Delta-8 vs. Delta-9 What’s The Difference?

There was a time when the entire cannabis plant was demonized for its psychoactive effects.

A lot has changed since then. But not for the culprit that causes all those hallucinatory, mind-altering, paranoia- and anxiety-inducing effects!

Scientists have been able to prove that the entire plant isn’t to blame for the psychotropic effects. They were able to isolate Delta-9 THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) as the compound that wreaks havoc on consumers’ minds and bodies. They also concluded that not all forms of THC were responsible for that high-intensity euphoria that often leads to people getting stoned.

They also found evidence that proved that there are several other forms aka isomers of THC that could, in some ways, boost human health and wellness and not get them zonked.

That is when scientists earlier referred to THC, they usually meant Delta-9 or D9 THC. But now, they make it a point to segregate the different isomers. One of them is Delta-8 THC.

Delta-8 THC’s Chemical Difference With Delta-9 THC?

Structurally, Delta-8 is quite similar to Delta-9 THC. For most people, Delta-8 THC is a new compound. But it was discovered way back in 1975, alongside Delta-9 THC. During the same time, it was seen to hinder and reduce tumor cell growth in rats.

According to studies conducted by the National Cancer Institute, Delta-8 THC is a tetrahydrocannabinol analog with a slightly different chemical structure. Delta-8 THC was found to possess anxiolytic, neuroprotective, antiemetic, analgesic, and appetite-stimulating properties. It binds with G-protein coupled receptors CB1 and CB2 in the endocannabinoid system (ECS).

However, Delta-8’s binding capacity to the CB1 receptors is relatively weak, owing to the position of its C=C double bond. While both compounds have a similar structure, the C=C double bond in Delta-9 THC is in the (as the term indicates) ninth position. However, in the case of Delta-8 THC, it is in the eighth position of the tricyclic chain compound. This influences their respective interaction with the ECS.

While Delta-9 THC tightly binds with the CB1 receptors, Delta-8 fails to do so, thereby weakening its psychotropic effects that are determined by the compound’s ability to interact with these receptors.

Moreover, Delta-9 is considered a major cannabinoid, even in hemp. However, Delta-8 is a minor cannabinoid, owing to its minuscule presence in the natural form.

Delta-9 THC is not very stable as compared to Delta-8. Delta-9 oxidizes very easily and becomes cannabinol (CBN). However, the structural boundaries of Delta-8 are very stable. and, thus, it does not break down easily. This gives Delta-8 a considerably longer shelf life.

How Delta-8’s Action & Mechanism Differ From Delta-9

Owing to the slight difference in their chemical structure, Delta-8 is not as intensely psychotropic as Delta-9. While Delta-9 binds closely with CB1 receptors, the affinity of Delta-8 towards CB1 receptors is mostly quite weak.

Note that the psychotropic effects are influenced by a cannabinoid’s affinity to the CB1 receptors of the ECS. So, the consumption of Delta-9 THC produces a very characteristic heady buzz, whereas Delta-8 causes a milder form of euphoria, where the mind remains clear and focused while the body is relaxed. Delta-8 does not impair your mental faculties.

This is why, despite Delta-9 having so many tried and tested benefits, Delta-8 is an ideal alternative for medicinal purposes. The latter shares all the beneficial potencies with the former, without causing any of the paranoia, anxiety, and mental confusion.

The Two THCs: Side Effects

This is a frequently asked question by millions of individuals—is the consumption of THC safe or can it cause any fatal side effect?

The simple, yet honest answer is that most cannabinoids can be useful if they are used for therapeutic benefits. If you use it in a controlled way and at the right dosage, it will not cause any undesirable effects.

Cannabinoids are available in several forms such as edibles, tinctures, topicals, vapes, concentrates, and raw herbs. The dosage would vary accordingly. The side effects would also depend on your intake method and dosage.

So, coming to that…

D-8 vs. D-9 THC: Dosage and Consumption

Delta-8 has the optimal effect at the single standard dose of 10–40 mg. The amount usually varies according to the intensity of the effect the consumer is expecting, his/her body weight, and age. On the contrary, it will take you only about 5–20 mg of Delta-9 to get high.

Both the products are usually consumed in similar ways—vaping, smoking, through edibles such as capsules and gummies, tinctures, carts, and topicals. In both cases, sublingual exposure and inhalation bring about much quicker effects as compared to topical application and oral ingestion.

The major difference between the two is regarding their availability. While Delta-9 is readily available in the black market, genuine Delta-8 THC is tough to find. The reason is that the latter is found in very low concentrations in the cannabis plant.

