Delta-8 & Delta-9 THC - What's the difference?
Ever since cannabis became legal in some US states, the demand for THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, has grown tremendously. THC is one of the main active ingredients in the cannabis plant and is known for its various recreational and medical uses. But did you know that there are different types of THC?
From THC to CBD, there’s a wide spectrum of cannabinoids and terpenes that can affect you in different ways. Getting involved with cannabis products for therapeutic purposes or even just for pleasure, it’s important to know the ins and outs of the plant and its properties.
The THC that is most popular, and that we are most acquainted with, is the Delta-9 THC. It is known for giving people the kind of high that causes psychoactive effects such as intensified visual and auditory sensations.
Then there’s Delta-8 THC, which some people are calling “Diet Delta-9”, "Weed Lite", or “Delta-9 Lite”. It is a relatively new type of THC and it has caused quite the stir in both the government and regular THC users. Plenty of people are wondering, “what makes Delta-8 so different from Delta-9?” and “is it even worth trying?”
Molecular Structure Differs Slightly
Delta-8 THC is an isomer of Delta -9. This means that the Delta-8 THC has the same chemical formula as Delta-9 THC, but it has a slight difference in molecular structure. It may not sound like much, but even the slightest change in a compound’s molecular structure can lead to unique differences in the pharmacological effects that it can cause.
The two cannabinoids are actually named after their molecular structures. In the carbon atom of Delta-9 THC, the double bond is on the 9th chain of its molecular structure (see left picture above). But in the carbon atom of Delta-8 THC, the double bond is on the 8th chain (see right picture). Hence the names, Delta-8 and Delta-9.
How The Products Are Produced
When you’re putting something like THC into your system, you want to make sure that it’s being produced in a way that is safe.
Delta-9 THC is a major cannabinoid naturally found in the cannabis plant. It is also the most abundant psychoactive ingredient in cannabis. Delta-8 also naturally occurs in cannabis but it’s considered a minor cannabinoid, meaning the plant only produces small amounts of Delta-8 THC.
Because there is an abundance of Delta-9 THC in cannabis, it makes it much easier (and cheaper) to be extracted from the plant. Delta-8, on the other hand, takes a lot more effort to extract naturally. This means this cannabinoid may be produced synthetically in a lab with the use of solvents.
Using solvents to treat CBD extracted from hemp is, by far, the safest and most natural way to produce Delta-8 THC. This method of manufacturing Delta-8 also ensures that the cannabinoid is of the highest quality. Because after the conversion process, it undergoes a filtration and distillation process where the end THC product is a pure solution—completely unadulterated by the solvent and other unnecessary cannabinoids that may have been mixed during the conversion process.
Legality Of Each Cannabinoid
A lot of people want to know whether Delta-8 is legal. Some states have banned the use of Delta-8 even if there are no laws saying the production of Delta-8 is prohibited. But yes—Delta-8 is federally legal!
Marijuana is still illegal on a Federal level, especially if the amount of THC is above 0.3%. That is why most states ban the use of Delta-9 THC in particular because it has a higher potency than Delta-8. Delta-9 THC is also known to have a high potential for abuse, which is why it’s classified as a Schedule I substance together with LSD and ecstasy.
When it comes to Delta-8 THC, it kind of falls inside a legal gray area—thanks to the 2018 Farm Bill passed by the federal government. The Farm Bill federally legalized THC in all its forms as long as it’s derived from hemp (and only hemp) and contains no more than 0.3% Delta-9 THC. But the DEA still listed Delta-8 THC as a controlled substance back in August 2020. This is why some states have banned not only Delta-9 but Delta-8 THC as well.
But the important thing to keep in mind is that Delta-8 THC is legal at the federal level as long as it’s derived from hemp and contains no more than 0.3% Delta-9 THC. At the state level, it really depends on the local marijuana laws. It’s always best to do research on your state’s marijuana laws before trying Delta-9 or Delta-8 THC.
Use Cases & Medicinal Benefits
Again, the use of marijuana completely depends on state laws. Some states allow the recreational use of marijuana while others only allow the use of medical marijuana which requires a prescription — so make sure to do your research! Both Delta-8 and Delta-9 THC are used for medical purposes, but Delta-9 is more regulated because of its potential for abuse.
