Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, commonly known as Delta-9 THC, is one of the most recognized and studied cannabinoids found in cannabis. Known for its psychoactive properties and health benefits, controversy over Delta-9 THC is steadily the epicenter of debates about cannabis. Discussion on the synthetic compound of Delta-9 and the diverse effects it seems to have from naturally occurring Delta-9 THC. In this article we will be delving into a little more into the question of is Delta-9 THC synthetic, safety concerns, what products your buying, and legal issues surrounding the topic.

 

What is Delta-9 THC?

Let’s start with some basic information about Delta-9 THC to have a better understanding of the contents of this article. Delta-9 THC is one of the hundreds of cannabinoids found in cannabis and causes the psychoactive effects associated with cannabis. It does so by means of interacting with the endocannabinoid system in the human body.

Through this method it binds to the CB1 and CB2 receptors in the brain and other organs. This interaction triggers the high that users experience when they consume Delta-9 THC products.

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Is Delta-9 THC Synthetic or Natural?

Delta-9 is a naturally occurring compound in cannabis, but manufacturers can synthesize it in a laboratory through chemical processes. In its natural form the cannabis produces Delta-9 THC from it’s flowers, leaves, and stems. Manufacturers commonly isolate natural Delta-9 THC using a process called extraction, which they perform during the distillation of other cannabinoids like CBD.

To produce synthetic Delta-9 THC, manufacturers use a method called isomerization, where they convert hemp-derived CBD into Delta-9 through chemical reactions. They begin by deriving chemical compounds similar to THC, then subject these to chemical synthesis to build the THC molecule. Afterwards, they synthesize it with various other similar compounds to produce a crude Delta-9 THC compound.

While both methods produce the Delta-9 THC compound, this process introduces impurities which wouldn’t be present in naturally occurring compounds. Efforts to refine and purify the compound take place, but the final product will almost certainly contain impurities.

 

Is it Safe to Take Synthetic Delta-9 THC?

People have consumed natural Delta-9 THC for hundreds of years, and many studies have focused on its effects. However, we have only synthesized Delta-9 for a few years, and research on it remains limited.

There is always going to be an inherent risk when using synthetic Delta-9 THC products. Production and quality of this compound varies greatly due to the lack of regulation. When extracted from naturally occurring sources, the effects will only differ by the amount contained in the product. Synthetic Delta-9 THC is safe when made properly, but contaminants can make it unsafe for consumption.

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Delta 9 THC Products: Synthetic or Natural?

You may be surprised to learn that the market offers both the naturally occurring and synthetic Delta-9 THC. In a recent study funded by CBD Oracle, researchers ordered 53 different Delta-9 THC products and submitted them to InfiniteCal laboratory for analysis. After analyzing the products, the author’s reported that more than 25% of the products contained Delta-9 THC that was naturally occurring from the cannabis plant, “Only 18.4 percent probably used natural hemp-derived delta-9 THC”.

Furthermore, the study revealed that 49% of the products converted CBD to THC, and 71% failed to test for impurities! This rings to the safety concerns surrounding synthetic Delta-9, and highlights the importance of getting Delta-9 products from reputable sources. This fact is one of the reasons why there is much controversy surrounding the legal practice of synthesizing Delta-9 THC.

 

Legal Concerns Synthesizing Delta-9 THC

When lawmakers introduced the 2018 Farm Bill, they made industrial hemp legal at the federal level and opened the doors for the explosion of CBD products. This also inadvertently revealed loopholes surrounding other hemp derived cannabinoids. One of these loopholes was synthesizing cannabinoids from hemp derived plants.

Although the US Drug Enforcement Administration maintains that synthesized products do not have legal protection, the 2022 Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that synthesized cannabinoids are legal under the 2018 Farm Bill, provided the products originate from hemp-derived cannabis. With this, the explosion of Delta-9 THC edibles hit the market. Lawmakers have been slow, and struggle to tighten regulations for the safety of the consumers.

 

In Conclusion

In summary, Delta-9, a key cannabinoid in cannabis, exists both as a natural compound and as a synthetic creation. While natural Delta-9 THC has a well-documented history and is traditionally extracted from the cannabis plant, the synthetic version is produced through chemical processes, leading to potential purity and safety concerns. Recent market studies reveal that both the synthetic and natural Delta-9 are in THC products, with notable amounts of manufacturers not testing for impurities. Legally, the situation is complex as the 2018 Farm Bill inadvertently allowed for the synthesis of Delta-9 THC from hemp, which created a legal grey area that has yet to be fully addressed. This situation underscores the need for increased consumer awareness and regulatory action to ensure safety and informed choices in the evolving cannabis market.

 

References

Johnson L, Malone M, Paulson E, Swider J, Marelius D, Andersen S, Black D. Potency and safety analysis of hemp delta-9 products: the hemp vs. cannabis demarcation problem. J Cannabis Res. 2023 Jul 26;5(1):29. doi: 10.1186/s42238-023-00197-6. Erratum in: J Cannabis Res. 2023 Aug 5;5(1):33. PMID: 37496090; PMCID: PMC10369762. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10369762/