Also, Delta-9 is illegal across the US, whereas Delta-8 is legal in most US states, as long as it’s derived from natural hemp (and not marijuana) and the level of Delta-9 THC in the final products is less than 0.3%.

Delta-8 and Delta-9 THC: Legalities

Thanks to the legislative changes brought about by the 2018 Farm Bill in the status of cannabis, all hemp-based products are legal as long as they do not contain over 0.3% Delta-9 THC. In other words, marijuana remains illegal, while all hemp-derived cannabinoids are, now, legal.

And, that makes Delta-8 THC legal, i.e., of course, if it is derived from natural hemp, which does not contain over 0.3% D-9.

However, there is a catch.

As we mentioned earlier, Delta-8 is found in only trace quantities in hemp plants. That makes it extremely difficult for cannabis growers and manufacturers to obtain a significant amount of this compound. That is why some companies had started to derive this compound through the chemical synthesis of other cannabinoids.

However, the law forbids the derivation of any cannabinoid compound from another compound – even if the source compound is naturally obtained from hemp.

Incidentally, Delta-8, which is an isomer of Delta-9, can be easily procured by chemically synthesizing Delta-9 reviews. But that is forbidden.

While some illegal brands continue to do that, other, more responsible, ones have opted to derive Delta-8 from CBD. Numerous other legitimate companies still adhere to the “legal” way of deriving Delta-8, i.e., directly from hemp, making their products extremely expensive owing to the massive amount of plant material required to get substantial levels of this compound to manufacture any product.

Unlike Delta-9, Delta-8 THC has a much weaker psychoactive potency. That is why the federal government has not struck down on this compound – like it has for Delta-9. However, not all states are comfortable with that.

Currently, 11 states, including Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Idaho, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, Rhode Island, and Utah, do not allow its entry into their territory. Meanwhile, the authorities of several other states are contemplating banning it as well.

Delta-9 THC, meanwhile, remains illegal across the nation, except for a few states where recreational marijuana is permitted.

Any product that has high levels of Delta-9 THC, like raw marijuana, will get you high. That is why legitimate manufacturers specifically mention their products’ Delta-9 THC levels.

Delta-8 and Delta-9 THC: Medical Uses

A 1995 study, published in the Life Sciences, discussed the effects of Delta-8 on children with hematologic cancer and undergoing treatment that includes chemotherapy. It was noted that this compound displays significant antiemetic benefits. It helped curb nausea and vomiting tendencies, without posing any potential health risk.

Although Delta-9 THC is also similarly useful, we are all too aware of the wide range of side effects it can have.

Numerous preclinical and clinical studies have revealed several other interesting facts about the properties of these two compounds.

Owing to its lower psychotropic potency, though, Delta-8 remains a safer and more effective bet over its highly potent sibling.  

Besides, one of the major arguments in favor of the legalization of cannabis products is that it possesses analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties. Delta-8 is among those cannabinoids that can help reduce inflammation and pain.

Again, Delta-9, when taken in high doses, could cause anxiety and paranoia. Whereas, Delta-8 THC is known to ease anxiety and stress and promote alertness and focus, even while relaxing the body. Although research in this area is still ongoing, anecdotal evidence seems to suggest it does have this effect. Some people feel they are in a better headspace since they started consuming Delta-8 THC.

However, there is also some evidence that indicates that “too much D-8” could have the same effects as that of D-9.

Another benefit that many D-8 users have experienced is that of an appetite stimulant. Cannabis users say that they feel very hungry after smoking a joint. The reason is that the smoke contains considerable amounts of Delta-9 THC. But the same is true for Delta-8, as well. In fact, it has also been found to induce weight gain to a certain extent among anorexic patients.

No matter whether you choose to take Delta-8 for any health issue or simply to relax, we would still advise you not to drive or operate any heavy machinery after consuming Delta-8 THC. Weak as they may be, this compound’s psychotropic effects are still quite potent.

However, note that Delta-9 (as medical cannabis) has been utilized in some cases to treat some health issues. However, D-8 has not been used in that way yet.

Parting Thoughts:

If you must get high, choose Delta-8 over any other marijuana product. It is safer, and most importantly, legal.

A lot of research into tapping in on the endocannabinoid system’s ability to regulate our bodily functions and performance is going on. Let’s hope we find more evidence of this compound’s benefits, soon, before this compound becomes inaccessible to us, again.

However, bear in mind that you won’t get as high as you should with Delta-9 THC. Nevertheless, to make it count and make it worth the money you paid for it, start with a small dose and increase only if needed.

Also, it’s best to consult a physician before taking any cannabinoid products, especially if you suffer from any chronic condition or are on any regular medication. 

Ministry of Hemp is America's leading hemp advocate.

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