Delta-8 and Delta-9 THC are said to help with digestive problems such as nausea and vomiting because of their antiemetic properties.
THC also has appetite-boosting effects. This effect is also known as “the munchies” and is great for helping people with eating disorders such as anorexia. However, it was also found to help with the psychological effects of anorexia nervosa. The individuals who participated in the study were said to show significant improvements in their self-reported body care, asceticism, and depression after taking THC.
There have also been studies on Delta-8 and Delta-9 THC that have proven their anticonvulsant effects on people with epilepsy. A survey conducted with the help of parents with children who have epilepsy showed that out of 18 parents, 16 of them reported seeing a decline in the frequency of seizures. Two reported complete freedom from seizures, eight saw an 80% decline in the frequency of the seizures, and six reported a 25% to 60% reduction in the frequency of seizures.
Intensity Of Effects (Potency)
One of the main questions users have about Delta-8 is whether it can get you high.
The answer? Yes, Delta-8 is also a psychoactive constituent so it definitely can get you high! But not in the way that you expect and definitely not the same kind of high you’ll experience with Delta-9.
Although the molecular structure of Delta-8 THC and Delta-9 THC are indistinguishable and the minor difference in the double bonds is pretty unnoticeable, the various effects of each cannabinoid are unique and contrasting to one another.
Delta-9 THC is most famous for its capability to get a person instantaneously, outrageously high. For regular THC users, they love the high that comes from Delta-9. But if you’re new to THC and have a low tolerance for it, we highly suggest trying out Delta-8 first instead of Delta-9.
The side effects of Delta-9 are so intense and they come so rapidly that they can trigger extreme anxiety in some cases. It can be highly psychoactive which may lead to paranoid delusions and other audio-visual sensations that can be overwhelming for some users.
Other times it’ll leave your motor skills completely impaired, your body will feel heavy, and you’ll find it very hard to move. Plus there’s brain fog which might also impair your decision-making and stop you from focusing on your daily activities.
Delta-8 THC causes a high, but it isn’t nearly as intense as the Delta-9 high. In fact, it’s the complete opposite of Delta-9! The effects of Delta-8 THC are much smoother. Instead of hitting you right away, it takes you for a long, sweet ride. It is said to promote relaxation, feelings of contentment, clearer thoughts, and a better outlook on life.
The Delta-8 THC will keep you in a mellow and calm state, but it won’t leave you impaired physically or mentally, so you can still go about your usual day with Delta-8. Another great thing about Delta-8 is that the high is more prolonged than the Delta-9 high. But if you’re worried about staying high forever, relax!. Like any substance, the high wears off eventually.
Delta-8 THC is a perfect option if you’re looking for something to take the edge off the daily stresses of life. If this is exactly what you’re looking for, make sure to check out our list of the best Delta-8 products for you.
So now that you know the various uses and effects that both Delta-8 and Delta-9 THC have, it’s good to know the recommended dosage for each. Note: You can’t actually overdose on marijuana like you would with other drugs, but you may have unpleasant experiences if you take too much. As long as you adhere to these recommended doses, you will be just fine!
Like most things about Delta-8 and Delta-9, the dosage for each of these cannabinoids also differs. Delta-8 THC has a moderate potency. It’s better for calming your nerves and helping you deal with stress and anxiety— unlike Delta-9 that has a very strong potency and can even trigger anxiety.
Because Delta-8 THC has a lower potency, you can take them at higher doses. The dosage for Delta-8 is usually around 10mg to 60 mg per dose. Delta-9, on the other hand, should be taken in moderation and in much smaller doses. The recommended dosage for Delta-9 is between 5 mg to 30mg. Of course, your personal experience with cannabis will factor in here – but ease your way in at first. You can slowly ramp up your dose over time as you get more familiar and comfortable.
Risks & Side Effects
When trying out products with THC it’s always good to know the possible risks that may come with it.
For the longest time, experts believed that smoking marijuana alone couldn’t kill you. But there is a new condition called Cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome, or CHS, that has taken the life of a 17 year-old-boy and it may take the lives of more people if moderation isn’t practiced.
CHS is a new condition that is characterized by chronic marijuana use. Despite the known and proven antiemetic properties of marijuana, CHS causes intense vomiting, nausea, and abdominal pain.
