While most of the world is just discovering terpenes and cannabidiol (CBD), a small group of cannabis extractors are literally transforming the plant.
The cannabis industry has been coming out of the shadows during the last two decades of reduced prohibition and medical program expansion across the United States. While the industry still faces many roadblocks for banking, research, and law enforcement, there has been an increase in experimentation and diversification driven by independent groups. Phylos Bioscience in Portland, Oregon, leads in genetic testing, Steep Hill of Berkeley, California, is a pioneer in cannabis analytical testing, and now Columbo Labs of San Jose, California, is becoming the go-to for knowledge and resources on the creation of delta-8-THC, cannabinoid isomers, and more.
Leo Vishnevskiy, founder and lead extraction technician of Columbo Labs, created and launched a new product called C-Bleach to help clean cannabis concentrates of pigments, heavy metals, waxes, fats,and other plant matter. C-Bleach helps create what is referred to as water clear or aquatek extracts, which are completely clear due to the removal of compounds that typically create the yellow to red hue that develops as distillates age and oxidize.
However, an additional benefit of the product is that when used in the boiling flask with cannabis isolate raw material, C-Bleach creates nearly full isomerization of delta-9-THC (the everyday THC that you’re accustomed to getting from recreational or medical marijuana) into delta-8-THC. C-Bleach extractions regularly break 60% on potency tests for delta-8-THC—an important fact considering cannabis flower samples typically contain less than 1% delta-8-THC.
“It’s really an interesting time,” Vishnevskiy said. “We’re seeing a lot of people begin to adopt our products and process. What started as a way to clean up concentrates led to a new way to increase a beneficial cannabinoid. I really think delta-8-thc will become the cannabinoid of the future.”
What is Delta-8-THC?
Despite the creation of medical and recreational cannabis markets, the industry or the markets have primarily pushed for the most potent products, with reports of over 30% delta-9-THC being exalted on social media and throughout the community. Many cannabis and medical researchers, including Ethan Russo, former president of the International Cannabinoid Research Society and GW Pharmaceuticals’ medical advisor, advocate for lower doses with a fuller spectrum of cannabinoids and terpenes in specific ratios for specific effects.
The dark ages of cannabis prohibition led to most cannabis containing elevated delta-9-THC as it was bred to create the most intoxicating and sedating effect. This selective breeding reduced biodiversity in the plant and the availability of cultivars that were rich in traits breeders are now attempting to reintroduce, such as CBD genetics.
“In the end, it may be just another effort to stand out in the marketplace, much as the effort to capitalize on cannabinol (CBN),” Russo said. “My feeling that the latter excitement is overstated. Much more effort should be put into selective breeding for high-CBD, low-myrcene chemovars with good titers of other terpenoids. Anyone ignoring the pharmacological advantages of the cannabis entourage is making a big mistake from a therapeutic potential standpoint.”
A little background in the biosynthesis of cannabinoids helps paint the picture. The first cannabinoid the plant actually creates is cannabigerol (CBG). CBG is then converted by synthase enzymes into cannabichromene (CBC in juvenile plants only), delta-9-THC, or CBD—depending on the genetic background of the plant. Delta-9-THC is degraded into cannabinol (CBN) and delta-8-THC by time, oxidation, ultraviolet light, acidic environments, and other factors.
“It is also unclear that one can selectively breed for delta-8,” Russo said in an email. “Chances are that whatever process is responsible for its production in the plant is little used, and could be a recessive trait, whereas delta-9 production is mediated by a dominant gene.”
Russo expressed uncertainty regarding the cost, benefit, and profitability of delta-8-THC in the email, but did point to an incredible study done on the cannabinoid and children on chemotherapy. Raphael Mechoulam, father of modern-day cannabis research and a patent holder for delta-8-THC antiemetic treatments, led a team of researchers in Israel who conducted a comparison of delta-8-THC and metoclopramide (brand name Reglan, an anti-nausea drug commonly used in chemotherapy patients) in 1995. The children enrolled in the trial were all blood cancer patients—primarily leukemia—and delta-8-THC stopped all nausea or vomiting induced by the chemotherapy treatments in the study. Metoclopramide, on the other hand, was only effective in 40% of patients and higher doses caused dangerous side effects.
Some of the parents of those enrolled in the study were initially wary of cannabis treatments for their children; however, that quickly passed once the effects of the chemotherapy were observed in the kids. Excerpt from the study: “In one case (patient D.E.), delta-8-THC therapy initially was refused. The patient experienced debilitating vomiting for 24 hours after the antineoplastic treatment. During the second treatment cycle (which took place after 8 days), at the patient’s family request, delta-8-THC treatment was initiated. No vomiting occurred. In a second case (A.M.), the patient refused antiemetic treatment during a relapse of his disease as it was based on an “illicit drug” (cannabis). Repeated vomiting took place. Renewal of the THC treatment, before the next administration of antineoplastic drugs, prevented additional vomiting.”
This work on nausea and vomiting in chemotherapy patients is evidence that delta-8-THC may be useful as a treatment to help those with Crohn’s disease, gastroparesis, or similar disorders. Delta-8-THC has been shown to be effective in treating cancer beyond just recovery from chemotherapy. A study on Lewis lung adenocarcinoma in mice showed delta-8-THC and delta-9-THC both reduced tumor size and increased longevity (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1159836). Both isomers have also been shown to inhibit the growth of human oral cancer cells (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20516734).
The future of weight loss also may lie in delta-8-THC. Mice that were given very low doses of delta-8-THC, .001 mg/kg, ate approximately 20% more food while staying the same weight as the control group during a study done in Israel. The same mice were tested for performance in a maze test and the delta-8-THC mice showed an increase in performance (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15099912).
At a Store Near You?
Vishnevskiy said Columbo Labs is attempting to share these medical uses of delta-8-THC to help educate the consumer. However, he said the benefits extend beyond the medical.
“It’s proven quite popular around the shop,” Vishnevskiy said. “It’s around two-thirds as psychoactive, so it’s much more social and productive an effect. So many people are into the most potent; but I think this is where the market is headed toward the average person, not the daily smoker.”
C-Bleach and delta-8-THC have made it to Washington state and I-502 retailers, with Oleum Extracts being one of the first to launch a product line. They currently manufacture AquaTek D8 distillate syringes (available in 1.0 gram and 0.5 gram), and AquaTek D8 Distillate vape cartridges (Available in 0.5 gram).
Justin Marsh of Oleum Extracts said delta-8-THC has unique properties. “We enjoy the how clean the product looks and tastes, especially with how smooth the vapor is on intake,” Marsh said. “Some prefer to consume this product through our AquaTek D8 vape cartridges, some prefer to dab/vape out of a syringe onto a hot nail or e-nail, while others enjoy the effects of eating it. We have noticed that the Delta 9 THC is a bit harsher on intake, has a slightly different flavor, and is a much more heady high/very cerebral. Delta 8 had a smoother intake, sweeter flavor, and less of a head high (more clarity) … but felt it much more in the body (relaxation).”
Currently these Oleum Extracts’ products can be found at Dockside Cannabis and Dockside Pellicer in Seattle. Vishnevskiy’s reach has also extended to Arizona where delta-8-THC extracts from HYH Society can be procured from Nature’s Wonder in Apache Junction. Columbo Labs prepares delta-8-THC extracts for collectives in the San Jose area. For more information on delta-8-THC and C-Bleach visit www.ColumboLabs.com.