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People plugged into the world of cannabis-related news are probably well aware that there’s some controversy surrounding delta-8-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a psychoactive compound that some people claim is legal at the federal level because of certain loopholes.

But if you’re new to cannabis products, you might find the whole thing a bit confusing. Is delta-8 THC actually legal? How is it different from other forms of THC?

Below, we’ll dig deeper into delta-8, its potential benefits and risks, whether it’ll get you high, whether it’s legal, and what kinds of alternatives are out there.

Delta-8 THC is a psychoactive compound that’s pretty similar to delta-9 THC. Delta-9 THC is a compound in the cannabis plant that produces a high. It’s what people are usually referring to when they talk about THC.

Though delta-8 is similar to delta-9 THC, it has a slightly different chemical structure that makes it a lot less potent.

Like delta-9 THC, delta-8 produces feelings of euphoria, relaxation, and potential pain relief, but they’re a lot milder.

For people who don’t want to experience a pronounced “high,” the lower potency may be a benefit.

Unfortunately, researchers still don’t know enough about delta-8 THC to confirm that the benefits outweigh the risks. Experts have a much better understanding of delta-9 THC.

Because delta-8 is so similar to delta-9 THC, it produces some of the same side effects, like:

  • red eyes
  • dry mouth
  • rapid heart rate
  • trouble with coordination
  • slowed reaction times
  • anxiety
  • memory loss

But delta-8 may also have additional risks because it’s something synthetically produced, meaning you might not know what’s really in it.

Additionally, according to a story published in the journal Chemical and Engineering News, products containing delta-8 may also contain delta-9 and delta-10 THC — a compound about which little is known.

These compounds probably won’t produce ill effects, experts say. But it’s unclear whether other byproducts, including synthetic ones, are safe to consume.

Because delta-8 is so similar to delta-9 THC, it will also cause a high. However, some people describe it as a milder high than with delta-9 THC.

Here’s the complicated bit.

The 2018 Farm Bill legalized hemp containing less than 0.3 percent delta-9 THC. That means there’s a loophole at the federal level for products containing higher amounts of delta-8 THC, as long as they come from hemp that doesn’t have more than 0.3 percent delta-9 THC based on dry weight.

However, delta-8 THC doesn’t naturally occur in large amounts in hemp plants. That means that delta-8 is largely made by converting CBD or delta-9 THC into delta-8 THC synthetically, which is illegal.

Additionally, some state laws strictly prohibit the sale of products containing both delta-8 and delta-9 THC. And, because delta-8 is synthetically made and not well regulated, there have been increased calls to poison control centers over concerns about its toxicity.

If you’re interested in trying or purchasing a THC-based product, make sure to check your state’s laws. Check out Norml.org for an excellent map-based overview of cannabis-related state laws.

If you’re looking for a federally legal alternative to delta-8 that won’t give you a “high,” you may want to consider trying cannabidiol (CBD).

Below, we suggest a few full-spectrum options, so they have small amounts of THC but not enough to produce psychoactive effects.

How we chose the best CBD products

When choosing CBD products, we keep the same general criteria in mind. Each product featured:

  • is made by a company that provides proof of third-party testing by an ISO 17025-compliant lab
  • is made with U.S.-grown hemp
  • contains no more than 0.3 percent THC, according to the certificate of analysis (COA)
  • passes tests for pesticides, molds, and heavy metals, according to the COA

When making our selections, we also consider:

  • company certification and manufacturing processes
  • CBD potency
  • whether products contain quality ingredients
  • indicators of user trust and brand reputation, such as:

Pricing guide

  • $ = under $50
  • $$ = $50–$100
  • $$$ = over $100

CBD products to consider

Lazarus Naturals Full Spectrum CBD Tincture, High Potency

  • Price: $–$$$ (depending on potency)
  • CBD type: full-spectrum
  • CBD potency: 750 milligrams (mg) to 6,000 mg per 15-mL to 120-mL bottle
  • COA: available online

This high-potency CBD from Lazarus Naturals is one of the brand’s most popular selections. It’s all natural, gluten-free, vegan, and contains no added flavors, so you should expect an earthy taste when using this tincture.

Reviewers love the potent tincture and say it works better than other products they’ve tried. Customers also appreciate Lazarus Natural’s assistance program, which helps veterans, people from low-income households, and people with disabilities by offering a 60 percent discount.

