Delta 8 is a naturally occurring cannabinoid in the cannabis plant.
This cannabinoid, like its predecessors CBD and delta-9 has seen significant popularity in the cannabis industry.
Regardless of its ambiguous legal status, many people use Delta-8 because of its mild high and potential benefits for health.
The cannabis plant naturally contains very low levels of Delta 8 as it is a minor cannabinoid.
This begs the question, how are manufacturers keeping up with the rising demand for Delta 8?
The golden solution is lab-produced Delta-8. It’s more cost-effective for both manufacturers as well consumers.
What is Delta 8 Anyway?
As mentioned earlier, Delta 8 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is a compound or cannabinoid that naturally occcurs within cannabis plants.
It’s only one of many compounds that are present in hemp or cannabis plants, including CBD, CBG and, of course, THC.
When people think of THC, they are most likely referring to Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol. Delta 9 THC is the primary psychoactive cannabinoid present in most strains.
Delta 8 is a cousin of Delta 9 THC. They are both THC cannabinoids and isomers of each other. This means their chemical structures are similar.
However, Delta 8 interacts with the body in a slightly different and milder way than delta 9 THC. Delta 8 or (D8) produces a less intoxicating high overall.
Read here about how cannabinoids interact with our bodies through the endocannabinoid system and its receptors.
It’s important to note that Delta-8 THC products exist within a legal gray area.
Many potential customers are confused by the fact that the compound is not listed in laws at both the state and federal levels.
Further complicating matters is that this minor cannabinoid is produced from legal industrial hemp.
The 2018 Farm Bill in the United States removed hemp and its derivatives off of the Schedule I substances list.
Even though D8 is technically just a milder delta 9 THC, it is legal to produce, sell, and consume in most states. This is due to the fact that it exists in a legal gray area when it comes to cannabinoids.
Chiefly, it is legal because it is derived from CBD hemp flower that has less than 0.3% Delta 9 THC.
Now that you are more familiar with this midly intoxicating cannabinoid, let’s get into how it’s made.
How is Delta-8 THC Produced in the Lab?
The process of extracting D8 from raw hemp materials can be expensive and time-consuming.
The good news is that manufacturers have developed a new method of extracting the compound: a process called cannabinoid conversion.
All cannabinoids originate from CBGA (cannabigerolic acid). It is often referred to as the “Mother Cannabinoid”
CBGA will eventually convert to a specific cannabinoid (such as CBD or CBG) over time
This process can be affected by: environmental factors, plant genetics, and more.
The variation in contributing factors during a plant’s growing process is the reason why some cannabinoids may be more prominent than others.
In the Lab
In a lab setting, manufacturers can control these environmental and genetic variables. This allows producers of D8 to manipulate CBGA’s conversion process and produce the desired compound (D8) in this case.
Most people are unaware that this is the process behind extracting CBG as well.
While the cannabinoid is naturally occurring within the plant, the extraction method makes the finished product synthetic.
Some people prefer naturally derived compounds and products. However, because Delta 8 naturally occurs in such small amounts, it is not profitable for companies to obtain it without going through the synthetic process.
Since both CBD, and Delta-9 are some of the most commonly occurring cannabinoids in hemp plants, manufacturers often use these two compounds during the conversion process.
How does Delta-8-THC really get made?
Delta-8 via a Cannabinoid-Conversion
Cannabinoid conversion can be done in a few simple steps. This is how CBD is converted into D8.
- Create a CBD isolate powder: The hemp extract must first be purified to 98% CBD. The extract then goes through an extensive filtration procedure to remove any other cannabinoids and terpenes.
- Combine with solvent and acid: Manufacturers will generally mix a non-polar solvent (such as heptane) to the mixture. To produce the chemical reaction and cannabinoid transformation, manufacturers then add an acid reagent to the mixture once it has fully dissolved. It is important to stir the solution continuously for at least 3 hours. A stirring plate is often used. The solution can be either kept at room temperature, or heated depending on the formula.
- Clean and neutralize the solution: Making Delta-8 can result in unwanted byproducts such as solvent or acid residue. Cleaning and filtering the solution is essential. A rotary evaporator can be used, as well as distilled water and sodium bicarbonate washes.
- Test final product: This is the most critical stage in the manufacturing process. The best quality products are tested through methods such as high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC). This allows companies to identify each compound and verify that they do not contain any unwanted chemicals.
The Problem With Converting CBD to Delta-8
Although it is simple to create lab-produced D8, the process involves mixing many potentially harmful chemicals. This is why only experienced and licensed chemists should be able to transform CBD into Delta-8.
Unfortunately, low-quality “at–home” formulas and kits exist on the market. Consumers run the risk of ingesting and handling harmful acid or solvent residue by using these at-home kits.
If you are looking to try this budding cannabinoid, it is important that you only buy from high-quality and reputable brands.
Delta-8: Final Thoughts
It’s very rare to find naturally-derived products containing Delta-8. Although the cannabinoid is found organically in cannabis, it’s limited amounts render it unpopular for natural forms of extraction.
Many companies instead make D8 products with cannabinoids from hemp, such as CBD, and convert them to the compound. The simple process of cannabinoid conversion in the lab has made this new cannabinoid more cost effective for consumers.
Delta-8 products are still relatively new in the cannabis industry. Testing, extraction, and conversion techniques are continuously developing and improving.
Due to the largely unregulated nature of the cannabis industry, there are unfortunately quite a bit of poorly-developed cannabis products out there.
It is important that consumers are vigilant about quality when purchasing D8 products, or any cannabis product for that matter.