THC Metabolism in a Nugget

Delta-9 THC starts in the plant as an acid THCa. It is converted by the heat slowly by sun or more quickly otherwise by “decarboxilating” the THC, dramatically increasing the amount of Delta-9 THC, the primary psychoactive substance in Cannabis. That’s a pipe full I think.

A happy concert goer or study crammer imbibes. The Delta-9 is metabolized (changed chemically by the body, typically enzymes at work) into Delta-11 THC, short-lived and psychoactive, which then metabolizes to THC COOH, or Carboxy THC. Carboxy THC is fat soluble, meaning it is lipid soluble. It’s like trying to mix oil and water. Not easily done.

Carboxy THC is not water soluble. It is fat soluble. The lipid soluble THC-COOH, the detritus of imbibing, is NOT psychoactive. But, most problematically, the majority of cheap fast drug testing is of urine, and almost universally urine testing looks at the level of THC COOH in urine. So the measurement is of a chemical that dissolves in the fat of the body, and is excreted in urine. It is stored in fat for as long as two months or more. As evidence of recent use, impairment, or anything else beyond the demonstration that the person may have imbibed in the previous month or so it is useless. That is generally not the issue, save possible parole and probation violations for example, where the question really IS “have you imbibed cannabis within the last month or two?”

Delta-8 vs Delta-9 THC

There has been ongoing significant discussion of Delta-8 THC. The questions revolve around whether or not it is illegal. Delta-9 THC is the familiar marijuana THC, and the primary psychoactive cannabinoid found in the plant.

Delta-8 THC signifies that something attached to a ring of carbon atoms shifted from one position, #9, to the position next to that, #8. Such a change absolutely can change the properties of the molecule.

We generally agree that if the Delta-8 THC, which occurs in small amounts in the cannabis plant, is extracted from high THC (high levels of Delta-9 THC) cannabis; regular smoking pot, that Delta-8 extract is federally illegal.

Here’s the new rub which fueled the discussion. When the Federal Farm Bill legalized hemp, people began to extract Delta-8 THC from federally legal hemp. Is that then legal Delta-8 THC, knowing that it would be illegal if taken from the regular cannabis plant?

In the case of opium poppies in Colorado, it is generally legal to grow them. It becomes illegal if you harvest them, possess the straws, slit the bulbs, and do the other things in the heroin/opium production process. So can it be argued that Delta-8 THC from hemp is like harvested opium poppies; illegal in spite of the plant being legal?

I think what’s important is first, it is not marijuana, nor is it the familiar Delta-9 THC. Second, it may or may not be legal depending upon source, location, circumstances, and more so third, I’d avoid it personally. I note that NORML officially takes the position as I understand it that Delta-8 is probably illegal and best avoided.

Have I mentioned SPICE? That’s for another blog on another day! Be happy and healthy.