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Making Delta-8 THC From CBD – How It’s Done

delta-8 THC from CBD
Written by Sarah Friedman
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Delta-8 THC is a popular cannabis product which offers slightly different benefits from its half brother delta-9. Though delta-8 is a product of delta-9 in nature, it’s also quite possible to source delta-8 THC from CBD. Read on to find out how its done.

Let’s be honest, you’re probably not going to set up a science experiment to make delta-8 THC at home from CBD. And that’s okay. Unless you’ve got a chemistry degree, or some incredible natural know-how, it’s just not a beginner’s activity. On the bright side, you don’t need to! Plenty of delta-8 products abound, as well as even newer offerings like THCV, delta-10, and THC-O-Acetate. We’ve got a bunch of great delta-8 THC deals, and way, way more. So take a look at our constantly expanding catalogue, and buy your finished product without worrying about a chemistry set.

First off, what is delta-8 THC?

Delta-8 THC is growing in popularity, but what it is, isn’t always understood. Delta-8 is an isomer of delta-9, meaning it shares the exact same chemical formula of: C₂₁H₃₀O₂, but with a different configuration of atoms. Delta-8 and delta-9 (and all other delta-THCs) are stereoisomers of each other, meaning they differ on nothing more than the placement of a double bond. For delta-9, the standard THC associated with marijuana, it’s on the 9th carbon atom in a chain, for delta-8, its on the 8th.

Delta-8 is a naturally occurring cannabinoid, which is produced in nature through the oxidation of delta-9 THC. When delta-9 comes into contact with oxygen, it loses electrons, thus creating delta-8, a more stable compound with a longer shelf life, since further oxidation is not an issue. Delta-8 only transforms from delta-9 at extremely low rates, meaning what occurs naturally is not in a high enough volume for any kind of product. In order for enough for actual use, it requires synthetization by humans, which we’ll get to soon.

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The two isomers, delta-8 and delta-9, share many of the same medicinal characteristics, but differ in a few important ways, which can greatly affect both user experience, and user preference. Delta-9, for starters, is known to cause anxiety in many users. Delta-8 does not, meaning it’s a better treatment for anxiety, as well as not as likely an agent to produce it, in those not attempting to treat it. Delta-9 is also known for an intense high, cloudy head, and couch locking – when a person is so stoned they literally feel like they can’t move off the couch.

Delta-8 produces less psychoactive high, with studies pointing to about 2/3 the intensity of delta-9. It’s also said to produce a clear-headed high, leaving the user with more energy, and less feeling of being stuck to the couch. For these reasons, especially for medical patients who might not be looking for an extreme high, delta-8 could well be the optimal choice. This goes too for regular smokers who have a hard time dealing with the anxiety, cloudy head, and couch locking of delta-9.

couchlocked
Use Delta 8 instead of Delta-9 THC to avoid getting couchlocked

Making delta-8 THC from CBD

Delta-8 THC converts naturally in small amounts from delta-9 THC, which doesn’t require any outside help. However, in order to get greater quantities of delta-8 THC, it can actually be converted from CBD. If this sounds kind of weird, that CBD could be used to produce a THC, its best to keep in mind that CBD also has the exact same chemical formula as the delta-THCs, meaning it is a natural isomer of both delta-8 THC and delta-9 THC. This means they’re already structurally very similar, so it’s not quite as shocking that one can be made from the other. There are a couple ways to do this.

In this first process, the thing to understand, is that this is very much a synthetization process, in which a chemical solvent is used, meaning it automatically comes with all the dangers associated with using such chemicals. The process goes something like this:

  • One gram of CBD is dissolved in 10ml of .005 molar H2SO4 (conc. sulfuric acid), creating glacial acetic acid.
  • After approximately three days, the CBD will have converted about 15% to delta-9 THC, 54% to delta-8, and 10% to a compound called delta-8-iso-THC. This leaves about 10% which remains unchanged.
  • This solution is then put in water, along with sodium bicarbonate, which is added to raise the ph level above 7.
  • The cannabinoids are then extracted from the solution using petrol ether.
  • The cannabinoids are washed in water.
  • After being washed, everything is heated to evaporate out the solvents.

The above-mentioned percentages of cannabinoids are what is gained after three days using this process, meaning over 50% of 1 gram of CBD can be turned into delta-8 in three days, along with some by products depending on how well the solvent is evaporated out. Different ratios of the different delta-THCs can be created, depending on the chemicals used for processing.

