Delta-8-tetrahydrocannabinol (delta-8-THC) is marketed as a softer version of the delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (delta-9-THC) that naturally occurs in cannabis. Delta-8-THC itself does not naturally occur in substantial amounts in hemp or marijuana though. It is said to be “hemp-derived” because it is chemically created from hemp-derived cannabidiol (CBD). This loophole is what allows delta-8-THC to be sold legally.
However, just because it is being sold legally does not mean that it is safe or regulated. In fact, there is no regulation of delta-8-THC except the requirement that it is hemp-derived and contains less than 0.3% delta-9-THC. The safety issues that impact delta-8-THC products actually extend into the entire CBD market. Aside from smokable hemp flower, most products are made from concentrates (resulting from solvent-based extraction processes). While recreational cannabis concentrates require state-dependant testing for things like pesticides, residual solvents, and heavy metals, CBD and delta-8-THC do not.
The recently published paper “The Rise and Risk of Delta-8 THC (Delta-8-Tetrahydrocannabinol)” takes up this topic. They point out that the short and long-term effects of using delta-8-THC are largely unresearched at this time. However, the main concern they underline is the aforementioned lack of regulation and lack of testing for harmful compounds. The researchers report:
“A recent screen of delta-8 products found that the majority contained heavy metal contamination and that the reported vs. actual compositions of commercial products did not agree.”
While we all like to take the edge off after a long day, it is important to consider your health and safety. Buying CBD and delta-8-THC products online may not be legally risky, but consumers have to protect themselves in an industry where the government has failed to take reasonable measures to control risks.
When purchasing CBD or delta-8-THC products, here are some things to remember:
- If possible, buy from a state-licensed cannabis dispensary where products are regulated
- If a certificate of analysis (COA) is not on the website, email and ask for one
- Ask for the lot number of the product you wish to purchase to match it to the COA
- Check COAs for dates of testing and lot numbers
- Check if the COA says anything like “For R&D Only” or “Not for Compliance” (this usually means the test didn’t follow the lab’s standard sampling procedure)
- If the COA only shows potency, ask to see COAs for residual solvent, pesticide, and heavy metal testing
- If you want to have a product tested, cannabis laboratories will allow the public to do so
Nachnani, R., Raup-Konsavage, W. M., & Vrana, K. E. (2022). The Rise and Risk of Delta-8 THC (Delta-8-Tetrahydrocannabinol). Current Addiction Reports, 1-8.
Sabine Downer is a scientist and cannabis writer with a passion for education. She has been writing for various clients in the cannabis space since 2015 and has worked in biotechnology since 2010. Along with content creation, she is also a knowledgeable resource on quality assurance, regulatory, and legal topics.