Is it Legal? Is it Good? What Even is It?
Most of you know by now that I live in a state that has pretty much no accessible form of legal cannabis consumption. Well, at least not any cannabis with a high enough percentage of THC to give you the “buzz” commonly associated with it. In the time that I have been here, I’ve seen CBD products rise in popularity to a point where you can buy CBD gummies and hemp “cigarettes” at the convenient stores in my relatively small town. Now, however, there’s something new that has popped up everywhere recently and pretty quickly; delta-8 THC. You can buy it legally now in the vape shops – that’s right, there are multiple vape shops in my town of around two thousand people. There are businesses on Tik Tok advertising knock-off Icees with delta-8 THC in them. What exactly is delta-8 THC though, and why the sudden burst of popularity and seemingly universal legality that is making it so accessible?
I first heard about delta-8 on the aforementioned clock app from a page I don’t follow and will probably never see again in my hours of mindless swiping. They said you could order it online and – if my memory serves me well – that it was basically comparable to a THC cartridge you might get from a dispensary. Now, the general consensus is that delta-8 is a more mild “high”, with less of a risk for some of the more negative side effects that can sometimes accompany cannabis consumption. I recently had the opportunity to try some, so I can also share my own experience as well.
What is Delta-8 THC?
Cannabinoids. You remember cannabinoids, right? Well then it should come as no surprise that delta-8 THC is another of the cannabinoids found in cannabis that bind with the receptors found throughout your body, just like CBD and the colloquial “THC”. Most of the time, when people are talking about THC casually, the specific cannabinoid they are referring to is delta-9 THC. Essentially, delta-9 is the psychoactive component of cannabis that gets you high or stoned or lifted or whatever you prefer – and is still federally illegal. Delta-8 is only a few molecules away from delta-9 THC, but these few molecules seem to make all of the difference when it comes to the effects.
When delta-8 first popped onto the scene, at least in my little pocket of the world, it was – and still is, actually – being touted as a legal way to get high. And while that may technically be true, the effects of delta-8 THC seem to be much more mild than it’s delta-9 counterpart. On a whim one day, my roommate stopped at one of the many vape shops and acquired a delta-8 THC cartridge and vape… pen? I honestly don’t know, I’m not that cool, but it sounds right.
Now, before I get into the nitty gritty of the relatively mild experience I had with delta-8 THC, I have to talk about something that I feel might be unique to cannabis prohibition states. First of all, I live in the south. Not the deep south, but far enough that anything north of us is usually a yankee, and there’s a culture here that’s similar to “don’t ask, don’t tell – but sometimes you can tell, if y’know’whadamean”. This kind of attitude, combined with the easy pickins mentality of law enforcement, makes for a weird breeding ground of misinformation. There are plenty of legal hemp derived and full spectrum CBD products available where I live, but there are very few places that exist that only do CBD and have the knowledge that goes along with that. People are of course capable of doing their own research, but I know plenty of people who are just living their lives and don’t necessarily want to spend a relaxing evening researching some new cannabis product.
The biggest issue, in my opinion, is the lack of access to cannabis information in prohibition states. There are obviously no bans on research or information, but creating a legal, accessible industry like cannabis requires a certain level of knowledge. The longer I work in cannabis and cannabis adjacent fields, the more knowledge I gain, and it’s an honor and a privilege to be able to share what I learn with the people I know. Delta-8 THC is an interesting case because of it’s surprise legality – which is still a gray area that we’ll cover next – and the seemingly lacking amount of information that was available when it first hit the market.
How Was the Delta-8 THC Experience?
When I first heard about delta-8 THC, I was skeptical. The source was obviously questionable and even I didn’t go out of my way to do any research right away. The mistake the person in the video I saw made was using the word “synthetic”. This turned me off almost instantly because all “synthetic cannabis” makes me think of is the heyday of head shops selling smokable potpourri that either did nothing or made you hallucinate. Turns out, like with many other things, I was wrong.
