Delta-8-THC derived from hemp: what do we know?

Posted on Behalf of  Heidi O'Neill

What is D-8?

Delta-8 THC (D-8), found naturally in many cannabis strains (including hemp) at very low concentrations (typically less than 0.1%), is one of the over 100 cannabinoids found in the Cannabis sativa plant. D-8 is structurally similar to delta-9-THC and has estimates of psychoactive potency ranging from between 50-75% of that found in delta-9 THC (Roush and Hudalla 2021).  Given the low levels of D-8 present in cannabis plants, the more abundant hemp-derived cannabidiol (CBD) is converted synthetically to D-8.

What do we know about health benefits?

Although there are few human studies on the efficacy of D-8, it was shown to be effective in a small population of pediatric oncology patients as an antiemetic (Abrahamov et al 1995). Studies in mice also show efficacy as an appetite stimulant and a suppressor of tumor angiogenesis (Avraham et al 2004; Blázquez et al 2003). Another study in mice found D-8 reduced pain and inflammation (Thapa et al 2018). As with many cannabinoids, there is some limited evidence D8 could be beneficial but further work is needed to understand the safety and tolerability.

Are there any concerns?

As D-8 vape products are sold outside State-regulated cannabis facilities, either online or in retail stores, third party testing for potency and contaminants is either limited or not available. The US Cannabis Council study purchased retail D-8 vape products and found they exceeded the 0.3% THC limit, in violation of the 2018 Farm Bill. Full testing for D-8 products is even more important, as solvent contamination from the conversion of CBD to D-8 including acetone, dichloromethane, ethyl acetate, heptane, hexane, pentane, methanol, and isopropyl alcohol was identified in these retail samples testing also found measurable levels of chromium, copper, lead, nickel. In addition, laboratories found impurities that could not be identified with total levels of impurities (known and unknown) ranging from 1-5% of the total vape product concentration (Roush and Hudalla 2021).

What’s in store for Delta-8?

There is clearly not enough data yet to confirm the safety of Delta-8. The ultimate issues with D-8 products are lack of testing for contaminants and higher than allowable levels of THC. As with other cannabis products, more studies are desperately needed to evaluate safety, efficacy, and toxicity.

Cardno ChemRisk Capabilities                                                             

Cardno ChemRisk scientists have extensive experience conducting and publishing many original studies, focusing on consumer product and food safety. We have also characterized potential exposures and health risks posed by various chemicals (e.g., metals, solvents and pesticides) in consumer products, including vaping devices that deliver inhalable aerosols, as well as foods and personal care products, using state-of-the-art risk assessment methods. Our team offers a multidisciplinary approach and experience of resolving health and safety issues related to cannabis and cannabis-derived products.

For more information on Cardno ChemRisk’s capabilities, please contact Heidi O’Neill or Elise de Gandiaga.