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Delta 8 THC vs Delta 9 THC: Understanding the Differences

Medically Reviewed By:

Dr. Denise Foster, PhD, MSN, RN, CNE 
2/6/24

Delta 8 THC vs Delta 9 THC

Table of Contents

Delta-8 THC, a variant of the delta-9 compound, interacts with CB1 receptors in a milder manner compared to delta-9 THC, leading to a less intense psychoactive effect. This characteristic of delta-8 THC makes it a favored choice for individuals seeking its therapeutic advantages, as it doesn’t induce a strong intoxicating experience like delta-9 THC.

When it comes to cannabis, many different compounds are created within the plant, including delta-8-tetrahydrocannabinol (Delta 8 THC) and delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Delta 9 THC). Although they are both forms of THC, a lot of readers struggle to discover the difference between Delta 8 and Delta 9.

Below are some of the key differences that you will find with each.

Holding Delta 9 THC Gummies
Federally legal Delta 9 THC products usually come in the form of edibles or gummies.

What is Delta 9 THC?

Delta 9 THC is the most commonly known and widely studied form of THC. It is often referred to as the “original” THC because it was the first form of THC to be discovered and isolated in the 1940s by Raphael Mechoulam and his research team. It is responsible for the majority of the psychoactive effects associated with cannabis, including the “high” that users experience. This high is what has made Delta 9 THC so well-known and widely used.

How does Delta 9 THC work?

Delta 9 THC works by interacting with the endocannabinoid system, a group of receptors and neurotransmitters that regulate various physiological processes in the body. When Delta 9 THC is consumed, it binds to the CB1 receptors located in the brain and central nervous system. This binding disrupts the normal functioning of these receptors, leading to a change in neurotransmitter release and information processing. These effects are commonly known as the “high” associated with THC.

The Delta 9 THC “High” Effect

The effects of Delta 9 THC can vary greatly depending on the person, their tolerance, method of consumption, and the amount consumed. It’s also worth mentioning that these factors can also dictate how rapidly the effects onset. For example, Vaping or smoking Delta 9 THC generally produces a more rapid onset of effects than ingesting Delta 9 gummies or drops. Generally, when consumed, Delta 9 THC will produce a euphoric and sometimes energetic high. Those who speak positively about the benefits of Delta 9 THC may sometimes claim the “high” effect can also increase creativity, enhance sensory experiences, and lead to introspection. For some users who have negative experiences, most claim the effects can also lead to anxiety or paranoia, particularly if they consume too much.

man-holding-delta-8-vape-cart
Delta 8 THC has a wide variety of consumption methods, including vape cartridges.

What is Delta 8 THC?

Delta 8 THC, also known as delta-8-tetrahydrocannabinol, is the lesser well-known form of THC of the two found in smaller amounts in cannabis plants. Delta 8 THC is considered to have a weaker potency and less potent psychoactive effects than its more commonly known counterpart, Delta 9 THC.

How does Delta 8 THC work?

Delta 8 THC is a less commonly found form of THC that has a similar structure to Delta 9 THC but with a few key differences. Delta 8 THC works by binding to the CB1 receptors in the brain, much like Delta 9 THC, but it is thought to have a lower affinity for these receptors, meaning that it binds to them less strongly. This results in a more subtle and less intense psychoactive effect than what is typically experienced with Delta 9 THC. Additionally, some studies suggest that Delta 8 THC may also interact with other parts of the endocannabinoid system, contributing to its unique effects.

The Delta 8 THC “High” Effect

The experience of a Delta 8 THC high is often described by users as being more calming and less intense than the high associated with Delta 9 THC. This is due to the fact that Delta 8 THC is considered to have a lower psychoactivity level compared to Delta 9 THC. This means that individuals who consume Delta 8 THC may still experience some of the therapeutic benefits associated with THC but without the intense euphoria that is often associated with cannabis products. Additionally, some people may find that Delta 8 THC is less likely to cause anxiety or paranoia, which can be common side effects of Delta 9 THC. This has been theorized to be due to Delta 8 THC’s lower binding affinity for CB1 receptors in the brain. As a rule of thumb, we usually suggest that Delta 8 THC’s potency per milligram is about half as potent as Delta 9 THC. This is why you usually see products like Delta 8 Gummies or Delta 8 Carts with a higher milligram count than their Delta 9 THC counterpart.

Combining Cannabinoids
Different cannabinoids, including Delta 8 THC and Delta 9 THC, each give different effects and benefits.

Delta 8 vs Delta 9: Difference in Effects and Duration

Another important consideration when it comes to the effects of Delta 8 THC and Delta 9 THC is the duration of the effects. Delta 9 THC is known to have a longer-lasting and more intense high, while the effects of Delta 8 THC tend to be more subtle and shorter-lived. This can be beneficial for those who want to experience the therapeutic benefits of THC without the prolonged psychoactive effects that are associated with Delta 9 THC.

It’s also worth noting that the effects of Delta 8 THC and Delta 9 THC can vary depending on the person and the dose consumed. It’s always best to start with a low dose and to consult with a healthcare professional before consuming any THC products.

Can you Mix Delta 8 and Delta 9 together?

Delta 8 and Delta 9 THC can be mixed. Some cannabis products naturally contain both Delta 8 and Delta 9 THC in varying ratios, offering users a unique and potentially well-rounded experience. These products are designed to take advantage of the different effects of each type of THC and provide a combination of the benefits of both. However, it’s important to note that the legality of Delta 8 THC is still somewhat unclear, and it may be regulated differently from Delta 9 THC, depending on where you are. Before using any products containing Delta 8 THC, it’s always a good idea to check the local laws and regulations to ensure that it’s legal in your area.

Although both are forms of THC, local and federal legislation about Delta 8 and Delta 9 differs.

Legality of Delta 8 THC vs Delta 9 THC in the United States

When it comes to legal status, Delta 8 THC is considered to be a bit more of a legal gray area. While it is not explicitly illegal under federal law, it is not specifically legal either. However, it’s important to note that the 2018 farm bill legalized hemp-derived products, including hemp-derived Delta 9 THC, as long as it contains less than 0.3% Delta 9 THC. So, some Delta 9 products are federally legal as long as they meet these criteria. In contrast, Delta 9 THC, which is derived from cannabis, is still illegal under federal law but is legal in some states for medical or recreational use.

Recap

In conclusion, while both Delta 8 THC and Delta 9 THC are forms of THC, they have some key differences in terms of their legal status, psychoactive effects, and metabolism. It’s important to understand the difference before consuming any THC products. It’s always good to check your state’s laws and regulations before using any THC products and to ensure that the products you’re consuming are hemp-derived and contain less than 0.3% Delta 9 THC if you want to consume a federally legal product.

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