Delta-8 vs. Delta-9: What's the Difference?

by Elena Schmidt

Delta-9 THC is one of the most abundant compounds in marijuana, responsible for the trademark "high" people know and love. Delta-9 also occurs in hemp plants, which can legally contain up to 0.3% of the compound. Regardless of the source, Delta-9 has several beneficial properties, including anti-inflammation and pain relief.

Unfortunately, marijuana-derived Delta-9-THC is federally illegal and banned in many states. That's why Delta-8 products have gained traction as a popular legal alternative.

However, thanks to modern science, legal loopholes, and a bit of ingenuity, Delta-9 is making a comeback on the mainstream market. Thanks to the hemp-derived Delta-9 THC, it's possible to experience a full range of psychoactive effects while following the law.

Want to know more about the differences between Delta-8 and Delta-9 THC? Let's cover the distinctions in effects, legality, dosing, chemical structure, and more.

Delta-8 THC vs. Delta-9 THC: What's the Difference?

Delta-8 and Delta-9 are isomers of THC, the primary psychoactive compound in hemp and cannabis. Both have nearly the same chemical formula with slight differences in their atomic arrangement.

Delta-8 vs. Delta-9 THC Chemical Structure

Both Delta-8 and Delta-9 have a chain of carbon atoms in their chemical structure, but the location of the double-bond occurs in different spots. In Delta-8 THC, the double carbon bond exists on the 8th carbon atom. For delta-9, it appears on the 9th carbon atom. This slight difference in location explains more than just the names of each compound–it also explains the difference in their effects.

The Difference in Effects of Delta-9 and Delta-8

Wondering about the differences between a Delta-8 high and a Delta-9 high? Well, that may depend on the dosage, which can differ based on the source.

Delta-9 effects (Marijuana-derived)

Marijuana-derived Delta-9 THC can induce a euphoric "high." It's the classic weed effect that cannabis connoisseurs across the globe prize. Higher doses can even come with perceptual or visual changes. Some people love this intense experience, while others report feeling panicked,  paranoid, or overly groggy the next day.

Delta-8 effects (hemp-derived )

Like Delta-9, hemp-derived Delta-8 THC induces a "high" feeling. However, some report a milder experience with fewer undesirable effects. Think of Delta-8 as Delta-9 THC's more laid-back cousin. Many users say this hemp-derived isomer elicits calming effects, similar to the feeling many people associate with indica strains. At higher doses, Delta-8 can be the perfect sleep aid without the next-day brain fog.

Delta-9 effects (hemp-derived)

Delta-9 is delta-9 regardless of the plant it comes from. However, Delta-9 hemp products can only contain up to .3% of the compound per serving, meaning they may be milder than marijuana products. To get the same intense high mentioned above, one may have to eat more than one Delta-9 hemp gummy. However, there are exceptions to the rule based on how the Delta-9 product is made. That’s why it’s so important to look at the mgs per serving before consuming these products. . 

Delta-8 vs Delta-9 Extraction

Delta-9 THC is extraordinarily abundant in marijuana, making it inexpensive and straightforward to extract directly from the plant. Extraction methods range from solventless hash to butane to ethanol to CO2.

Although Delta-8 exists naturally in hemp, it only appears in trace amounts. That's why manufacturers typically produce Delta-8 by first extracting CBD from the plant. Then, chemically converting CBD into Delta-8 using proprietary solvent-based formulas.

Delta-8 THC vs. Delta-9 THC Legality

Delta-8 Legality

Delta-8 THC from hemp containing less than 0.3% Delta-9 THC is federally legal as of the 2018 Farm Bill. Still, some have questioned its legal status. However, as of 2021, the DEA clarified that Delta-9 THC remains the only federally regulated substance.

Regardless of federal law, nearly 20 states have enacted regulations against Delta-8 over the past couple of years, so it's important to research local laws before purchasing.

Delta-9 Legality

Delta-9 from marijuana plants is federally regulated and legal only in states with established medical or adult-use programs. But, technically, when derived from hemp, Delta-9 is legal in all 50 states.

Hemp-derived THC is a relative newcomer to the market, so states may consider banning it in the future. But for now, Delta-9 hemp products deliver a robust and legal "high" for anyone interested in exploring new psychoactive avenues.

Delta-8 Dosage Compared to Delta-9

Everyone's body responds to cannabinoids in different ways. Therefore, the ideal Delta-8 or Delta-9 dosages depend on height, weight, and overall tolerance level.

Since Delta-8 isn't as strong, some say the ideal dosage ranges from 10-60mg. For Delta-9 THC, however, the appropriate dosage generally falls between 5 to 30mg. Regardless, it's best to start on the lower end to determine the effects.

How Much Delta-8 Equals Delta-9? Delta-8 vs. Delta-9 Potency

According to a scientific study from the 1970s, Delta-8 has about two-thirds the potency of Delta-9. This study looked at oral and intravenous dosage, but potency might vary with different administration forms, like vaping.

Mixing Delta-8 and Delta-9: Does Delta-8 Affect Delta-9 Tolerance?

Research is limited, but since Delta-8 and Delta-9 both interact with the CB1 receptor in the brain, they could produce cross-tolerance. That said, it's best to experiment with caution and common sense and take care not to exceed 30mg of Delta-9 THC.

Does Delta-8 Stay in Your System Longer Than Delta-9?

The amount of time that Delta-8 stays in the system depends on several factors–including height, weight, metabolism, dosage, environment, and more. Since Delta-8 and Delta-9 are chemically similar, both remain detectable for about the same time. A recent study by Mayo Clinic found that Delta-9 can remain detectable from three days after a single use to approximately 30 days in those who take the compound consistently.

The presence of either compound can cause a failed drug test. Why? Drug tests look for THC metabolites, which are present in both Delta-9 and Delta-8.

The Bottom Line:

Delta-8 and Delta-9 are like two proverbial flavors from the same fantastic dish. Delta-9 is the classic version, while Delta-8 is the lighter, more laid-back edition. However, both deliver similar experiences and are legal when derived from hemp. For those looking to experience the effects first-hand, QWIN's line of Delta-9 edibles and syrups are the perfect place to start.

Elena Schmidt

Writer

Elena Schmidt is a writer, entrepreneur, and yoga teacher in Austin, Texas. She holds a journalism degree from the University of Miami and spent nearly a decade in editorial and content management for the health and beauty sectors. Today, Elena runs a boutique content marketing agency targeted towards brands that matter. Elena has found her passion supporting industries like plant medicine, cannabis, psychedelics, and wellness. She has written countless articles on these subjects and is passionate about spreading the word to those who need it most.