It is still unclear as to how exactly CHS works but the main cause for this condition that researchers found is chronic marijuana use combined with dehydration. More studies still need to be conducted to understand CHS better.
But do know that you can definitely avoid CHS by moderating your marijuana use or trying out other forms of marijuana that you don’t need to smoke—like gummies, oils, vapes, tinctures, etc.. Edibles are known to have longer highs, too!
Another risk that cannabis has is acute psychosis. There are several contradicting studies on cannabis and psychosis. Usually because it affects those who are already diagnosed with schizophrenia prior to smoking weed. But it’s still better to be aware of the possible risks.
Psychosis is usually more of a risk if you’re using Delta-9 THC. Delta-8, being less potent has a much smaller risk of “cannabis psychosis” occuring.
Other health risks are not yet determined and there is one silver lining. Marijuana is found to have no effects on a person’s cardiovascular health. There are two significant longitudinal studies on the long-term risks of marijuana on a person’s cardiovascular health.
The first began in the mid 1980’s and was published in 2017. This is a 25-year study that followed over 5,000 individuals. The study concluded that marijuana had no correlation to various cardiovascular diseases when compared to people who didn’t smoke marijuana.
The second study was 38 years long and was published in 2016. It involved 1,037 people and the same results were concluded. Smoking marijuana doesn’t affect a person’s cardiovascular health.
Product Regulations & Testing
Delta-8 and Delta-9 THC are manufactured into similar products. They can both be smoked, vaped, or ingested. Some companies also produce THC oils, topicals, capsules, tinctures, and even beauty products.
Although these products are available for both Delta-8 and Delta-9, not all brands are created equal. Delta-9 has been around for years and has been heavily regulated. Delta-8, however, is relatively new so there are less regulations for products containing Delta-8 THC.
With all the hype surrounding Delta-8, plenty of companies will want to manufacture Delta-8 products. But we can’t always be sure about the quality of each brand, so it’s best to buy from companies that are transparent with what’s inside their products.
There are a multiple states that allow Delta-9 to be sold in cannabis dispensaries. But finding Delta-9 online is nearly impossible due to laws and regulations making it illegal to sell and distribute Delta-9 across state lines. This is all because of the strict restrictions imposed on Delta-9.
That’s the great thing about Delta-8. Because it is legal on a federal level, it’s easier to find Delta-8 options both online and in physical stores. Want to know the best part? They can even be shipped across state lines. So you’ll find tons of online retailers selling Delta-8 THC. But if you do live in a state that doesn’t allow Delta-8, don’t expect retailers to deliver their products to you, it’s pretty obvious why.
Another word of caution, when you’re buying Delta-8 THC in physical stores, make sure to buy them from a credible brand and not just from any store. Products made with Delta-8 THC aren’t regulated by the FDA, so you can’t always be sure of the quality.
The great thing about buying online is that companies tend to be more transparent and honest with their products. Make sure to always ask for a COA and traceability of your products.
This all depends on the state that you're in and the products that you're purchasing. On average, Delta-8 options are much cheaper than Delta-9
So, which one is better – Delta-8 or Delta-9?
Delta-8 and Delta-9 have almost identical molecular structures. The two may share few differences in their molecular structure, but that small difference does make a significant and unique change to the effects of each cannabinoid.
Marijuana is illegal at the federal level but Delta-8 THC is legal since it is derived from hemp and has less than 0.3% THC. Delta-9 THC is very restricted and is considered a Schedule I controlled substance by the DEA.
Delta-8 is known to be less potent and has a more calming and relaxing effect. It may be less potent, but it is still a psychoactive drug so you do experience a high—without the extreme anxiety and possible delusions that Delta-9 causes.
Delta-8 THC also has the same benefits as Delta-9, especially for users with a weak immune system or a low tolerance to THC. You can find all kinds of Delta-8 and Delta-9 products on the market but Delta-8 products are more widely available because it is legal in more states.
In the end, it depends on the person and what kind of experience they’re after. If you’re new to using cannabis, especially THC, it’s not advised that you go for Delta-9 right away. Delta-8 THC is still preferred by most people, because it acts like the Delta-9 in terms of the benefits it provides, with a high that won’t make you feel extremely paranoid.
Just remember that there are always certain risks when you’re putting psychoactive ingredients in your system, but they can always be prevented through responsible use and moderation.