Because of tight legal controls surrounding the sale of cannabis in the UK, there are always retailers on the lookout for loopholes and grey areas.
For a while, it looked as if a cannabinoid called delta 8 THC could provide such a loophole and allow people to get high legally. Disappointingly, the excitement around delta 8 THC was short-lived and any ambiguity regarding its legal status was soon made clear.
What is Delta 8 THC?
Delta 8 THC is one of over a hundred cannabinoids found in the flowers and leaves of plants in the cannabis family.
It’s become well known globally as an intoxicating alternative to products rich in the ‘high’ producing Delta-9 THC.
The popularity of delta 8 THC is slowly increasing in the UK but it’s gained a lot of its global status and notoriety from the large number of unregulated products sold in the US.
It was in demand there based on the mistaken belief that it offered a legal alternative to marijuana.
What is the difference between Delta 8 and Delta 9 THC?
Delta 9 THC is the cannabinoid responsible for giving cannabis its intoxicating, psychoactive effects. It binds with your endocannabinoid system’s CB1 receptors to provide intense sensations of euphoria and relaxation.
Delta 8 and delta 9 THC both have the same chemical formula which means that they’re both made from the same number and type of atoms.
However, their atoms and bonds are arranged in slightly different ways meaning that when you consume them they produce slightly different effects.
Delta 9 THC is one of the most abundant cannabinoids found in cannabis plants whereas delta 8 THC is present in much lower levels.
Delta 8 also binds to your CB1 receptors but the strength of the attraction is considerably weaker resulting in a milder psychotropic effect.
In areas where cannabis is legal, products that contain delta 9 THC are relatively easy to make because there are lots of THC-rich varieties available.
Most varieties of cannabis and hemp contain only tiny amounts of delta 8 THC. This makes it harder to extract and more expensive to produce.
Because of its weaker effects, people often attempt to use larger amounts to compensate.
In some cases, this can result in any contaminants becoming concentrated as well as the active ingredients.
Will Delta 8 THC get you high?
Yes, delta 8 THC produces a similar intoxicating high to delta 9 THC.
The sensation of this high is similar to that produced by marijuana, but at about 75% of the intensity.
Is Delta 8 THC legal in the UK?
Delta 8 THC is not legal in the UK because it’s considered to be a Class B drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.
The Home Office considers that it falls under the description ‘Cannabinol Derivatives’ and it’s specifically mentioned by the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs in their review of the generic definition of controlled cannabinoids.
According to UK law, if you’re caught in possession of Delta 8 THC you could face up to five years in prison or an unlimited fine.
However, in 2019, The National Police Chiefs Council advised officers to only give a warning for possession of cannabis or cannabinol derivatives.
They also suggested that they should advise treatment instead of prosecution or arrest.
Can you buy Delta 8 THC in the UK?There are some online stores and vape shops that still sell delta 8 THC products in the UK. In most cases, they are operating in the mistaken belief that it falls in a legal grey area.
Is Delta 8 THC Legal in the US?
The 2018 Farm Bill recognised the legal status of hemp plants with a delta 9 THC content of less than 0.3%.
Many manufacturers interpreted that this ruling would then allow any other cannabinoids in industrial hemp to be legal.
Since then the US government have confirmed that Delta-8 THC remains illegal unless subject to a different legal status at the state level.
Can CBD convert to Delta 8 THC?
Yes CBD can convert into delta 8 THC. It can also convert into delta 9 THC. This is because CBD shares the same chemical formula as both cannabinoids.
This means that they all contain 21 carbon atoms, 30 Hydrogen atoms and 2 oxygen atoms. The only difference between the three is the position of the bonds.
Still, the conversion from CBD to THC won’t happen in normal conditions.
This can only occur intentionally when using a precise method involving caustic ingredients.
In most cases, the process also has the potential to produce hazardous by-products and should only be attempted by professionals in a lab.
Is Delta 8 safe?
Yes, pure delta 8 is safe but because these products are illegal and unregulated they may contain dangerous levels of contaminants.
While the cannabinoid delta 8 is itself considered to have a similar safety profile to delta 9 THC, there are significant concerns regarding the quality of delta 8 THC products available for sale.
If you consider buying any cannabinoid product in the UK, it’s essential that you look for reputable brands that conduct a complete panel of tests on every product batch.
It’s vital that you know the cannabinoid content of any product you use and that it’s been screened for contaminants like heavy metals, pesticides and solvents.
In most countries, including the UK and US, delta 8 products that have been offered for sale have been found to vary significantly when it comes to quality and safety.
A study conducted in the US analysed 16 samples of over the counter Delta-8 products available in a range of different states.
All of the samples contained more delta 9 THC than the 0.3% US legal limit.
The average amount was 3.4% delta 9 THC.
They also all contained a mixture of trace levels of contaminants including 7 out of 16 products failing to meet the United States Pharmacopeia’s limits for inhalation on copper (Cu), chromium (Cr) or nickel (Ni).
In the US Delta-8 is considered to be unsafe because it’s unregulated and untested.
Delta 8 THC is another incredible cannabinoid with enormous potential for medical and recreational applications.
Due to its current controlled status in the UK, the only products still available are likely to contain concerning levels of contaminants or have contents that may not match the label.
Unfortunately, this means that delta 8 THC does not currently offer a viable alternative to delta 9 THC.
Instead we must look forward with hope to the results of broader studies and favourable policy changes that will allow our country to benefit from everything the cannabis plant has to offer.