Delta 8 vs Delta 9 THC: What to Know, Similarities, & Differences

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Written by | July 11th, 2023

Introduction to Delta-8 THC and Delta-9 THC

In the past two years, the cannabis industry has seen numerous products featuring the minor cannabinoid, Delta-8 THC, come to market, yet not a lot of consumers understand how Delta-8 and products featuring it are different from its kissing and somewhat stronger cousin, Delta-9. For those who are new to cannabis consumption, understanding the similarities and differences is important for having a positive, safe experience.

Delta-8 and Delta-9 are two different forms of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the main psychoactive compound found in cannabis. While the plant contains significant amounts of Delta-9 THC, it produces very little Delta-8, which makes the latter a minor cannabinoid. The main differences between the two are their chemical structures and the effects one feels when consuming them. Although they are both naturally present in the plant, connect to the same receptor in the brain, and have similar chemical structures, there are some significant differences between them as well.

Importance of understanding the differences between Delta-8 THC and Delta-9 THC

Because there are an increasing number of products coming to market featuring Delta-8, it’s important for consumers to understand the difference between the two and what they should look for when purchasing a product. In terms of the two’s psychoactive effects, delta-8’s psychoactive effects are purportedly weaker than delta-9’s.

When evaluating products, consumers should do their homework, such as checking a company’s website for Certificates of Analysis, which verify the potency stated on the label as well as ensure the product has been tested. It’s also important to know that delta-8 is not often sourced directly from the plant but is instead created from the synthesis of CBD, which can involve chemicals that should not be consumed. They should also look out for companies that claim their product can treat or cure medical conditions, which is strictly prohibited by the FDA.

What is Delta-8 THC?

Definition and chemical structure of Delta-8 THC

Like CBD, Delta-8 THC is one of over 100 compounds found in the cannabis plant, yet Delta-8 can also be synthetically created in a lab from CBD and hemp. It is often created in a lab because there are not large amounts of the minor cannabinoid in the hemp or cannabis plants. In terms of its chemical structure, delta-8 THC has a double bond on the 8th carbon chain.

How Delta-8 THC is derived from the cannabis plant

Delta-8-THC is typically derived from hemp, which contains lower levels of Delta-9-THC compared to marijuana. It can be produced through various extraction and purification methods.

Legal status of Delta-8 THC in different regions

The legal status of Delta-8 THC varies by state and local jurisdictions. The 2018 Farm Bill allowed for the sale of hemp derived products, as long as the level of THC was under 0.3%. Because Delta-8 is derived from hemp, it is technically “legal” as long as the THC contents of the product meet that threshold of less that 0.3%. That said, Delta-8 products are no longer allowed in a number of states given some of the adverse effects some consumers have experienced after ingestion, while other states have created explicit regulations for these products.

The states where Delta-8 products are not allowed are: Alaska, Washington, Oregon, California, Arizona, Idaho, Montana, Maryland, Colorado, North Dakota, Iowa, Mississippi, New York, Delaware, and Rhode Island.

The states where Delta-8 products are regulated are: Nevada, Utah, South Dakota, Minnesota, Louisiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Virginia, and Maryland, Connecticut and Vermont.

In all other states, Delta-8 remains unregulated.

What is Delta-9 THC?

Definition and chemical structure of Delta-9 THC

Delta-9 THC is a major cannabinoid present in the cannabis plant that has psychoactive, intoxicating effects that makes most people feel “high.” Like Delta-8, Delta-9’s chemical structure also has a double bond on it, located on the 9th carbon chain.

Natural occurrence and concentration in cannabis plants

Cannabinoids like THC are chemical compounds that occur naturally in the cannabis plant. As a cannabis plant grows and matures, its chemical makeup changes. A young plant will have a considerable amount of cannabidiolic acid, which eventually is converted to cannabidiol. When the plant has fully flowered, the cannabidiol converts to

THC in the plant’s trichomes. Typically THC levels in the plant range from 0.3% to 4%, but in some strains that are specially grown for high potency, the level can reach 25%.

Legal status of Delta-9 THC in different regions

As the main psychoactive compound in cannabis, Delta-9-THC is generally classified as a controlled substance. Medical or recreational use is allowed in many states and can be purchased in dispensaries and in some states, from delivery services. When Delta-9 is derived from hemp, products can be sold online and in stores and regular locations as long as it comes in a product that contains less than 0.3% THC by weight.

Differences Between Delta-8 THC and Delta-9 THC

Psychoactive properties and potency

Delta-9 THC is known for its potent psychoactive effects, often associated with the high or euphoria typically associated with cannabis use. In terms of its psychoactivity, Delta-8 THC is considered to be less potent; users often describe the effects of Delta-8 as milder and less intoxicating.

Medical applications and therapeutic potential

People have been using cannabis for medicinal purposes for thousands of years, dating as far back as 2700BC. The medical and therapeutic benefits are most often attributed to CBD and THC, the two major cannabinoids found in the plant. Cannabis has been used anecdotally for a number of different reasons, including inflammation, seizure disorders, relief from pain, improvement in sleep, stimulation of appetite, and the reduction of the nausea and vomiting.

Side effects and safety considerations

The adverse effects of consuming Delta-9 depend on several factors, such as how much a person takes and the quality of the cannabinoid. One might feel paranoia, increased anxiety, sleepiness, dry mouth, confusion, and feeling dissatisfied or unhappy.

Potential Benefits and Uses of Delta-8 THC

The potential benefits of using Delta-8 are similar to those of Delta-9. They include: Improved sleep, relief from pain, reduced inflammation, relief from anxiety and stress, increased appetite, and prevention of sensory overload.

Potential Risks and Concerns of Delta-8 THC

The adverse effects of Delta-8 depend on how much is consumed and the quality of the product. Some of the effects could include lethargy, anxiety, dry eyes and mouth, increased heart rate, disorientation, and impaired coordination

Other risks involved with Delta-8 consumption are related to the way the products are manufactured. The FDA warns that some products may contain potentially harmful chemicals or contaminants that are used during the process of synthesis used to produce Delta-8.

Lack of research and long-term studies

Unlike Delta-9 THC which has been the subject of numerous scientific studies across the world, Delta-8 has not undergone similar scientific research or testing. Because of this, the potential risks and long-term effects associated with Delta-8. Additionally, long-term effects and potential risks associated with its use are not well-understood.

Regulatory challenges and product quality control

Given the meteoric rise in popularity – and availability – of Delta-8, the industry and regulatory bodies have to work quickly to ensure that products for consumer use are safe and accurate in their dosing. Without proper and consistent regulation as well as comprehensive quality control, companies run the risk of producing products that are inaccurately labeled, inconsistent in terms of potency, and contain impurities, which could pose a health risk to consumers.

Implications for drug testing and legality

It’s important for consumers of Delta-8 THC to know that the cannabinoid can be detected by a drug test. Standard saliva or urine tests typically focus on Delta-9; however, the body can convert Delta-8 THC into Delta-9, which may lead to a positive result.

Potential for abuse and addiction

As is true with many substances, both Delta-8 and Delta-9 can produce pleasurable effects. A reliance on these feelings can contribute to the potential for addiction, as consumers may seek to repeat these positive experiences and feelings by continuing to use the substance.

Final Thoughts

There is no doubt that Delta-8 THC and products containing it are having a moment in the spotlight in 2023, and many companies are hustling to bringing new products to market to meet consumer demand. If you are in the process of evaluating water-soluble emulsions for infused products featuring Delta-8, your best resource is SōRSE given our long-standing track record of producing safe, stable and scalable ingredients for CPG. To learn more, contact us today!