Is hemp-derived delta 9 THC real weed? Find out the facts
Access to cannabis varies dramatically across the country. Differences in laws, pricing, and product availability run the gamut. In response to the demand for THC, some brands are coming up with clever ways to skirt regulations. This includes making hemp-derived delta 9 THC that is technically legal.
Hemp-derived delta 9 THC has been gaining traction throughout America. Depending on where you live, delta 9 products like drinks, gummies, and vapes are readily available in smoke shops, gas stations, and even liquor stores. The cannabinoid is just like the THC you buy at a dispensary in a legal state. The only difference is it comes from hemp plants instead of cannabis plants.
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You may wonder, “How is this legal?” It’s a valid question. After all, marijuana remains illegal on the federal level, and markets with regulated cannabis can only sell THC products through licensed retailers. Just like THCA flower, it all comes down to semantics.
So what exactly is hemp-derived delta 9, how is it different from cannabis, and why is it so popular? The answers lie ahead.
What is delta 9 THC?
Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the compound in cannabis responsible for its psychoactive effects—aka it gets you “high.” It’s found in both marijuana and hemp, although the concentrations vary greatly.
The benefits of hemp-derived THC are similar to THC from traditional cannabis since they’re technically the same molecule. THC has been shown to promote improved sleep quality, reduce pain, and alleviate several other conditions.
And just like cannabis-derived THC, hemp THC has side effects. This may include dry mouth, paranoia, lethargy, or increased heart rate.
Is delta 9 the same as THC?
Hemp-derived delta 9 THC comes from hemp, while traditional THC comes from marijuana. Technically, both forms are cannabis. The difference lies in the plant genetics, just like other produce. For example, a Granny Smith apple and a Fuji apple are both variations of the same fruit.
The United States government defines hemp as cannabis plants containing less than 0.3 percent THC on a dry weight basis. Anything more than that is considered marijuana. The USDA set this definition in the 2018 Farm Bill, a federal law that officially legalized hemp nationwide.
How is hemp-derived delta 9 made?
THC concentrations are lower in hemp, but the compound can still be extracted from harvested plants. The THC is simply isolated after extraction, separating it from more prevalent compounds.Some delta-9 makers opt for this method of production, but it’s not the only game in town.
The other way to create delta-9 is through a process called isomerization. CBD, which is a cannabinoid prevalent in hemp, is turned into delta-9 THC using chemicals. This is also how compounds like delta-8, delta-10, and HHC are made.
Both of these processes are commonly used in the hemp-derived market, although isomerization is often considered more cost-effective for large-scale producers. Looking at any random delta-9 product, there’s no way to tell which production method was used since brands don’t need to indicate on their labels.
Is hemp-derived THC legal?
Delta 9 THC that’s derived from hemp is legal in the eyes of the federal government under the Farm Bill. The only rule at this point is that the dry weight contains no more than 0.3 percent THC.
Some people may look at a drink or gummy that contains 25 mg of THC and wonder how it passes this test. But if you consider the weight of all the other components, such as sugars, water, pectin, and other ingredients, the THC is a drop in the bucket.
It’s important to note that some states are moving to ban hemp-derived cannabinoids that have intoxicating effects, such as delta 9, especially if they’re chemically created. The U.S. government may take up the issue when the Farm Bill is reviewed, but the outcome remains to be seen.
Delta-9 THC vs. delta-8
Both delta 9 and delta 8 are intoxicating cannabinoids that get people high. They also both occur naturally in cannabis and hemp plants, although delta 8 is typically found in extremely small quantities.
Delta 8 is almost always created through isomerization. It gained popularity thanks to its extremely potent effects. Many people find the cannabinoid to be extremely sedative and powerful. Since it’s fairly easy to find in states without legal cannabis, delta 8 sales continue to climb.
Cannabinoid popular even in states with legal weed
Hemp-based products are all the rage in prohibition states, but they’re becoming more prevalent in legalized markets as well. Why would you want hemp-derived THC if you can freely access cannabis? It once again comes back to accessibility.
Hemp-derived products are not subject to the same rules as traditional cannabis. They can be sold online or in unlicensed shops, increasing availability. In many states, delta-9 isn’t subject to the same taxes as marijuana, meaning it could be less expensive than what you’d find at the dispensary.
While this may seem like a benefit, there are drawbacks to a so-called free market.
Lack of regulation cause for concern
The hemp-derived cannabinoid space has been lauded by consumers able to catch a buzz legally in places where they may not otherwise be able to. However, the market is highly unregulated, severely lacking consumer safety oversight.
A recent analysis of several unregulated delta-9 THC products highlighted these concerns. Of 53 products tested, two-thirds had mislabeled potency. Over 70 percent lacked proper impurity testing; around half were created through chemical conversion.
The bottom line is there’s just no way to tell precisely what’s in the hemp-derived delta products you buy at the gas station or online. The best way to determine legitimacy is by looking at a product’s certificate of analysis (COA), which showcases the testing results. If a COA is not available at a store or on a brand’s website, that’s a major red flag.
Hemp-derived delta-9: a hazy future
THC remains a controlled substance in the eyes of the U.S. government, but hemp-derived delta-9 THC is legal thanks to the 2018 Farm Bill. Future legislation could change that; meanwhile, the cannabinoid remains popular in states across the country. And while consumer safety concerns may have some lawmakers alarmed, fans of the products seemingly shrug their shoulders.
It’s safe to say the hemp-derived THC market was born out of necessity. If cannabis were legal nationwide, would people have sought out ways to skirt the rules to create an accessible alternative? Maybe or maybe not. One thing is certain: a framework and path to regulation would likely increase product consistency and ensure consumers are getting what they pay for.