too polite. And I’m Canadian, so I’m as good a judge as anyone 😉

            A bit of snubbing can actually make you learn more effectively and develop greater control over emotional states, so it’s not like these behaviours come out of nowhere for no reason. People just react negatively to them because the ego demands protection rather than studying such interactions for delayed or counterintuitive benefits.

            As it stands DCBC was both wrong and practically unintelligible. Their point hinged on desiring THC *and* THC-A as a catalyst for an incorrectly defined ‘degradation’. Which is paradoxical wish-wash on top of a terminology error straddled by a bizarre inference that either Angel or people in general were persistently misusing the term. A term that DCBC should have Googled before defining it. *face palm*

            THC-A converts (see ‘degrades’) into THC. THC degrades into CBN. Exposure to air and temps around 200f can cause or speed up these processes. Again: Google.

      • Deanna

        Oxydation is referred to as degradation. It has no larger social meaning.

  • wryawry

    I’m eager for continuing scientific research to isolate functional cannibinoids sans psychotropic effects. I just don’t care for feeling stoned anymore, but I’m excited by the prospect of the variety of other potential benefits from this incredibly complex gift from our Earth.

    • Billy Rippe

      you should look for terpenes instead

  • Zen

    The potential for all these cannabinoids and their use as we learn to isolate them… it’s phenomenal and really speaks volumes about how bright the future is for cannabis medicine and research.

    As well as recreational fun

  • Shawn Foster

    has anyone tried using the delta-8 conversion product (not distillate) and taken a urinalysis?

    • small-G

      Urinalysis look for the amino acids that break down target compounds in your body. Therefore you would still fail a UA for cannabis regardless if you were smoking delta 8 or 9.

  • viper643

    Fruit Salad from a NV dispensary tested zero Delta8. It was a super face freezing buzz. So maybe Delta8 is like CBD in buffering the Delta9. Good info in this article.

  • Billy Rippe

    What can you expect from an article that starts “Cannabis is a flower that has grown naturally in the wild for thousands of years.” instead of 20 million years? Anyway, let´s keep reading…

    • david

      lol thousands of years. I caught that too. Now I want some delta 8.

  • TheTruth

    I’ve got Delta 8 Carts Available in California. I must say i do like the high, it’s different. Not to mention there are possible amazing legal ramifications to possessing delta-8 vs delta-9. could be argued in court by a lawyer that it’s not scheduled.