CBD and its Various Conversions

Written by Lydia Kariuki

Has Cannabidiol (CBD) run its entire course and metamorphosed into other more exciting compounds such as Delta-8? While it’s too early to pre-empt CBD’s entire cycle, it is clear that producers are finding different ways to offer CBD to their consumers. And when this comes with the option of getting “legally high,” some consumers are finding this offer irresistible.

Here is a little background story to help you grasp CBD’s conversion into D8.

The Cannabinoid Journey

All cannabinoids begin their journey as Cananbigerolic acid (CBGA), commonly referred to as “the mother of all cannabinoids.” All cannabinoids that have been identified can trace their origin back to CBGA. The conversion of CBGA into the different cannabinoids is affected by various factors such as genetics, environmental conditions, and stress.

Because of their common origin, all cannabinoids have a similar (but not identical) molecular structure. Consequently, there is a natural tendency to convert one cannabinoid into another. And now, there is an increased need to convert CBD into delta 8.


Why is this happening?

Delta-8-THC is an isomer of delta-9-THC, the only difference being in the location of the double bond, which is present in both molecules. Unlike CBD, both Delta 8 and THC have psychoactive properties and produce that coveted marijuana high.

The legal status of D8 is a grey area, and up until the FDA overtly declares it a banned substance, marijuana enthusiasts can continue to get “legally high” by consuming D8.

D8 occurs in minute quantities in most cannabis cultivars (usually less than 1%). This makes extracting D8 from cannabis untenable, especially from an economic standpoint. On the flip side, D8 can be economically extracted from CBD and other prevalent cannabinoids such as THC. And with the booming CBD industry, there is more than enough CBD to spare some for conversion.


Converting CBD Into Delta-8

An isomerization process is used to covert CBD into delta 8. The CBD is first dissolved into ethanol or another solvent of choice. An acid (such as HCl) is then added to the dissolved CBD, and the mixture is then stirred for about 18 hours, depending on the acid used. It is advisable to maintain a temperature of about 100 degrees Celsius. Once the chemical process is complete, and the mixture has settled, separate the residue and wash with sodium bicarbonate. High-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) can be used to confirm purity. Expect to see some other by-products as the conversion is rarely at 100%.


Can CBD Be Converted Into THC?

Some sources claim that CBD can also be converted to THC in vivo conditions, though this is disputable. [1] For now, consumers can only be sure of enjoying delta 8 from CBD, and in the process, they can still get “legally high.”


Image Source




Golombek, P., Müller, M., Barthlott, I., Sproll, C., & Lachenmeier, D. W. (2020). Conversion of Cannabidiol (CBD) into Psychotropic Cannabinoids Including Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC): A Controversy in the Scientific Literature. Toxics, 8(2), 41.

About the author

Lydia Kariuki