What’s The Difference Between Delta 8 and Delta 9 THC


Delta 8 THC is a new cannabis product. By reading our guide, you’ll learn: 

  • Delta 8 THC is one of over 100 cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. 
  • Most Delta 8 THC available is derived from CBD that’s extracted from legally grown hemp plants. 
  • Delta 8 THC exists in a legal gray area where it appears to be legal federally yet banned in several states. 

To most people, the future of cannabis is the expansion of rights for cannabis consumers throughout the country. This currently takes place on a state-by-state level, as state governments decide to decriminalize, if not outright legalize recreational cannabis use for adults. 

However, there’s another frontier to cannabis. This future is defined by genetics, chemistry, and other sciences. It results in cannabis products that offer enough differences from the federally illegal version that companies feel the freedom to sell it legally. 

Perhaps the best representation of these two futures of cannabis is Delta 8 THC. This product exists in a bit of a legal gray area that’s enabled by a loophole in current federal cannabis law. However, consumers are often able to purchase it in-person or online (and across state lines) without government intervention. Before you search for it, though, it’s useful to understand the basics of this new cannabis product. 

What is Delta 8 THC? 

Understanding Delta THC 8, it helps to take a step back and discuss cannabis, its chemical makeup, and how it interacts with the body. Cannabis, of course, is a plant. What differentiates it from other plants is the number of cannabinoids it contains. These cannabinoids are naturally occurring chemical compounds that incur physiological effects on the body. 

You’ve already heard of a couple of these cannabinoids: THC and CBD. However, scientists have uncovered more than 100s of cannabinoids. However, of all these cannabinoids, THC is typically considered the only one that is psychoactive. That is, THC is what makes you feel “high.” 

Cannabinoids impart their effects on the body through their interaction with the endocannabinoid system. This bodily system contains two types of receptors throughout the body: CB1 and CB2. Cannabinoids bind with these receptors, which then create the physical effect you feel from consuming cannabis. THC tends to bind with CB1 receptors, which can be found in the brain. CBD, on the other hand, tends to bind with CB2 receptors, which tend to exist throughout the body, such as in the digestive tract and immune system. 

Generally, when people refer to THC, they are referring to Delta 9 THC. However, there is another THC cannabinoid, called Delta 8 THC, that is also present in cannabis and hemp.  

What’s the Difference Between Delta 8 and Delta 9 THC? 

A layperson would have difficulty noticing the subtle difference in chemical structure between both kinds of THC. Both are naturally occurring chemical compounds found in cannabis. Both contain similar chemical bonds, including double bonds. The presence of double bonds is also why both forms of THC contain the word “Delta.”  

Chemically, the main difference is where these double bonds take place. Delta 8 THC contains its double bond on the eighth carbon chain. Delta 9 THC contains the same double bond, but it’s located on the ninth carbon chain.  

This subatomic difference also means the two cannabinoids interact differently within the body. As we stated earlier, Delta 9 THC tends to bind with CB1 receptors. This helps explain why THC tends to have psychoactive effects. Delta 8 THC, though, can bond with both CB1 and CB2 receptors.  

It’s also important to note that Delta 9 THC is what defines the legal difference between cannabis and hemp. To be produced and sold legally as hemp in the United States, the plant must contain no more than 0.3% THC. THC here is defined as Delta 9 THC. 

While hemp is still heavily regulated, its legality is what allows CBD products to flourish. CBD can be found in hemp, which THC (or at least Delta 9 THC) cannot, by definition, be found in vast quantities on the same planet.  

Delta 8 THC, though, is often found in hemp. In fact, most of the Delta 8 THC currently found on the market is derived from CBD that’s legally extracted. 

What are the Effects of Delta 8 THC? 

So, if Delta 8 THC is chemically similar to Delta 9 THC but is derived from CBD, what are the actual effects of consuming this cannabinoid. The answer is that Delta 8 THC tends to feel more like the former than the latter. It can make consumers feel high, though often not at such a potent level as Delta 9 THC. People that consume Delta 8 THC products tend to report that they feel like they’re more capable of functioning. 

Anecdotally, some Delta 8 THC consumers have described the effects as somewhat different from the more common THC. The feeling felt more like a body high with more clear-headedness. There have been reports, too, that both the ramping up and leveling off felt more even with it hard to notice exactly when the effects started and when they began to diminish. 

Of course, more studies need to be conducted before coming to a scientific verdict as to the possible range of effects. There could be potential side effects, especially if the Delta 8 THC product is mixed with other substances. Before consuming any Delta 8 THC products, it’s essential to discuss the situation with your doctor. 

Is Delta 8 THC Legal? 

Here is where things get tricky. Some states outright banned Delta 8 THC, and the number of states doing so appears to be increasing.  

For states that haven’t outright banned it, Delta 8 THC exists in a very weird legal gray area both federally and on the state level. Legally, THC is defined as Delta 9 THC. So, even though Delta 8 THC is a form of a THC, it’s not explicitly illegal.  

However, the Drug Enforcement Agency has proposed a rule that would make put Delta 8 THC on the same level as Delta 9 THC. That is, they’ve proposed to make it illegal on the federal level. 

It should also be noted that even if Delta 8 THC is legal in your state, it can still trigger a positive on a drug screen. That’s not because Delta 8 THC turns into Delta 9 THC. Instead, the positive results are because most laboratories aren’t set up to delineate the difference between the two forms of THC. So, even if you believe you are legally consuming Delta 8 THC, you could still deal with the effects of testing positive for the more common and explicitly illegal form of THC. 

Bottom Line: Is Delta 8 THC or Delta 9 Better? 

Better is a subjective term. As Chronic Therapy operates dispensaries in Colorado, where THC Delta 9 is regulated and legal, we’d say our preference is for the more common variety of THC. We work with world-class vendors to ensure we sell the highest quality cannabis products available. Stop by either of our locations today to browse our selection! 

Featured Image: Pancakenap420/Shutterstock

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