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The other way of making delta-8 THC from CBD

Using harsh chemical solvents can be effective, but they also bring a level of danger, since they potentially expose users to poisonous elements. Luckily, delta-8 THC can be made from CBD in yet another way, which doesn’t use solvents. In this method:

  • ½ gram of CBD is heated together with .09 grams of zinc chloride (anhydrous ZnCl2) at about 150º.
  • The best way to do the above step, is in a vacuum, to avoid oxidation during the process.
  • The mixture should be stirred during the process.
  • After approximately 2-3 hours, 40-50% of the CBD will have converted into delta-9 and delta-8.

If you’ll notice, this method is much quicker, converting nearly the same amount, in a fraction of the time. However, it should also be noticed that its hard to tell how much CBD will convert to delta-8, and how much to delta-9. So, while it goes faster, it’s less precise.

CBD to delta-8 THC

Does this make delta-8 legal if it comes from CBD?

It’s become a moot point. Whether delta-8 is ever ruled legal or illegal officially, it probably won’t do much to inhibit the growing market. Realistically, its not like the war on drugs ever actually removed any drugs from recreational use, which means all it did was waste a lot of money. Like, over a trillion dollars in the last 50 years. How many starving children could have been fed for life on that? Kind of seems like poverty issues – some of the biggest motivators for hard drugs – could have actually been lessened using that money, which instead went to tear apart neighborhoods and jail people, often for meaningless drug crimes like smoking pot.

It would be insanely ludicrous for the federal government, or any state government, to put money into stopping a compound that has not been ruled dangerous. And while the chemicals used for processing are often called out for this reason, (a la Colorado, and its recent d8 ban), those same chemicals, or similarly dangerous ones, are used to make all kinds of products freely sold on dispensary shelves. Which makes the idea that any of this is being done for our safety, as ludicrous as the government going after it.

Technically, it would seem that delta-8 is illegal without much question. It’s on the US government’s list of Controlled Substances, with regulation under criminal code 7370, as a Schedule I substance. And since any product containing it in any kind of useful amount must be synthesized, its prosecutable under the Federal Analogue Act, since any analogue (which delta-8 is) of an illegal substance, is also automatically illegal. Synthetics and analogues are simply not covered by the definition of hemp, so it also doesn’t matter where the d8 is sourced from, it’s not definitionally legal.

But it’s also not being stopped. Sure, there have been a few isolated incidences, likely to drive fear, but let’s be honest, there’s no way that any US government body doesn’t know they’re fighting a losing war by going after it. And considering how much power the US government lost in its inability to stop cannabis in the first place (to the point of it now being legalized all over the place), the idea of a real concerted effort to go after delta-8 is laughable at best.

failed war on drugs

So why not just legalize and regulate it?

Amazing question, right? If the stated issue is because of processing dangers, then simply putting in a little regulation would solve it. Right? That obviously makes the most sense in a case like this. But that’s so completely not happening. It could be that the federal government doesn’t want to give in after all these years, and allow legal THC. But that also doesn’t make much sense, considering legalized locations – like Colorado, are also banning it. Why would a state which allows legal delta-9, have any issue with delta-8? It sounds nonsensical.

The more relevant answer in my mind, is that anything that requires something like synthetization, and laboratory processing, is specifically being held off for pharmaceutical companies. After all, delta-8 makes a pretty awesome medicine since it does nearly the exact same things as delta-9, but without some of the more unwanted side effects. It seems to me that the whole outward demonization – which is inconsistent at best – is just to try to ensure that a market doesn’t explode before big pharma can find a way to control it.

Of course, I could be wrong. But what I’m saying is the best answer I can think of to explain how legalized locations are pushing through bans, especially when the only complaint is something that can be regulated for safety.

Conclusion

So, there you have it, delta-8 THC can be made from CBD, both with and without solvents. It might not be the best at-home activity, but for the scientists out there, its also not the hardest. Realistically, its not the type of processing an ordinary person would do in their house, but it’s nice to know that the compound can be formed in ways that offer less danger to consumers. Now, all we need is for government entities to just catch up.

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DisclaimerHi, I’m a researcher and writer. I’m not a doctor, lawyer, or businessperson. All information in my articles is sourced and referenced, and all opinions stated are mine. I am not giving anyone advise, and though I am more than happy to discuss topics, should someone have a further question or concern, they should seek guidance from a relevant professional.

About the author

Sarah Friedman

I am a US born writer, travelling the world and doing the digital nomad thing.

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