The consumer market is finding Delta-8 (D8-THC) exploding in the retail space as manufacturers, retail stores and distributors exploit the ambiguities in the federal drug laws with regard to isomers and analogs of Delta-9 THC. This increase in demand is being met rapidly with manufacturers presenting a variety of products and formulations. These products vary widely in their safety, effectiveness, purity, strength and method of production.
Let me be clear, the information provided here is meant to educate all of those interested in participating in the supply chain. We at Abundant Labs have seen many in the market make assumptions about the product or overlook certain aspects due to need for revenue. Participate at your own risk, we just want to make sure everyone understands what they are stepping into when using these products. Nothing in this communication is meant to be legal advice. Please consult your own counsel for specific advice with regard to your circumstances.
Delta-8 THC vs. Delta-9 THC
D8-THC is one of the 100+ cannabinoids found in cannabis and hemp. Specifically, D8-THC is a structural analog of the more widely known Delta-9 THC (D9-THC). Due to their structural similarities, D8-THC and D9-THC bind to the same CB1 receptor in the central nervous system but the subtle structural differences are enough to constitute an arguably discrete legal definition with respect to the DEA, a feature many are using to market the D8-THC molecule. The specific structural difference of D8-THC vs D9-THC is the position of the double bond on the unconjugated ring, highlighted here; D8-THC has a double bond between position 7-8, D9-THC has the double bond between position 9-10. This isomerization or conversion from D9-THC occurs in the hemp plant naturally and accounts for the scarce though detectable amounts in cannabis plants. Extraction and distillation of D8-THC from biomass is both costly and low yielding and so most if not all commercially available D8-THC is the result of synthetic organic chemistry techniques to convert CBD into D8-THC.
Delta-8 THC Safety and Effects
It is the safety of these CBD conversion reactions that is the largest concern in the retail market place currently. These chemical conversions involve the use of heat in the presence of acidic conditions to covalently bond the 1’ hydroxyl and the 8 carbon of CBD into the tetrahydropyran ring of THC. Chemical reactions like this conversion are difficult to control precisely and the slightest fluctuation in temperature, pressure, or acidity can cause other side reactions to take place. CBD isolate converted under the right conditions by knowledgeable chemists can yield +90% D8-THC with a low likelihood of potentially harmful contaminating products. The conversion of crude oil or distillates using these acidic methods is considerably more risky with respect to safety. These less pure extracts and distillates contain a variety of other molecules like lipids, proteins, flavonoids, alcohols, and sugars which when treated with heat and acidic conditions can create a complex mixture of side reactions and products that can be quite harmful. Cleanup and purification is important when using any other form of starting material besides isolate, though many smaller and less sophisticated labs may not have the chromatographic or distillation capability needed. The testing of these materials is also key as a typical HPLC potency test cannot identify side products of an impure reaction, HPLC-UV can only identify unknown compounds by conformance to retention times of reference compounds.
The recent push for minor cannabinoid isolates in the retail market has created tremendous business opportunities as well as numerous issues of consumer safety and education. Until genetics can catch up with this demand, chemical conversions are the only scalable answer to the demand. Therefore, those who have built their business on offering a natural alternative to help with health issues, you are in fact delivering a synthetic instead.
As mentioned before we are not discouraging or advocating the use of these synthetic alternatives, but we are encouraging everyone to do a couple of things: First and foremost please educate yourself on what the product is, so when communicating to your clientele you are giving them accurate information. Secondly, please do some research on the supply chain for the product. Make sure you know what it was made from (CBD isolate, crude, etc.) and who made it. Is the lab who does the conversion cGMP certified? Does their staff have sufficient education (not just experience) and do they have the correct equipment? Last but equally important please have the products whether bulk or finished tested independently with a reputable lab.
We hope this is helpful and we will make ourselves available for any questions.