What is THC8?



There is significant confusion regarding THC8 in the military.

In 2018, Congress passed and the President signed the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018 (2018 Farm Bill) which legalized the industrial use of hemp.  The 2018 Farm Bill defined hemp as, in short, cannabis with a delta 9 THC concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis.   Delta 9 THC is the psychoactive component of marijuana.  In other words, any cannabis product could be manufactured and sold so long as it did not contain more than 0.3 percent delta 9 THC.  In the close to four years since the 2018 Farm Bill was enacted, hemp-derived products have exploded and now include soaps, lotions, oils, edibles, and vape liquids.  Regulation of these products has not caught up with the law.  There is very little testing and supervision of these products and it is not uncommon for them to have more than 0.3 percent delta 9 THC.

Initially, the market was flooded with cannabidiol (also known as CBD), which was marketed to treat a plethora of health issues.  CBD is hemp-drived and supposed to contain less than 0.3 percent delta 9 THC (making it legal under the Farm Bill).  It was common, however, that CBD would contain more than the 0.3 percent delta 9 THC because the manufacturing processes were rudementary and there was no regulation that required testing of the products before they went to market.

In the military, the use of CBD started causing positive urinalysis for THC.  “THC” in the context of a military positive urinalysis was really THC9, or the metabolite for delta 9 THC.  As a reasult, the military banned the use of hemp products in February 2020. 

THC8 or delta 8 THC is not CBD and does not produce a positive result for THC9.  Delta 8 THC is found in low concentration in hemp.  However, it can be chemically synthesized from CBD.  The majority of delta 8 THC on the market is chemically synthensized.  The manufacturers of delta 8 THC argue that it is legal under the Farm Bill because it is hemp derived and contains not more than 0.3 perecent detla 9 THC.  Several federal courts have agreed with the manufacturers.

Delta 8 THC is molecularly very close to delta 9 THC, and it does cause (I have read) a similar, but not as intense, euphoric effect on the body. It has been known as “THC9 lite.”  Delta 8 THC products are now being sold in convenience stores, online, and smoke shops. They are marketed in colorful packaging with very little information about the actual product and the concentration of delta 8 THC.  Like CBD, the military is prohibited from using delta 8 THC since it is a hemp-derived product.

The  military forensic drug testing laboratories (the “labs”) began testing for THC8 in July 2021.  Previously, the labs tested and reported results for “THC”.  The targeted metabolite at that time is what is now referred to as THC9.  THC9 is reported by the labs for 11-nor-Δ9-THC-9-carboxylic acid, the metabolite for the active component of marijuana, delta 9 THC.  THC8 is reported for 11-nor-Δ8-THC-9-carboxylic acid, the metabolite for delta 8 THC.

A metabolite is a by-product created by the body as it breaks down, or “metabolizes,” the substance. Everyone metabolizes substances the same way, creating the same metabolites.  The labs test for metabolites, not the substance or drug itself.

The detection window for THC8 and THC9 is the same.  It generally can be detected up to 5 days after exposure.  Individuals who are exposed more frequently may have longer detection windows as the body has to metabolize and then excrete the metabolite from the body in the urine.  The metabolite can build up in the body, which increases the detection window.


What will make a member test positive for THC8?

Any ingestion of a delta 8 THC product will result in a positive urinalysis for THC8 only.  Use of marijuana may result in both a THC9 and THC8 positive result.  THC9 alone indicating delta 9 THC ingestigation (marijuana or delta 9 THC product like a vape or edible).  Use of CBD will normally result in a THC9 positive result.

All of the above statements are made with the following caveat: because the hemp and marijuana industries are not well regulated, any product could contain delta 8 THC or delta 9 THC in sufficient quantity to cause a positive result.  The threshold to test positive is 15 ng/ml, which is a very low threshold.  Thus, there is no scientific way based on a urinalysis alone to assert exactly what product caused the positive result.

Attorney Patrick Korody has defended hundreds of service members who have tested positive on military drug tests.  He has successfully handled cases for members of the Navy, Marine Corps, Army, Air Force, Coast Guard, and National Guard.  He spent 10 years on active duty in the Navy JAG Corps and has close to 20 years military defense experience.

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