by William Goodall April 06, 2021
Delta-8-tetrahydrocannabinol, or Δ8 THC, is a psychoactive cannabinoid found within 1% of the cannabis plant. The National Cancer Institute recognizes Delta-8 as “an analogue of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) with antiemetic, anxiolytic, appetite-stimulating, analgesic, and neuroprotective properties.”
So how do we extract such a precious and beneficial cannabinoid? In this article, we will explore the various ways Delta-8 is extracted from the hemp plant.
To create a solution of Delta-8, there are a few methods that are used in the hemp industry. The making of D8 can be done through:
Extracting Delta-8 directly from raw hemp plant material can be costly and wasteful since the rare cannabinoid is only present in trace amounts. As a result, the following are not common methods used within the cannabis industry. However, there are a few manufacturers who do undergo the task, creating a costly product.
Here are the steps of a fractional distillation process that produces Delta-8 directly from cannabis flower extract:
Here are the steps of extracting Delta-8 from hemp through a standard CO2 extraction process:
These methods are difficult, tedious, and expensive. Let’s take a look at the more common methods of making Delta-8.
Cannabinoids are related to each other, thus have a similar genetic makeup. This makes it possible to convert one cannabinoid to another through simple chemical reactions.
Conversions of cannabinoids have become standard industry practice. Conversion processes are often used not only to create Delta-8 isolates but also Delta-9, cannabichromene (CBC), cannabinol (CBN), among others.
Within cannabis, cannabinoids change into each other with the help of three factors:
Cannabigerolic acid (CBGA) is known as the “mother of all cannabinoids.” This matriarch produces all cannabinoids coming from cannabis. CBGA becomes synthesized into other cannabinoids as the plant matures.
Due to this natural family tree, CBGA can be manipulated into other cannabinoids under nature-imitating lab conditions.CBGA is the precursor of both CBD and THC. This means that early yields of hemp harvesting will be higher in CBGA and CBG.
As heat and time increase, THCA levels increase in the last few weeks before what is considered full maturation. For this reason, growers must make sure THC levels do not exceed 0.3% on a particularly hot day, exceeding the legal limit for hemp.
CBG turns into CBC which turns into CBL and CBT. CBD turns into CBE and CBF. The acidic forms of cannabinoids such as THCA and CBDA transform into other cannabinoids. THCA becomes THC and CBDA becomes CBD. From THCA, Delta-9 THC is created through decarboxylation.
Heat, ultraviolet rays, or other agents change THCA to THC. A tangible example of this is when marijuana high in THCA is smoked, this decarboxylation process occurs, converting THCA to THC. Then you get high from THC.
THC degrades with time, temperature, and UV-light, oxidizing to become CBN. It also degrades into Delta-8, known as an aged form of THC. There is a small shift in the position of the carbon chain as it ages: D9 has a double bond on the 9th carbon chain, while D8 has a double bond on the 8th.
The conversion of cannabinoids to Delta-8 THC can be done through the use of solvents, reagents, and acids. Typically this is done using a base of distillate or isolate and then through a reaction becomes Delta-8. We will discuss the two most common cannabinoid conversions:
Converting Delta-8 from a cannabinoid is most often done using hemp’s most abundant cannabinoid cannabidiol (CBD). CBD is found in concentrations in hemp between 12 and 18% on average.
CBD is present in high amounts in the trichomes of hemp flowers. Trichomes are resin glands with minuscule fine hairs and bulbous heads. The making of CBD is done through one of the following methods:
Both CO2 and solvent extraction methodologies are dangerous due to their highly combustible properties. These methods should only be performed in a lab with the proper equipment, by trained professionals.
Next, CBD can be converted to THC in a very simple isomerization process. This involves the chemical adjustment of the CBD isolates to produce Delta-8 distillate. Here is that process:
Another method of CBD to THC conversion was an experiment done by Dr. Raphael Mechoulam. Psstt.. Don’t try this at home. It goes as follows:
Here is another experiment that was done by Mechoulam’s team:
The yield of Delta-8 for this experiment was 64%.
Delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is much more abundant in cannabis than the rare Delta-8 isomer. This makes it a good candidate for D8 conversion. Delta-9 can be produced from plant extract through the spinning band fractional distillation process that we’ve described earlier.
Next, instead of the natural oxidation that occurs in cannabis to create D8, D9 can be converted to D8 through the following process in a lab:
The end product is typically liquid at room temperature, but some products may become semi-solid to completely solid at cooler temperatures.
The best part of making Delta-8? It is now federally legal thanks to the Farm Bill of 2018. This legislation allowed for the legal production and sale of hemp and hemp derivatives like CBD and Delta-8.
Keep in mind that these hemp products are legal only if they contain 0.3% THC or less. That being said, make sure to check the legal status of Delta-8 in your state before you buy.
Once Delta-8 THC has been made, it is produced into the forms that can be found at dispensaries, or online, then delivered straight to your door. Here are several forms D8 takes on:
Delta-8 THC products and CBD products come with a wide selection of properties and potential benefits. Selecting the strains the product is made from can produce varying effects. CBD and D8 products often combine with other cannabinoids and terpenes to enhance their properties.
Delta-8 THC is made through the use of solvents, reagents, and acids. Due to the danger of some of these substances, only lab technicians with the proper training and knowledge should attempt Delta-8 conversion.
The bases that are used must be properly removed from the final product to ensure the safety of consumption. Therefore, we don’t recommend the everyday D8 user to give any of the above processes a try. Leave it to the professionals of the cannabis industry. Like Bay Smokes.
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