D8 THC has made a buzz around the cannabis market recently. A noteworthy anomaly of D8-THC is its legal status in the US. Ever since the Farm Bill permitted legal hemp-derived CBD next to illegally cultivated D9-THC, processors began using fifty-year-old chemistry and technology.
Due to a loophole in the Bill, massive quantities of legal hemp-derived CBD extracts, or at their subsequent D9 waste, can now soak in acid (chemical isomerization) and slowly churn into D8 THC. (1, 2)
When was the last time you asked for a COA (Certificate of Analysis) on your D8-THC product?
Hot hemp under the Farm Bill in 2021
The Farm Bill was passed into law on December 20, 2018, and created an issue in regards to THC limits on legal CBD-producing hemp. (3) The imposed regulations that restricted D9-THC to 0.3% in CBD-producing hemp forced the destruction of large amounts of biomass. Any hemp that produced more than 0.3% Delta-9-THC was deemed illegal waste, also known as hot hemp.
Now, a new final rule in the Bill will take effect on March 22, 2021, that allows the remediation of hemp extracts. Therefore, D9-THC can be removed before the hemp is retested. (1.) But, a question has been on repeat even before the Final Rule, what happens to all of the D9-THC waste?
Does excess D9-THC become illegal garbage?
Amazingly, despite hemp being restricted to 1% total THC under the new rules, D8 is disregarded as a trace element. The Final Rule of the Bill, however, even noted D8 to be a product of chemical alteration but did not restrict the cannabinoid. D8 is a legal loophole, great for the processors with tons of hot hemp and consumers who don’t ask for COAs and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs).
The rule is utter nonsense, even written word-for-word in clear and plain English.
“[Delta-8-THC] is more often obtained by growing a plant with high delta-9 THC and then converting the delta-9 THC into delta-8 THC through an extraction and conversion process in a lab to make a distillate product. It is rarely included in total THC calculations and many labs do not test for it.
“Delta-8 THC is unrelated to the 0.3 percent delta-9 THC limit or the “post-decarboxylation delta-9 THC” that are defined and required in this final rule.”Agriculture Marketing Service – 2021-00967
A restrained industry found a way – with D9 THC waste and no COAs
The limitations on the D9 isomer in hemp crops are strict compared to its double-bond cousin. The Bill’s new rule will allow processors to simply make the more mellow and legal D8 from illegal Delta-9-THC by boiling hot hemp in a barrel of acid. But, this process creates a slurry of other unknown compounds that will not show up on the basic tests required by regulatory bodies (proficiency tests). (4, 5)
Few stories truly discuss the depth and the sharp curve the industry is taking to thrive under the Farm Bill’s restraints. It has been known since the 1960s that Delta-8-THC can be produced by boiling CBD and Delta-9-THC in acid and cyclohexane. (1) The simple fact is that D8 was never viable before misguided regulations. But now, I was personally told a tale that laminated the impact hemp regulations have on the cannabis industry.
When speaking with processors, chemists, and inventors in the industry about Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), I sometimes bring up the current issue of Delta-8 THC in the US market. One member of the industry, who has to remain anonymous due to their contracts, told me they feel almost responsible due to their non-disclosed, patent-pending inventions.
What is acid isomerization?
In any case, the industry’s use of isomerization in SOPs can be verified simply by ads for filter media. “Good Delta-8 transfer capabilities,” a brand will state in their product’s description. Processors began to filter cannabis extracts through a clay, c-bleach, which was originally used to clean colour out of extracts (CRC). However, cannabis processors discovered another trait of sulphuric acid leached clays. C-bleach or T-41 clay will transfer D9-THC into D8 due to its acidity and the properties of alumina. (2, 6)
Dr. Jon Thomas of ExtraktLAB has suggested Delta-8-THC is a highly processed product. It is created by boiling CBD or D9-THC in acetic or formic acid and an alkane solvent (pentane for example) for one to eighteen hours. (6)
The reaction can be further catalyzed with boron trifluoride or magnesium silicate. The acid is later neutralized with a base, such as sodium bicarbonate. This solution is then precipitated out as a salt. In any case, the final product needs to be tested and customers should demand a Certificate of Analysis from producers on their cannabis product.
Mysteries lie in legal D8 made from waste hemp
A COA is crucial because there are a ton of side reactions, unknowns, and mysteries whenever CBD or D9 is isomerized into Delta-8-THC. (4-6) Carcinogenic compounds can be formed by mixing different solvents with THC and alumina, and the reaction can produce unknown cannabinoids and terpene products. You need to demand a Certificate of Analysis for a product that is 95% Delta-8-THC. Otherwise, you won’t know if the other 5% is a lethal toxin that “can kill you”, according to Dr. Jon Thomas from Extraktlabs. But, D8-THC can still test 100% pure after if it forms a covalent bond with a toxic element, such as chloride (HCI-D8-THC). So, do not settle with a simple proficiency test. (6)
Alternatively, there are ways to perform the isomerization of D8-THC safely, without creating a slurry of unknowns. But, these methods are rare in the industry, locked under non-disclosure agreements and intellectual property. Yet, it is these processes that need to be embraced with high regard for analytical professionalism in the cannabis extraction space. Shortcuts and loopholes will stack unknown variables into products that the maturing cannabis marketplace cannot afford. Should we not consider the plant’s medicinal future, currently held under a razor of scrutiny by the FDA due to a random assortment of compounds in any given strain?
Let us know in the comments if you thought D8 THC came from cannabis. And, remember to ask for a COA or an SOP from your cannabis producer while you wait for our report on another Farm Bill workaround, the wildfire cannabinoid delta-10 THC.
- Agricultural Marketing Service. 01, 2021. Establishment of a Domestic Hemp Production Program. P5596-5691. 86 FR 5596. 2021-00967.
- FARMILO, C. G., & DAVIS, T. W. (1961). Paper and gas chromatographic analysis of cannabis. The Journal of pharmacy and pharmacology, 13, 767–768. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.2042-7158.1961.tb11906.x
- FDA. 2018. ‘Subtitle G—Hemp Production. Farm Bill.
- Katrina J. Holly, Jeffrey B. Williams, M.Sc., and Kirk W. Hering, Ph.D.,. 2020. Degradants Formed During Phytocannabinoid Processing. Cayman Chemical.
- Berman, P.; Futoran, K.; Lewitus, G. M.; Mukha, D.; Benami, M.; Shlomi, T.; Meiri, D. A New ESI-LC/MS Approach for Comprehensive Metabolic Profiling of Phytocannabinoids in Cannabis. Sci Rep-uk2018, 8 (1), 14280. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-018-32651-4
- Extraktlabs. 2020. No Holds Barred: Delta-8-THC. YT.
- Merrick, John & Lane, Brian & Sebree, Terri & Yaksh, Tony & O’Neill, Carol & Banks, Stan. (2016). Identification of Psychoactive Degradants of Cannabidiol in Simulated Gastric and Physiological Fluid. Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research. 1. 102-112. 10.1089/can.2015.0004.