How many times have you come across a web article claiming that Delta-8 THC is a synthetic or manmade cannabinoid? Plenty, we are sure. To dispel such myths, today we have decided to give you a complete lowdown on how the cannabinoid is extracted and what role the lab plays in its birth.
Also, if you are a regular Delta-8 user or have been pondering over whether or not to try some, you have the right to know the hows and whys behind its production and get all your doubts cleared. That way, you won’t fall for rumors or weird claims by other people that can potentially throw you off-rail on your D-8 journey.
So, without further ado, let’s get going.
How Delta-8 THC Is Produced In The Lab
To understand the process of Delta-8 production, you must first know a little bit about the chemistry of cannabinoids.
The Basics of Natural Cannabinoids
If you have read articles on the differences between Delta-8 and Delta-9 THC, you must be aware that the two cannabinoids have very similar chemical structures. The only difference is that D-8 has a double bond on the eighth carbon chain while D-9 has a double bond on the ninth carbon chain.
Now, that little tweak may not seem like much to a layman but it actually makes a big difference. First, it makes D-8 more stable than D-9. Second, it reduces the psychotropic properties of D-8 and makes it more user-friendly than D-9. The latter makes its consumers paranoid and even hallucinate.
Similarly, all cannabinoids, including cannabidiol (CBD), tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), cannabigerol (CBG), and cannabinol (CBN), have very close chemical structures, barring a little tweak here and there. That’s because all of them originate from cannabigerolic acid (CBGA). This compound is called the mother of all cannabinoids.
As the cannabis plant grows, CBGA evolves into hundreds of cannabinoids, some of which humans have just recently found to be fit for extraction and isolated consumption. Now, what cannabinoid will be produced from CBGA during a plant’s growth and when depends on environmental factors, genetics, and even stress.
Another thing you should know is that many of these cannabinoids, including Delta-8 THC, occur in minute quantities in the cannabis plant. The quantity is so low — the hemp plant contains only about 0.1% of Delta-8 — that no business can be viable if the compound is directly extracted from the plant. You would need a mountain of plants to extract a liter of Delta-8 distillate. So, what’s the way out?
Chemical Compositions & Lab Synthesis
This is where the similarity in the chemical structures of the various cannabinoids helps. That similarity makes these cannabinoid isomers of each other. Isomers are simply molecules or polyatomic ions with identical formulas. Being isomers, all these cannabinoids can be converted from one to the other with a little human intervention in the lab.
Delta-8 THC, for instance, can be made from both CBD and Delta-9 THC, two compounds that occur aplenty in the natural cannabis plant. However, the law states that to be fit for human consumption, it has to be converted ONLY from CBD, and not Delta-9 THC. The CBD, too, has to come from the hemp plant (a variety of cannabis) and NOT the marijuana variant.
This is why you must always check the source of the extract and the lab report for the percentage of Delta-9 THC when you buy a Delta-8 product. As long as it has been sourced from a hemp plant, you are good to go. And even if the product contains Delta-9 THC, it should be less than 0.3%. The lab report should confirm this. If a product ticks off both parameters, it should be legal, unless you stay in one of the 11 US states where all kinds of THC, including D-8, are deemed illegal.
However, if you think the manufacturers have come up with this ingenious solution to convert D-8 from CBD or D-9, you are wrong. Cannabinoids have been converted into certain compounds in the lab for a long time. Manufacturers have just adopted that practice to make their products commercially viable.
Okay, now that you know exactly why Delta-8 is made in the lab, though from natural compounds, and what all you need to check to ensure its legality, let’s get into the details of the manufacturing process.
Step-by-step Conversion Process
We will first tell you briefly how Delta-8 THC is derived from CBD isolate.
The lab starts by adding a solvent to melt the CBD isolate (98%+ pure CBD). To extract Delta-8, a non-polar organic solvent such as alkanes is required. Heptane is a commonly used alkane solvent to extract D-8. The lab can use others, too.
In the next step, an acid has to be added to the solvent for the chemical reaction to separate the cannabinoid isolate. Some of the common acids used for this purpose are Lewis acids, hydrochloric acid, and sulfuric acid. Many different combinations of solvents and acids can convert CBD to Delta-8. However, the time, byproducts, and residues will vary according to the acid-solvent combination. In some combinations, the mixture may have to be stirred for up to 18 hours at 100 degrees Celsius. Some can take only an hour.
Once the reaction initiates, the new substance has to be neutralized with an alkaline material, washed, and dried.
The final distillate thus produced will be 60–70% Delta-8 and 2–6% Delta-9 THC. However, the legal Delta-9 content is only 0.3%. So, to remove the excess D-9 and other cannabinoids, high-performance liquid chromatography has to be done. There can be other purification methods, too, which will vary from company to company.
The final step is a lab test to check the percentage of different cannabinoids and residues in the distillate. The more confident and reliable firms get this test done by a third-party lab so that no questions can be raised about the veracity of the reports. And this is also why you should check the lab report to know that the method used to convert D-8 from CBD was reliable.
The Alternative Methods
As mentioned before, Delta-8 can also be derived directly from the cannabis plant even though it’s extremely expensive and unviable. For this, the same CO2 extraction process can be used that is used to extract CBD from hemp plants. After pressurized carbon dioxide extracts the compounds from the hemp plant, the small amounts of Delta-8 can be isolated using nanotechnology.
Another possible but unsustainable method is to create D-8 distillate directly from the cannabis flower. You can push steam through the flower using pressure and temperature in varying degrees to extract pure Delta-8 isolate.
However, we do not suggest that you try any of these procedures at home. You may find all the ingredients easily in the market. But it’s not advisable to try any procedures involving chemicals, especially acids, in your garage or basement unless you are a pro. You may do more harm than good to yourself.
Delta-8 THC has many benefits, including pain relief, stress relief, increased alertness, calmness of mind, and sound sleep, among others. These are the benefits people traditionally got from cannabis but it also came with the “side effects” of Delta-9 THC that led to paranoia and hallucinations.
Now that you can enjoy the benefits of the individual compounds without the side effects of one, don’t deprive yourself just because you have doubts about the compound’s production.
If you buy the products from reputable companies, the methods of production will be 100% safe and the source of the CBD extract will be 100% natural, too. You even know how Delta-8 THC is made now. So, go ahead and soak in its benefits.