We have talked about cannabis blends in the past, which mix different cannabinoids and terpenes in specific combinations and proportions. Cannabis blends try to reproduce the “entourage effect” found in cannabis plants. This is achieved by letting the different cannabinoids, which produce their own unique effects when consumed, to affect one another. Since there is an endless number of possible mixtures, cannabis consumers can enjoy highly-tailored experiences through cannabis blends. Blends are particularly popular among cannabis aficionados in conjunction with “altnoids”, or alternative cannabinoids. This time, we will take a deeper look at these altnoids and blends, and why their popularity has soared over the past few months.
Altnoids, or alternative cannabinoids, are cannabinoids not commonly found in large amounts in marijuana plants. They are an alternative to more popular cannabinoids, such as Delta-9 THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol). There are two kinds of alternative cannabinoids, and there is a debate among altnoid users on which falls under the “altnoid” banner. The first are hemp-derived alternative cannabinoids, extracted in labs and manufacturing facilities similar to pure/isolated Delta-9 THC and CBD. Examples of these natural cannabinoids are Delta-8 THC, Delta-10 THC, CBG (cannabigerol) and HHC (hexahydrocannabinol). The second type are synthetic cannabinoids, which are not present in cannabis plants. This type of altnoids, including THCO (THC-O-acetate) and JWH-018, have to be synthesized in labs from specialized chemicals.
Altnoids’ growing popularity can largely be attributed to public perceptions of their effect and legal status. First of all, altnoids can have entirely different effects upon consumption compared to commonly available cannabinoids. These include their psychoactive effects (how “high” the cannabinoid makes you at comparable amounts/concentration), any therapeutic or medicinal effects (such as pain relief and anti-inflammation), side effects (from fatigue to paranoia), as well as the duration of these effects.
For consumers who are taking cannabinoids for medical or wellness purposes, in particular, altnoid blends can provide exactly the effect they are looking for, whether it is for pain management, more energy, sleep aid, or other specific goals. Using altnoid blends can also minimize undesirable side effects, and even prolong certain effects by mixing cannabinoids with different timings and durations.
Arguably the bigger reason for the popularity of altnoids, however, is their grey-area legal status in many states and countries. This is because some time after the “discovery” of new cannabinoids, regulatory bodies and law enforcement usually take some time to update their legal status and the policies surrounding their use in commercial products. In the meantime, the uncertain legal status can create a loophole for these cannabinoids, particularly in areas where cannabis is illegal (whether for recreational use or for all uses).
The 2018 Farm Bill, for example, removed hemp from the classification of marijuana in the Controlled Substances Act, due to its importance to the agricultural sector. It defines hemp as all parts of cannabis plants containing less than 0.3% Delta-9 THC. As a result, depending on the interpretation of the language of the bill, many have argued that the manufacturing and sale of THC isomers, HHC and other altnoids are not subject to the same regulation as cannabis. Cannabis brands and manufacturers have taken advantage of these loopholes and made altnoid blend products more readily available for consumers.
The effects of altnoids is greatly affected by their concentration and interaction with other compounds in the blend (including other cannabinoids and terpenes), but the following is a shortlist of common altnoids.
Delta-8 THC is an isomer of Delta-9 THC (most commonly available “regular” THC). It naturally occurs in cannabis plants in trace amounts, but can be synthesized in larger quantities in a lab, usually from hemp-derived CBD. The National Cancer Institute describes Delta-8 THC as containing neuroprotective properties that can increase appetite and reduce nausea, anxiety and pain. Its psychotropic potency is less than that of Delta-9, but its side effects like paranoia and anxiety are similarly reduced. It produces the same intoxicating or euphoric sensation, but consumers have reported a clearer mind and more relaxing effect.
Like Delta-8, Delta-10 is a naturally-occurring THC isomer that needs to be synthesized in a lab to produce commercially viable amounts. There is less scientific research available into the effects of Delta-10 THC, although it is widely believed that its psychotropic potency is almost double that of Delta-8 in psychotropic potency, though still less than Delta-9. Consumers have also reported a different euphoric effect compared to Delta-8, promoting greater creativity, alertness, and energy rather than a relaxed or calm sensation.
HHC or hexahydrocannabinol is a form of THC with two extra hydrogen atoms. It is naturally present in cannabis plants, but can also be synthesized by chemically hydrogenating THC. It has psychoactive effects are similar to THC, but with around 70-80% the strength (so it is still stronger than Delta-8 and Delta-10 THC) and greater relaxing, sedative qualities.
THCP, or Trans-Δ9-tetrahydrocannabiphorol, is a cannabinoid present in cannabis plants. It has a similar chemical structure to Delta-9 THC with an extended pentyl side chain. THCP is said to have a far more intense psychoactive effect upon consumpion, reportedly up to 10 times more intoxicating than THC.
Delta-9 tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV) is another naturally-occurring THC analog with an additional chain of atoms. THCV is often called “diet weed” as it is reported to curb appetite and boost energy. It has very mild to no psychoactive effects and there are also reports that, when used in a blend with THC, THCV mitigates the psychoactive effects of THC.
THC-O (or THCO or THC-O-acetate) is a synthetic cannabinoid, produced by acetylating THC. Its psychoactive effects are reported to be 2-3 times stronger compared to Delta-9 THC, yet it offers a smoother, lighter hit.
HHCP, or Hexahydrocannabiphorol, is a synthetic hydrogenated THCP. Similar to how THCP is stronger than THC, HHCP is stronger than HHC, THC, and even THCP. It is a powerful psychoactive that is reported to create a “stoney” high.
Altnoid blends can be found at reputable cannabis retailers and online dispensaries. As usual, we ask consumers to beware of black-market online sellers, as the safety of these products can be compromised. Also, while some cannabis users do mix their own blend for vaping and dabbing, we generally do not recommend this, as there can be unexpected side effects. Also, be aware of the medication you are taking while consuming altnoids as mixing some altnoids with active ingredients in medication can pose a danger to your liver and overall health in the long run.
As scientists and researchers keep discovering new natural and synthetic alternative cannabinoids, we can expect them to become more popular in the future, even if (or perhaps because) their legal status remains uncertain. Thanks to altnoids and blends, cannabis consumers can rejoice in even greater variety and availability.