While many states have legalized adult-use marijuana, plenty more continue to impose strict rulings against cannabis possession. For residents of such states, the hemp industry is offering psychotropic alternatives.
When hemp was legalized under the 2018 Farm Bill, former President Trump was attempting to create more industry within the United States. And he knew that the cannabis plant offered a versatile selection of opportunities.However, what Trump (nor any politician, for that matter) could’ve predicted was the surge in popularity of cannabidiol (CBD). Even more so, nobody saw the onslaught of psychoactive compounds that would be pulled from or synthetically made from the hemp plant.
Only over the last decade or so have these chemicals made a name for themselves – with their popularity notably residing in states where cannabis remains illegal.Throughout this article, we’ll look deeper at each chemical compound. From there, we’ll discuss the safety and effectiveness of these compounds, and whether or not they’re ideal for the cannabis “high”, we all seek
Hemp-Derived Psychoactive CannabinoidsBefore we begin, it’s essential to understand what a cannabinoid is. In simple terms, cannabinoids are chemical compounds that attach themselves to cannabinoid receptors within the human body.While these compounds have many origins, endocannabinoids (those made within the human body) and phytocannabinoids (those made within the cannabis plant) are the two most important for our conversation.For the record, the term “hemp” can be confusing since it remains cannabis. “Hemp” is simply used to define a cannabis plant that contains less than 0.3% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – the psychoactive compound for which most of us know marijuana.
Admittedly, when hemp was legalized, it was assumed that such a low amount of THC would prevent people from garnering a “high” from the plant. However, as time and science have progressed, other cannabinoids have been extracted and isolated – many of which provide users with psychotropic effects.Under U.S. law, these compounds are technically legal. Still, many states impose rules against such compounds to prevent people from accessing them.
To give you a better understanding of what these compounds are, here’s a list of the most common:Delta-8 THCPerhaps the cannabinoid to start it all, delta-8 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), has an extremely similar chemical makeup to delta-9 THC (the same cannabinoid banned mainly in the U.S.).However, since it is slightly different and can be extracted from the hemp plant, it’s technically legal.Though, delta-8 THC isn’t necessarily extracted. It’s made through a synthetic process involving CBD.
Therefore, most products contain a delta-8 that’s technically not a naturally-occurring compound of the hemp plant.Still, this hasn’t mattered much to the market. Since it’s similar to delta-9 THC, it provides an almost identical psychoactive experience. Though, some reports do claim that the experienced is dampened a bit.Unfortunately, like most cannabinoids discussed on our list, delta-8 THC has hardly been researched. With that, its long-term safety remains largely unknown.
Even more so, since the hemp industry isn’t regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), many consumers blindly trust companies they know little to nothing about. In many states, reports are coming out that some brands are selling delta-9 products labeled as delta-8.Furthermore, many states began cracking down on delta-8 THC due to its substantial rise in popularity. This includes states where marijuana is recreationally legalized.Delta-10 THCLike delta-8 THC, delta-10 is naturally found in the cannabis plant but in extremely trace amounts. For this reason, it’s hardly worth a footnote in the natural world. However, in a society that’s banned cannabis but legalized hemp, these trace amounts make all the difference.
To provide users with a psychotropic experience, delta-10 THC is isolated and concentrated using a synthetic method similar to delta-8 THC.Also similarly, its chemical makeup is similar to that of delta-9 THC. However, the cannabinoid is less potent, giving you less of a “high.”For this reason, delta-10 indeed isn’t as popular as delta-8. But in states where delta-8 has been banned, many storefronts simply switch to delta-10, with most consumers barely recognizing the difference.HHCHexahydrocannabinol (HHC) is an analog for THC – or another variety of THC with a similar chemical structure.Like all the cannabinoids on this list, there’s very little HHC in the cannabis plant. For this reason, it must go through a hydrogenation process – where manufacturers add hydrogen atoms (such as nickel or palladium and high pressure) to varying chemical structures of the hemp plant.Since this process is so complicated, HHC hasn’t made as big of a name for itself as delta-8 THC.
But it has been creeping into the hemp industry, with various products appearing everywhere.Some reports suggest that HHC is about 70% to 80% as potent as traditional delta-9 THC. Therefore, the effects are milder than typical marijuana but enough to give you a solid “high.”The biggest chemical difference between HHC and THC is that it doesn’t contain any double bonds. Therefore, it binds to CB1 and CB2 receptors (rather than just CB1 receptors) in the endocannabinoid system (ECS).If you find delta-8 products too mild of an experience, HHC is a bit stronger and worth the try. Though, it should be noted that most users claim it produces more of a “body high” rather than that of the brain.THC-OAs an ester (a compound derived from an oxoacid) of THC, THC-O is synthesized using an anhydride. You must first take CBD and convert it into delta-8 THC to get the compound. From there, you then must convert the delta-8 into THC-O.This process is highly complicated and has resulted in only so many THC-O products on the market. However, they have been getting popular for one simple reason – it’s reported to be three times as potent as traditional THC.
Some users suggest the compound provides a mild psychedelic experience.As you can imagine, there’s no research on THC-O to confirm these statements. With that, we don’t understand its health effects or safety.THCVBelonging to a subgroup of phytocannabinoids known as varins, tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV) has fewer carbon atoms than other cannabinoids. In turn, it has different effects than other THC analogs.Since THCV is an inverse agonist of CB1 receptors, which blocks these receptors, causing opposite effects to that of THC, for this reason, THCV does NOT get your “high.”Instead, research has found that THCV suppresses your appetite and may be helpful for certain health conditions, such as weight loss and diabetes. Furthermore, it may have been used to counter THC’s psychotropic effects.Still, since the letters T-H-C are in the name, many assume this is another psychoactive compound. And this may be the reason it’s garnered popularity in the hemp space.The Legal Grey Area of Hemp-Derived Psychoactive CompoundsSpeaking of the United States, all the compounds discussed here are technically federally legal.
However, many states have been banning them due to their psychotropic effects (and lack of research).Therefore, most of these compounds currently exist in a legal grey area. And if you’re wondering whether or not you can give them a try, you have to look into your state’s specific rules.Still, you may wonder if they’re even worth trying. With such a lack of research, it’s uncertain how safe these compounds are.
Luckily, we haven’t seen any major news articles concerning people being hospitalized over these compounds. This is likely because they remain cannabis-derived cannabinoids, and – as we know – these are mainly safe for human consumption.The more significant safety issue comes from the companies manufacturing these products. As discussed, many of these cannabinoids require a complex synthetic process.
If done wrong (or poorly), there’s a chance for toxicity.Still, even more so, these companies’ reputations are largely unclear at this point due to a lack of FDA regulations. With that, some have been putting out falsely labeled products, as discussed above.If you live in a state where cannabis is recreationally legalized, you can ignore the hype of these products. Except for THC-O, all provide you with less psychotropic experience and, therefore, aren’t worth the risk.But if you live in a place where cannabis remains illegal, and you want a legal high, we recommend two things:
1.Stick with delta-8 or -10 THC; these appear to be the safest regarding chemical structure.
2.Only purchase these products from reputable companies that provide a Certificate of Analysis (CoA) with each product batch.