Use code “Healthline10” for 10% off your first order. One time use only.

Cornbread Hemp Distilled USDA Organic CBD Oil

  • Price: $–$$$
  • CBD type: full-spectrum
  • CBD potency: 375, 750, or 1,500 mg per 30-mL bottle
  • COA: available online

Cornbread Hemp’s CBD oil is USDA certified organic with hemp extract from the flower only. It contains no additives or preservatives.

Customers report that the oil is effective, helped produce a sense of calm, and improved their sleep. One person complains that the taste of the oil is too strong.

Use code “HEALTHLINE” for 25% off on first purchase.

Vena Full Spectrum CBD Drops

  • Price: $$–$$$
  • CBD type: full-spectrum
  • CBD potency: 1,500 mg or 3,000 mg per 30-mL bottle
  • COA: available via product page

Vena recommends taking one full dropper a day of its Full-Spectrum CBD Drops. The mint-flavored oil is a good choice for people who don’t like the earthy taste of unflavored CBD. When you buy Vena’s CBD products, they also come with a 30-day, money-back guarantee.

Reviewers say they like the minty taste and describe it as refreshing but not overpowering. Only a handful of customers complain that the product didn’t produce any noticeable effects.

Five Full Spectrum CBD Tincture

  • Price: $–$$$
  • CBD type: full-spectrum
  • CBD potency: 1,500, 3,000, or 6,000 mg per 30-mL bottle
  • COA: available on product page

Five’s extra-strength CBD tincture is available in three flavors: mint chocolate, citrus, and lavender. In addition to CBD, the potent tincture also contains small amounts of THC and terpenes.

The company recommends starting with a single dropper full per day and increasing to three servings per day if needed.

However, keep in mind that this is a strong product. At a large enough dose, the THC content may cause some impairment, even though it’s below the federally legal level.

The majority of reviews for the product are positive. Most people report that it’s highly effective, though a few say they didn’t experience any noticeable results.

CBD safety and side effects

According to research, CBD is considered safe, but that doesn’t mean adverse reactions aren’t out of the realm of possibility. Some people may experience:

  • diarrhea
  • fatigue
  • appetite and weight changes

Talk with your doctor before taking CBD or other cannabis-related products — especially if you’re taking any supplements or prescription medications. It’s possible for CBD to interact with certain drugs.

While some brands recommend consuming CBD with meals for better absorption, one 2020 study suggests that taking CBD alongside high fat meals can increase your risk of experiencing side effects.

Is delta-8 the same as THC?

Delta-8 and delta-9 THC have similar molecular structures, but they’re not exactly the same. Because delta-8 has a different structure, it may produce milder effects than delta-9 THC.

That said, more research is needed to better understand the effects of delta-8.

Is delta-8 the same as CBD?

Delta-8 and CBD are both cannabinoids, but delta-8 has more in common with delta-9 THC than CBD.

Unlike CBD, delta-8 produces psychoactive effects.

Is delta-8 safe?

There’s some concern surrounding the safety of delta-8 THC. That’s because it’s poorly regulated, and products containing delta-8 THC may contain additional compounds, including synthetic byproducts that may cause adverse effects.

Delta-8 THC may be an alternative to delta-9 THC for people who want a milder “high” than they get with regular THC. While delta-8 THC reportedly produces less potent effects than delta-9, more research is needed to better understand the potential side effects of this compound.

Additionally, because delta-8 THC is poorly regulated, there’s concern that the contents of products containing delta-8 THC may be difficult to assess.

Until better regulatory standards for the production of delta-8 THC exist, you may be more comfortable opting for delta-9 THC and CBD products.

Is CBD Legal? Hemp-derived CBD products (with less than 0.3 percent THC) are legal on the federal level, but are still illegal under some state laws. Marijuana-derived CBD products are illegal on the federal level, but are legal under some state laws. Check your state’s laws and those of anywhere you travel. Keep in mind that nonprescription CBD products are not FDA-approved, and may be inaccurately labeled.


Steph Coelho is a freelance writer with chronic migraine who has a particular interest in health and wellness. When she’s not click-clacking away on her keyboard, she’s probably nose-deep in a good book.