Delta 8 vs Delta 9 THC

Posted by Adam Frost on

In the ever-evolving world of cannabis science, one topic that's increasingly capturing attention is the nuanced differences between THC variants, particularly Delta 8 and Delta 9.

As we delve deeper into this intriguing subject, we'll explore the distinct characteristics, effects, and legal aspects of these cannabinoids, shedding light on their unique roles within the cannabis plant and their impact on users.

Let's unravel the complexities of Delta 8 and Delta 9 for both the curious and the experienced.

What is THC?

THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the primary psychoactive cannabinoid found in cannabis. Whereas CBD is the star cannabinoid of hemp, THC is the star of many other cultivars of the cannabis plant that are typically sold as flower. Learn about the various other cannabinoids and what they do.

Let's take a look at the different types of THC. However, remember that research in this area is ongoing and evolving, and the effects of these compounds can vary significantly among individuals.

Delta 8 THC

Delta 8 THC, or delta-8-tetrahydrocannabinol, is a cannabinoid found in cannabis plants, albeit in much lower concentrations compared to Delta 9. It's known for its psychoactive effects, though they are typically milder than those of Delta 9 THC. Users often report a clearer high with less anxiety and paranoia. Delta 8 interacts with the body's endocannabinoid system, particularly the CB1 receptors, potentially influencing pain perception and stress response.

Delta 9 THC

Delta 9 THC, or delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, is the most abundant psychoactive compound in the cannabis plant. It's responsible for the well-known 'high' associated with cannabis use, including effects like euphoria, relaxation, and, in some cases, heightened sensory perception. However, it can also lead to adverse effects such as anxiety or paranoia in higher concentrations. Delta 9 THC works by binding to CB1 receptors in the brain, affecting various neurological processes.

Delta 10 THC

While less common, Delta 10 THC is another cannabinoid found in cannabis. Similar to Delta 8 and Delta 9, it has psychoactive properties, but it's typically found in lower concentrations in the plant. The effects of Delta 10 are not as well-studied. Still, it's believed to produce a milder high compared to Delta 9 THC, making it a subject of interest for those seeking less intense psychoactive effects.

Hemp vs. Cannabis

When discussing delta 8 and delta 9 THC, it's crucial to distinguish between their sources: hemp and cannabis. Both hemp and cannabis are varieties of the Cannabis Sativa plant, but they differ significantly in their THC concentrations.

The Farm Bill defines hemp as containing less than 0.3% delta-9 THC on a dry weight basis. This makes it the primary source for CBD products and legal at the federal level.

On the other hand, cannabis plants usually have higher concentrations of delta-9 THC, which is the primary psychoactive compound responsible for the "high" associated with marijuana.

Delta-8 THC is a compound that is commonly found in both hemp and cannabis but in lower concentrations. It is typically derived from CBD extracted from hemp.

The Delta-8 THC in products on the market is typically produced through chemical conversion from CBD derived from hemp.

The legal ambiguity regarding its status under the Farm Bill creates a complex legal landscape for cannabis products.

Consumers need to understand these distinctions to navigate the world of cannabinoids effectively, whether for medical purposes, recreational enjoyment, or both.

Synthetic Cannabinoids

Synthetic cannabinoids, while sharing a name with compounds naturally found in the cannabis plant, are fundamentally different from the delta-8 and delta-9 THC we commonly discuss.

These lab-created substances aim to replicate the psychoactive effects of THC but often come with a higher risk of adverse effects.

Unlike delta-8 and delta-9 THC, which are cannabinoids naturally occurring in cannabis, synthetic versions do not originate from the plant. They are instead manufactured chemicals, often sprayed onto plant material and sold under names like "spice" or "K2".

The key concern with synthetic cannabinoids lies in their unpredictability and potency. They can bind to the same CB1 receptors in the brain as THC but can produce much stronger, sometimes harmful effects.

This unpredictability, coupled with a lack of regulation and quality control, makes synthetic cannabinoids a risky choice. In contrast, natural cannabinoids like delta-8 and delta-9 THC, especially when sourced from reputable vendors, offer a more controlled and understood experience.

Comparing Delta 8 and Delta 9 THC


Delta-9 THC is the primary psychoactive compound found in cannabis plants and is renowned for its potent effects. Delta-8 THC, a different cannabinoid, is similar in chemical structure but with a distinct double bond placement. This slight variation results in Delta-8 being less potent than Delta-9, offering a milder, more controlled experience.


The effects of Delta-9 THC are well-known, ranging from euphoria and relaxation to potential anxiety and paranoia in higher concentrations. Delta-8 THC, while also psychoactive, tends to produce a more subdued experience. Users often report a sense of calm and clarity, with reduced chances of anxiety, making it a preferable choice for those seeking the benefits of THC without intense psychoactive effects.


Both cannabinoids carry risks, particularly when consumed in high doses. Delta-9 THC's stronger psychoactive effects can lead to adverse reactions like anxiety and impaired cognitive function. Delta-8 THC, while milder, is not without risks. Its safety profile is less understood, and products, especially those from unregulated sources like gas stations or unverified online retailers, may contain contaminants or inconsistent concentrations.


The 2018 Farm Bill federally legalized hemp-derived products, including Delta-8 THC, provided they contain less than 0.3% Delta-9 THC. However, the legal status of Delta-8 THC is more complex and not entirely settled at the federal level, despite the Farm Bill's provisions.

Some states have specifically banned Delta-8 THC products, citing safety and regulation concerns. Consumers must stay informed about the legal status of these cannabinoids in their respective areas, especially considering the ongoing changes and differences in state laws regarding cannabis use.

Delta 8 and Delta 9 FAQs

Is Delta 8 THC safer than Delta 9 THC?

Delta 8 is often perceived as less potent and safer, with milder psychoactive effects than Delta 9. However, the FDA has not thoroughly evaluated the safety of Delta 8 THC products, and they may contain contaminants due to the chemical process used to produce them.

Can I use Delta 8 and Delta 9 together?

You can use Delta 8 and Delta 9 together, but it can alter the overall effects and experience. While some users report enhanced benefits, it's crucial to consider the increased intensity of psychoactive effects. It is advisable to start with low concentrations and monitor the response when combining them.

Are both Delta 8 and Delta 9 naturally occurring?

Yes, Delta 8 and Delta 9 are naturally occurring compounds in the cannabis plant. Delta 8 is present in much lower concentrations, often requiring laboratory processes to increase its availability in products like gummies, tinctures, and vape cartridges.

Do both cannabinoids show up on drug tests?

Both Delta 8 and Delta 9 THC can trigger positive results on drug tests. Despite their differences, most standard drug tests do not distinguish between various THC types, detecting the presence of THC metabolites in general.

Which is more popular: Delta 8 or Delta 9?

Delta 9 remains more popular and widely recognized due to its higher natural abundance in cannabis plants and its longer history of use. Delta 8 THC, however, is gaining traction for those seeking milder psychoactive effects and potential health benefits and also because it exists in a legal gray area, making it accessible in regions where Delta 9 THC remains illegal.

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