Summary List Placement
I didn’t ask any questions as I stood in line at Chicago’s Wake-N-Bakery and accepted a free weed-infused Sour Patch watermelons from a barista’s gloved hands.
After all, I wasn’t completely sure how this whole thing worked.
My friend found the weed cafe on TikTok — a place that seems to exist in a legal loophole, where no one checks IDs and just about anyone can get high off their THC-laced pastries and coffees.
I took the free amuse-bouche, and chewed it while I waited and decided what to order.
The goods at Wake-N-Bakery contain delta-8 tetrahydrocannabinol, a version of THC that’s derived from hemp. Legally, delta-8 is similar to cannabidiol (CBD), another hemp-derived compound that’s permitted but largely unregulated.
Unlike CBD, delta-8 THC will get you high — maybe not as high as regular weed, but I can attest that consuming enough of this cannabinoid will leave you giggly and a little slow to form full sentences.
Delta-8 is a less potent version of the THC most people know
If you’ve gotten high on cannabis, you likely consumed delta-9 THC. Delta-8 is nearly identical to the OG cannabinoid, but a single shifted chemical bond means it has different effects.
Experts estimate that delta-8 has between half and three-quarters of the potency of delta-9 THC. However, that doesn’t mean it can’t get you baked, cannabis specialist Dr. Peter Grinspoon told Insider.
“It’s less potent, but that doesn’t mean it gets you less high,” said Grinspoon, a primary care physician at Harvard Medical. “It’s sort of like you can’t argue that beer gets you less drunk than vodka.”
Just like you would need to drink several beers to reach vodka-level drunk, you have to consume more delta-8 to feel as high as you would on delta-9.
With this in mind, my friend and I split a 75 milligram lemon poppyseed scone along with our 25mg drinks. (She got a Cannatonic Latte, and I was delighted to order a fall latte called Snoop’s Apple Pie.)
Frankly, that adds up to a lot more than my target dose for regular edibles — the standard recreational dose for edibles is between 2.5 and 15mg of delta-9 THC, according to cannabis website Leafly. But I wasn’t convinced that this backdoor cannabinoid was going to have an effect.
“If you’re taking delta-8 expecting to get knocked on your ass, you’re not going to like it,” Adam Rahman, CEO of Fresh Bros Hemp Company, told me.
Based on my Wake-N-Bakery experience, I’d beg to differ. The apple cider and scone were delicious, but deceptively strong. Luckily, I didn’t feel anxious or paranoid, which may be a unique benefit of delta-8.
Delta-8 seems to be a less anxiety-inducing form of weed
“I can’t tell you how many patients I have who say, ‘I’d love to use medical cannabis instead of opiates for pain, except it makes me anxious,'” Grinspoon told Insider.
Some people who’ve tried delta-8 THC — myself included — say it’s less anxiety-inducing than its sister cannabinoid. Rahman said ripping his delta-8 vape pen makes him feel clear-headed, creative, and relaxed.
“It’s just like the perfect balance between THC and CBD,” Rahman said. “CBD doesn’t always give you an effect you can feel, but I think delta-8 has the medicinal benefits and shows the effects.”
As a newly popular cannabinoid, delta-8 THC hasn’t been studied as much as delta-9 or CBD. One 1995 study of delta-8 showed the cannabinoid prevented vomiting in eight children undergoing cancer treatment. If larger-scale research proves that delta-8 has similar therapeutic effects, it could become an ideal option for medical cannabis seekers who feel limited by anxiety, Grinspoon said.
Even without any scientific research backing up its effects, delta-8 is “definitely that new product that everyone seems to want,” Rahman told me. He said while there’s still a portion of seasoned clients who prefer CBD, delta-8 THC is quickly becoming the most requested cannabinoid at hemp shops.
Delta-8 could be a loophole for weed seekers while cannabis is federally illegal
Having bounced between Massachusetts and Illinois — two states where marijuana is legal recreationally and medicinally — since 2016, I’m no stranger to legal weed. But for other Americans, delta-8 THC is the closest they can get to the real thing without breaking the law.
Delta-8 exists in a legal loophole, thanks to the 2018 Farm Bill. The law permits cultivation of hemp, and essentially legalized CBD and any other compounds derived from the plant. However, there’s still some confusion over whether delta-8 is technically legal.
Alex Buscher, a Colorado-based lawyer who specializes in hemp and cannabis law, told Insider that the Drug Enforcement Administration’s interim guidance on the Farm Bill implies that any form of THC extracted in a lab — including delta-8 — is synthetic, making it a Schedule I substance.
That means dealing with delta-8 “is not without significant legal risk,” Buscher said. But from his viewpoint, as long as it’s derived from hemp, delta-8 THC should not be a controlled substance.
With recreational cannabis legalization on the horizon in New York, I doubt I’ll make a habit of getting high on delta-8. But for those who don’t have access to legal weed, this up-and-coming cannabinoid is pretty close to the real thing.