One of the great benefits of the legalization of recreational cannabis has been the explosion of access to information about the plant itself. As someone who came to use cannabis through recreational means (that is, sneaking bowls out my childhood bedroom window after my parents fell asleep), it’s amazing to now be able to learn about individual cannabinoids and their various uses.
What is a cannabinoid, anyway? It’s a chemical compound secreted by cannabis flowers and, once ingested, interacts with receptors in the body to alter neurotransmitter release in the brain. They regulate communication between cells and act to provide relief for a variety of physical and mental symptoms, including nausea, pain and anxiety. Cannabinoids bind to receptors in our bodies, producing different effects depending on which part of the body they prefer. At this point, it’s impossible to say how many cannabinoids naturally exist in the cannabis plant, but suffice it to say, there are dozens.
The two most well known of these cannabinoids are, obviously, Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the stuff that makes us feel high, and CBD, the stuff that doesn’t make us feel high, but can serve to chill us out. (It can also reduce inflammation, among other things.)
A few weeks ago, a friend of mine returned from a road trip with a small box of Delta-8 Protab pills, which are produced by LEVEL, a San Francisco-based company that specializes in products made from rare cannabinoids. This friend gave up THC years ago due to undesired effects.
“I can’t smoke pot anymore because it doesn’t make me feel good—I get social anxiety and paranoia,” he told me. “I also feel pain. I don’t know if THC causes pain or allows me to feel parts of my body that are not right, but it enhances sensitivity.”
Others suggested he look into Delta-8-THC, which is considered the most similar to Delta-9 THC (aka regular THC). Delta-8 is supposed to have fewer hard-hitting effects than its close chemical cousin.
Chemically, Delta-8 is different from THC by only a few atomic bonds. It can produce a serious high of its own, but it exists in the cannabis plant at far lower levels, so companies like LEVEL are finding value in extracting and concentrating it. The company’s Delta-8 Protab pills contain 25 milligrams of Delta-8 and no amount of regular THC (Delta-9) and CBD. The packaging indicates it’s ideal for consumers seeking a “moderate” high.
Lately, my friend has been having a hard time sleeping, so he started taking half a pill about an hour or two before bedtime. Though he’s sleeping much better after a few weeks of use, he admits that it’s harder for him to wake up. He also once took a whole pill at work and felt pretty stoned, so he has settled on half as his ideal dose.
Not wanting to feel left out, I picked up a pack of LEVEL’s Hangover Protab pills, which have THC-A, CBG, CBD and Delta-8. These are not supposed to get people as high, but after ingesting a full pill after days of taking only half, I found that it still packed quite a punch. As advertised, they are also highly effective in melting away a hangover, which I realized after a week of near-daily use nursing hangovers while on vacation. I love them, but I also have a higher tolerance for cannabis than the average bear. And while the Protabs are pricey ($52 at Urbn Leaf), splitting them makes for a better high for me and therefore makes them more cost-effective.