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Delta-8 is a cannabis compound that has become popular because of its similarity to delta-9. Both delta-8 and delta-9 are cannabinoids and are similar in both their names and their chemical structures. THC is the part of the marijuana plant that produces the "high" associated with marijuana; the scientific name for THC is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or delta-9 THC, or just delta-9. Delta-8 is short for delta-8-tetrahydrocannabinol, or delta-8 THC. Delta-8 causes effects for users similar to regular delta-9.
Delta-8 occurs naturally in small quantities in cannabis, however most of the commercially available delta-8 has been synthesized through a conversion process that uses a variety of chemicals to convert hemp-derived CBD into delta-8.
Delta-8 - like delta-9 (regular THC) - binds to the body's endocannabinoid system, which causes a user to feel high. Chemically, delta-8 and delta-9 are similar in that they both have a double bond in their structures. Both cannabinoids have a chain of carbon atoms, but delta-8 has the double bond on the eighth carbon, whereas delta-9 has it on the ninth carbon. This double bond is thought to produce the intoxicating effects that make the user feel high. Delta-8 binds to the endocannabinoid system in a slightly different fashion because of the location of its double bond. This is what is thought to make delta-8 much less potent than regular THC. However, more research needs to be done on delta-8 and how it interacts with the body.
It is important to note that delta-9 is naturally occurring in relatively high concentrations in marijuana flower while delta-8 is naturally occurring in marijuana flower but in very low concentrations. When you see a delta-9 concentrate product, the cannabinoids in that product were likely extracted directly from the cannabis plant (marijuana) and concentrated. However, when you see a delta-8 concentrate product, the cannabinoids in that product were likely synthetized and concentrated through a chemical process. Nearly all delta-8 THC is derived from CBD which has been extracted from federally legal hemp, not cannabis, which is why it is currently sold in many states where cannabis is illegal.
Delta-9 marijuana products are produced from cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant and are strictly regulated and subject to stringent testing standards. Conversely, delta-8 products are created using unregulated, chemically synthesized cannabinoids that are, often, entirely untested. Because of this clandestine synthesis process, delta-8 products can contain harmful additives and byproducts.
Side effects of delta-8 may be similar to those of delta-9, including dry mouth, red eyes, getting the munchies, short-term memory, paranoia, or anxiety. Delta-8 hasn't been studied extensively and more research is needed on the effects it has on the mind and body.
The federal Drug Enforcement Administration has - in a proposed rule that is not yet final - indirectly classified delta-8 as a Schedule 1 controlled substance, which would make it federally illegal. The state of Michigan recently passed legislation that classified delta-8 as marijuana and therefore the production, distribution, and sale of delta-8 will now be regulated by the state's Marijuana Regulatory Agency (MRA).
Effective October 11, 2021, it is illegal for businesses to sell delta-8 without proper licensing from the MRA. Members of the public can report unlicensed commercial production or sale of delta-8 to the MRA by emailing MRA-Enforcement@michigan.gov.
The MRA has created a one-page document with information about delta-8 and has made it available on the website here.