Delta-8-THC. How "synthetic" cannabinoids are changing the legal market.

Liz Filmer
04 Aug 2021

Delta-8-THC has been shaking up the legal cannabis market in the US for the last 18 months. A milder psychoactive than Delta-9-THC, Delta-8 is created from cheap, hemp-derived CBD distillate and isolate and is then sold on as regulated cannabis products.


Delta-8-THC is a minor occurring cannabinoid that makes up less than 0.1% of the cannabis plant's chemical composition. As well as being mildly psychoactive, Delta 8 assists with general health and wellness, just like CBD.

So if Delta 8 is technically THC, then it must surely be classed federally as an illicit substance? Well, no, it's not! It's federally LEGAL!! Are you confused yet? 

The Farm Bill of 2018 saw hemp re-classified as legal. Hemp contains no more than 0.3% THC, making it technically a non-psychoactive substance. Before this, any cannabis product, whether derived from hemp or the cannabis plant, was illegal to buy, sell, possess, or consume. 

However, following the Farm Bill, it was now legal to purchase and consume any form of hemp in all 50US states. This includes extracts and concentrates of its compounds such as CBD and Delta-8. 

Delta 8 is currently legal in all but 11 states. You can buy it alongside CBD products, even in states where Cannabis is still not regulated recreationally or medicinally. 

However, the loophole appears to be closing. State legislators are beginning to re-classify Delta-8 as a controlled substance and therefore banning its sale.

Cultivators in the legal market are unhappy, too, as Delta-8 poses a real threat to their businesses. It is much cheaper to convert CBD isolate into Delta-8-THC than to grow Cannabis for its THC. 

For now, however, the Delta-8 business is proving very lucrative, with the product outselling CBD in many retail stores. The fact that Delta-8 has some psychoactive components is something that CBD cannot compete with.

As regulations on Delta-8-THC begin to tighten up, manufacturers are already busy coming up with derivative substances that they can replace it with.  Companies will not stop making products like delta-8 THC, not when they prove profitable and cheap to make. 

One such product is THC-O-Acetate. Allegedly more potent than Delta-9- THC and with longer-lasting effects, THC-O-acetate is created from hemp-derived Delta-8 THC. The claim is that THC-O-acetate is legal because technically because it is neither THC nor an isomer of THC. 

Demand for Delta-8 has surprised everyone, disrupted the legal market, and created a regulatory headache for lawmakers. New comprehensive legislation is needed that will cover not only Delta-8 but also any new derivatives that will inevitably come to market. 

Meanwhile, Cannabis growers are worried that these new, cheap synthesized products could undercut them and eventually drive them out of business.

Like it or hate it, Delta-8 THC appears to have opened the door for "synthetic" cannabinoids, and it's a trend that isn't going away any time soon, not whilst there is money to be made.

"Delta-8 is symbolic; its flavour of the month, there's another hundred or more flavours of the month to explore and innovate around." -Garrett Graff, cannabis attorney with Denver-based Hoban Law Group.

Liz Filmer