I don’t remember whether or not I mentioned my discovery to my roommates, but lo and behold, a few weeks later they came home with a cartridge of Snozzberry delta-8 THC. Now, I would be lying if I told you that there’s pretty much not a time that I am awake that I don’t have some type of cannabis in my system, so the first time I tried the delta-8 cartridge, the effects were pretty negligible as far as I could tell. Also, for the sake of full transparency, I have a hard time with vaping in general, and this particular apparatus or cartridge or both, is particularly rough on my lungs.
Not long after that first, relatively forgettable first experience, it was laundry day. We leave the house at what I consider to be an unreasonably early hour with the car packed full of laundry and usually, we’ve all just rolled out of bed with no time to roll up anything else before we leave. This time, however, someone remembered to grab the delta-8 cart. We passed it around in the car a few times and I choked myself awake, but I was notably less sore and more agreeable about laundry that day. I have some pretty reasonable anxiety about being in public after not being in public for the past year, so any anxiety I had that morning can’t be blamed on the delta-8.
There was a very mild buzz that didn’t last very long for me but I spent my morning relatively pain free and relaxed. My roommates told me, when they brought it home, that they were told it was – and I’m paraphrasing here – CBD that gets you high, and I can’t say that that is a terrible comparison.
Is Delta-8 THC Legal?
Maybe it’s just me, but it seemed like the popularity of delta-8 THC skyrocketed overnight, and honestly, that makes a whole lot of sense. With manufacturers advertising it as a safe and legal way to get high in states where cannabis will still run you some pretty serious penalties, of course there were tons of cannabis consumers scrambling to get to it as quickly as they could. How, though, did this relatively obscure cannabinoid gain such overnight popularity – and legality?
The “too long, didn’t read” summary of this would be “Delta-8 THC is technically legal for now”, but what does that even mean? Delta-9 THC, being the cannabinoid that causes the classic cannabis psychoactive effects, is explicitly federally illegal, as well as being illegal in some states. Delta-8 THC, however, is never mentioned.
Some of you may recall a 2018 farm bill that passed legalizing several industrial hemp products on a national level, including CBD. This bill also legalized hemp and cannabis derived products that contain less than 0.3% delta-9 THC. That being said, delta-8 remains in a legal gray area because while the 2018 farm bill technically clears delta-8 THC, it only pertains to when it is derived from hemp, while most of the delta-8 THC on the market today is made from synthetically-altered CBD. It seems that most legal experts would argue that delta-8 THC is still legal to purchase, but the fuzzy wording of the bill and the gray areas of where the delta-8 is coming from makes the legal future of delta-8 THC uncertain.
Would I Recommend Delta-8 THC?
Honestly, my gut reaction to this question is no, but the more I think about it, the more I realize that delta-8 THC just isn’t my thing. I usually really enjoy the more intense psychoactive effects of a high delta-9 THC strain, because sometimes you just need to be stuck to the couch for a few hours. I do, however, see the benefits of delta-8 for someone who absolutely does not like those feelings, and I have met many people like that. The fact that delta-8 THC can give people a similar buzz to that of delta-9 THC without any of the paranoia or anxiety that can sometimes come with it. I know plenty of people who just don’t mess with cannabis simply because of the intense side effects that they experience.
The fact that delta-8 THC is technically legal in and of itself is honestly enough of a reason for me to recommend it. I am all about access to quality cannabis for a wide variety of reasons, and the ease of access to delta-8 THC speaks for itself. People who are hesitant to try cannabis products outside of store-bought CBD, which can be hit or miss, because of legality now have access to another legal cannabinoid that may be a little more beneficial for them. For now, I would say that taking advantage of its current state of legality might be for you.
In conclusion, I feel like this is a ‘don’t knock it ‘till you’ve tried it’ situation, and if you’re curious, you should try it. I don’t necessarily think it’s revolutionary or changing the cannabis game, and I think that if you’re in a state with more accessible types of delta-9 THC cannabis, that’s your better option, but I do think that any form of legal THC is a step in the right direction.
Kelly Mahoney worked at a medical cannabis Co-op with her mother, Laura Mastropietro, dealing mainly with helping new patients acquire their medical cards and helping them find the best strains and methods. Diagnosed at a young age with spinal muscular atrophy, she was also a medical cannabis patient and still advocates for the incredible benefits, and downright fun, of cannabis. She now lives in a prohibition state as a cat mom and gamer wife.