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The National Cancer Institute defines D8 as “an analogue of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) with antiemetic, anxiolytic, appetite-stimulating, analgesic, and neuroprotective properties. Delta-8-tetrahydrocannabinol (delta-8-THC) binds to the cannabinoid G-protein coupled receptor CB1, located in the central nervous system; CB1 receptor activation inhibits adenyl cyclase, increases mitogen-activated protein kinase activities, modulates several potassium channel conductances and inhibits N- and P/Q-type Ca2+ channels. This agent exhibits a lower psychotropic potency than delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (delta-9-THC), the primary form of THC found in cannabis.”
Chemically, D8 is very similar to Delta-9 THC: both substances have the same molecular makeup, but the chemical bonds that hold the atoms together are arranged differently. Both D8 and Delta-9 THC communicate with the body primarily via the endocannabinoid system’s CB1 receptors in the brain, which are responsible for sleep, pain and mood. D8 can also connect with the CB2 receptor, which communicates with the immune system. That tiny change in structure means that D8 and Delta-9 THC will affect the user in a different way.
The testimonies from people who have used D8 suggest that the psychoactive qualities of D8 are about 2/3 as potent as Delta-9 THC. This decrease in potency makes many users feel much more clear headed and less likely to experience a loss of focus or productivity while being free from many of the reported negative effects associated with Delta-9 THC.
Legally, the difference between Delta-8 THC and Delta-9 THC is huge. Delta-9 THC remains a controlled substance under Federal law however, there are currently no Federal restrictions against D8. The 2018 Farm Bill authorized the production of hemp and removed hemp from the DEA’s schedule of Controlled Substances. The Farm Bill defined “hemp” as:
the plant Cannabis sativa L. and any part of that plant, including the seeds thereof and all derivatives, extracts, cannabinoids, isomers, acids, salts, and salts of isomers, whether growing or not, with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis. (7 USC §1639o).
This Federal definition was very specific to focus only on “Delta-9 THC”, with no reference to D8. The Farm Bill specifically removed “hemp” from the definition of “marijuana” so that it would no longer be considered a scheduled substance under the Controlled Substances Act (“CSA”). (21 USC §802(16)). The Farm Bill also created an exception on the CSA to specifically allow any THC found in hemp. (21 USC §812(c) section (c)(17)).
The Federal definition of “hemp” specifically includes “all derivatives [and] extracts.” D8 is a derivative product which is extracted from the hemp plant. So long as the underlying plants meet the definition of “hemp” (which can be proven through a Certificate of Analysis (“COA”) which will show the specific cannabinoid levels for every crop), the extracted products, such as D8, are specifically excluded from the CSA. The Farm Bill ended the Federal statutory prohibition against hemp and its derivatives.
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