What Is “Marijuana Lite?”
- “Marijuana Lite” is trending.
- The term has more than one connotation.
- Cannabis enthusiasts in Europe call low-THC marijuana “Marijuana Lite.”
- Americans have been referring to delta-8-THC as marijuana lite.
- Both low-THC marijuana and delta-8-THC offer medicinal benefits.
Remember the alien lifeform in the movie “Evolution” that was constantly evolving — getting more and more complex over time. Yeah, cannabis culture is just like that. It seems like there’s some kind of new development on a weekly basis. The ways we use cannabis, the products available to us, the laws that govern it, and the ways we talk about marijuana are all changing at lite speed. Speaking of “lite,” what’s this we hear about “Marijuana Lite?”
“Marijuana Lite” seems to be a trending term. What’s the meaning of this? We did a little bit of research to get to the bottom of the latest pet name for weed. Here’s what we found…
Marijuana Lite isn’t just one thing
In the days of old when knights were bold, there were only a handful of options for pot smokers — seedy, mass-produced weed, and maybe the occasional hashish or hash oil. However, in the past 50 years, marijuana has grown into a multi-legged monster of an industry.
Today we not only have marijuana — the general term used to refer to sticky-stanky cannabis flower — we also have several types of hash, numerous forms of concentrates and isolates including wax, crumble, shatter, and cannabis oil, we have tinctures, mass-produced baked edibles, cannabis-infused candies, pills, capsules, beverages, patches, inhalers, skin creams, and on and on.
As a result, terms like marijuana, cannabis, and hemp have begun to bleed together. Technically, marijuana is the flower, cannabis is the plant species, and hemp is cannabis with negligible THC. But what about everything in between? All this new stuff needs names — or nicknames. Like Marijuana Lite.
From our research, we found that Marijuana Lite actually refers to two different products depending on who you ask. Let’s look at each.
Don’t like strong weed? This bud’s for you.
Even within the marijuana category itself, gone are the take-what-you-can-get days when weed was often full of seeds and with THC potency testing in the 6 to 12 percent range. Today we have super bud with damn near 30 percent THC by weight. And we have craft hemp flower with upwards of 30 percent CBD and negligible levels of THC. And we have everything in between including bud with equal levels of THC and CBD.
(In case you’re not aware, THC is the chemical produced in cannabis flowers that causes a buzz when smoked or cooked. And CBD offers similar medicinal benefits but without the buzz.)
In a sense, by today’s standards, the stuff we got back in the ‘70s could be considered Marijuana Lite — a play on Bud Lite, the low-calorie beer. It’s not a perfect metaphor since Bud Light can get you just as high as Bud, the beer. Nonetheless, some today are referring to lower-THC strains of marijuana bud as Marijuana Lite. We found this use of the term to be most prevalent in Europe, actually.
This category of Marijuana Lite doesn’t just appeal to those who want a little less kick from their mule. Low THC strains are also popular with medical marijuana cardholders. One of the benefits of developing a strain with low levels of THC is that it leaves room for the bud to produce higher levels of CBD — a cannabinoid that plays a role in relieving the symptoms of numerous medical conditions including pain, anxiety, insomnia, and even seizures.
Then there’s delta-8-THC...
Another product that’s being pinned with the Marijuana Lite tag isn’t actually marijuana at all. Delta-8-THC is a variation on the THC produced in marijuana buds that we all know and love. Except delta-8-THC is made from hemp flower extract. An industrial process converts CBD into delta-8-THC.
Interestingly, although it’s produced from hemp — which doesn’t get you high — delta-8-THC packs a little bit of a punch. Call it a love tap, actually. Delta-8 is essentially a less intoxicating form of THC. Hence the moniker “Marijuana Lite.” Delta-8-THC can be purchased in a concentrated oil form. It’s also available in the form of D8-infused hemp hash and hemp flower as well as edibles. The buzz brought on by these products is akin to a similar product with a ratio of 3 to 1, CBD to THC.
In addition to being more or less potent than low-THC strains of marijuana, D8 has many of the same medicinal benefits as D9. Aside from being less intoxicating than D9 THC, what makes D8 THC so valuable as a medicine is the fact that this derivative is highly stable with a long shelf. D9 THC, on the other hand, oxidizes over time converting into cannabinol (CBN) which is not as medicinally useful as D8 THC.
What are the effects of delta-8 THC?
D9 THC only interacts with CB1 receptors which are found mainly in the brain. And CBD interacts mostly with CB2 receptors (and other types of receptors) found throughout the major organs and the immune system. D8 THC has similar benefits to both CBD and D9 THC because it interacts with both CB1 and CB2 receptors.
Like CBD, D8 has been shown to safely and effectively reduce pain, inflammation, and nausea, as well as tame anxiety, improve sleep patterns, and reduce seizures. However, D8 also offers some of the uplifting and neuroprotective effects of D9.
A 2018 preclinical study published in the journal Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research claimed that delta-8-THC was beneficial in reducing inflammation in mice with corneal injuries. When applied topically, delta-8 seemed to significantly reduce inflammation and pain.
An earlier clinical study done in 1995 by Dr. Raphael Mechoulam of Shaare Zedek Hospital in Jerusalem explored delta-8 THC’s efficacy in reducing or preventing nausea in children undergoing chemotherapy. Children ranging in ages from 3 to 13 all suffering from cancer were involved in the study. The research suggested that not only does D8 help reduce the side effects of chemo, but also high doses of Delta-8-THC could be administered to the children without any ill effects.
Is delta-8-THC legal?
For a time, the legality of D8 THC remained in a “grey area” of federal cannabis policy. However, the DEA has clarified its stance on D8 THC claiming that it’s a “synthetic” cannabinoid, and is therefore illegal. Under the DEA interim ruling from Aug. 20, 2020: “All synthetically derived tetrahydrocannabinol [THCs] remain Schedule I controlled substances.”
Since being deemed a synthetic cannabinoid by the DEA, several U.S. states have moved to outlaw D8 and its days seem numbered — at least in states where marijuana is illegal. The big question is, will the DEA chase down companies that are selling D8 across borders. If so, the companies that make and sell D8 could risk drug trafficking charges.
The National Hemp Association, on the other hand, claims that D8 THC does not qualify as “synthetically derived” since it is made from natural CBD. One of the larger suppliers of D8 is now challenging the ruling and plans on suing the DEA.
So what happens if the federal government legalizes or decriminalizes marijuana? Will D8 also become legal? Will all synthetic cannabinoids remain illegal? Will D8 be regulated by the FDA? Evolution has a way of sorting these things out over time.
Regardless, of federal law, if the current state of affairs with CBD is any indication, then D8 THC — call it Marijuana Lite if you will — is expected to continue to be widely available in the U.S.