Delta 8 THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is one of more than 100 compounds, or cannabinoids, found in the Cannabis sativa plant. Delta 8 THC is found in trace amounts in marijuana plants and hemp plants. It is much less present than the more well-known Delta 9, which is the cannabinoid in the cannabis plant that produces the feeling of elation or "high."
Delta 8 THC is sometimes called "diet weed" or "marijuana-lite" because while it does have psychoactive and intoxicating effects, it is much milder than Delta 9 THC.
Where did Delta 8 come from?
Delta 8 THC has become a booming industry. Sean Conners, VP of Bison Botanics in New York, told WebMD that in 2021 Delta 8 THC sales were 65 percent of his business.1 The product is available in all of the forms that CBD is available: vape pens, gummies, oils, tinctures, and other forms. These items generated hundreds of millions of dollars in 2021.2
The boom for Delta 8 occurred shortly after the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill. This act removed hemp from the federal list of controlled substances, Schedule 1. It legalizes hemp products as long as them hemp has less than 0.3 percent THC in it. But this law failed to mention Delta 8 THC, only Delta 9 THC.
Farmers went straight to work growing hemp, but soon the supply outstripped the demand, and producers were sitting on piles of unsold hemp-derived CBD. So many producers decided to diversify and transform their CBD into Delta 8 products.
Is Delta 8 safe?
Because of its scarcity, Delta 8 THC is typically manufactured. This process, which involves putting CBD through an acid bath, which produces potentially harmful by-products along with Delta 8 THC. While many Delta 8 THC products available in convenience stores and gas stations are produced responsibly, there is still a tremendous amount of shady products that are not third-party lab tested. This raises questions about product labeling, public health risks, consumer safety, and risks taken during the process of creating and using Delta 8 THC.
Delta 8 THC products have not been evaluated or approved by the FDA for safe use in any context and may be marketed in ways that put public health at risk. According to the FDA, "Some concerns include variability in product formulations and product labeling, other cannabinoid and terpene content, and variable Delta 8 THC concentrations." Not only is Delta 8 not FDA regulated but also many dodgy brands are claiming that Delta 8 has therapeutic value.3
The FDA writes, "Selling unapproved products with unsubstantiated therapeutic claims is not only a violation of federal law, but also can put consumers at risk, as these products have not been proven to be safe or effective. This deceptive marketing of unproven treatments raises significant public health concerns because patients and other consumers may use them instead of approved therapies to treat serious and even fatal diseases."4
Packaging of Delta 8 products may make spurious claims. You may find Delta 8 THC products labeled with the words:
- Diet weed
- Light cannabis
- Delta-8 hemp
- Delta-8 CBD
- Something that gives a “legal high”5
The FDA received 104 reports of "adverse events," or bad reactions, in patients who consumed Delta-8 THC products between December 1, 2020, and February 28, 2022. Of these 104 adverse event reports:
- 77 percent involved adults.
- 55 percent required intervention (e.g., evaluation by emergency medical services in the hospital or emergency room) or hospital admission.
- 66 percent described adverse events after ingestion of delta-8 THC-containing food products (e.g., brownies, gummies).
- Adverse events included, but were not limited to: hallucinations, vomiting, tremor, anxiety, dizziness, confusion, and loss of consciousness.6
The FDA also warns that manufacturers may be using "potentially unsafe household chemicals" to create Delta 8 from CBD isolate. If consumed or inhaled, these chemicals may be toxic. Also, the manufacturing may be occurring in unsafe or unsanitary conditions because there is no regulation.7 Both of these circumstances pose serious health risks.
Brands are manufacturing Delta 8 THC products in ways that may be especially appealing to children. The forms they take often mimic kids' favorite treats: gummies, chocolate bars, cookies, brownies etc. Also Delta 8 THC products are often labeled with cartoon characters and bright, exciting colors, which is also appealing to children. Products may be sold online, at convenience stores, or gas stations without regard to age or safety issues. There is often no age limits for purchasing Delta 8 THC. As of May 2022, there are no regulations surrounding child-proof packaging of Delta 8 products.
Delta 8 THC is also appealing to pets as the form of it often mimics the form of people food. Accidental exposure of pets to Delta 8 and its psychoactive effects may be harmful for the pet either physically or psychologically.
Delta 8 THC is widely available and growing in popularity, but it is therefore easy for it to fall into the hands of children, pets, and other vulnerable people. The lack of age restrictions is deeply problematic and dangerous.
The biggest risk of Delta 8 is that it’s not regulated, which means that safety, purity, and strength can’t be guaranteed. Very little human research has been done on the product. Animal studies have been conflicting.8 Much more research and regulations are needed on Delta 8 THC.
Can you take Delta 8 CBD everyday?
The FDA warns against consuming Delta 8 THC. In a 3 month study of Delta 8 there were 104 reports of adverse events in patients who consumed Delta -8 THC products. However similar studies on Delta 9 yeilded no adverse effects.
Is delta-8 natural?
Delta 8 appears in very small amounts in the cannabis plant. However, most of the Delta 8 products on market contain synthetically created Delta 8 THC instead.
About the Author
Dr. Leslie Mudd, PharmD
A board certified oncology pharmacist with 25 years experience at the James Graham Brown Cancer Center in Louisville, Kentucky, Dr. Leslie Mudd now serves as the Cornbread Hemp resident pharmacist and medical expert. Read Dr. Mudd's full author bio here.
1, 2, Doheny, Kathleen. "Delta 8, AKA 'Diet Weed': Nicer and Kinder, or Unsafe." WebMD. Published: 31 January 2022. Accessed: 1 April 2022. <https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/addiction/news/20220131/delta-8-thc-what-to-know>.
3, 4, 6, 7, "5 Things to Know about Delta-8 Tetrahydrocannabinol – Delta-8 THC." FDA.org. Published: March 18, 2022. Accessed: April 7, 2022. <https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/5-things-know-about-delta-8-tetrahydrocannabinol-delta-8-thc>
5, 8 Rae, Addie. "Is Delta-8 THC Safe? Learn About the Risks, Side Effects, and How to Spot It." GoodRX. Published: 19 Nov. 2021. Accessed: 7 April 2022. <https://www.goodrx.com/well-being/substance-use/is-delta-8-thc-safe>.