Cannabis and hemp plants contain dozens of chemical compounds known as cannabinoids, with unique effects on the human body. Delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol, called THC, is the most popular and abundant cannabinoid responsible for the plant’s infamous high. But Delta-9 isn’t the only THC type in hemp and marijuana. Other varieties exist with slightly different properties and psychoactive effects.
Delta-8 is one such THC variation that occurs in cannabis plants. This THC variation is much lesser known than delta-9 because it exists in only trace amounts in cannabis plants. Delta-8 is psychoactive, but its effects are less potent than delta-9.
Want to know more about delta 8 vs delta 9? This article explores their effects, legality, dosing, chemical structure, and more.
Delta 8 vs Delta 9: Overall Differences
The biggest practical difference between delta 8 and delta 9 is that delta 8 is milder than delta 9. Other distinctions occur in their natural concentrations, chemical structures, and product types.
Natural concentration and products
Delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol, or regular THC, occurs in high concentrations in cannabis plants. Smoking marijuana or consuming naturally extracted oils, edibles, and beverages is the best way to ingest potent delta-9 levels.
Delta-9 also occurs in hemp but at much lower dosages due to THC limits mandated by the federal government’s 2018 Farm Bill. Hemp-derived delta-9 products contain less than 0.3% delta-9 THC by dry weight, which can be enough to induce a psychoactive experience. But these products are typically far less potent than traditional marijuana.
On the other hand, hemp and cannabis produce almost insignificant delta-8 THC levels. Consumers can’t ingest the compound the way they do delta-9, and manufacturers can’t extract enough to produce products on a mass scale.
To make delta 8, processors first extract CBD from hemp plants and then chemically convert it into delta-8. Then they infuse the semi-synthetic delta-8 solution into oils, edibles, and extracts. Alternatively, some brands spray delta-8 distillate onto hemp flower.
Chemical structure & mechanisms
Delta 8 and delta 9 interact with the body similarly. They both activate receptors called CB1 and CB2 throughout the brain, immune system, and body, providing similar effects and benefits.
- Pain reduction
- Sleep support
- Increased relaxation
- Improved appetite
- Improved immunity
- Reduced inflammation
However, delta 8 and delta 9 have slightly different atomic structures. Delta-9’s atomic arrangement allows it to bind more intensely with CB1 and CB2 receptors.
So when people ask, “is delta 8 stronger than delta 9?” it’s actually the opposite.
Delta 9’s powerful CB1 activation means it unleashes stronger psychoactive effects. This intensity can also increase adverse side-effect risks, like impaired vision and paranoia.
Many people report Delta-8’s milder effects provide a smoother experience, posing the question: Is delta 8 better than delta 9? For some, that answer is yes while others prefer a more intense high.
Here is an overview of delta 8 vs delta 9:
Delta 9 THC
Delta 8 THC
Talkativeness and laughter
Nausea and vomiting
Insomnia and obstructive sleep apnea
Neurological disorders, such as multiple sclerosis (MS)
Potential adverse side effects (usually from high doses)
Paranoia or anxiety
Users reports indicate low side effects and little to no paranoia or anxiety
Yes, but only in trace amounts
Directly from the plant, typically involving ethanol or butane solvents.
Synthesized from hemp-derived CBD and chemically converted using acids and solvents.
Most intense high
About 50% to 75% as potent as delta-9
Federally banned unless it is produced from hemp and contains less than 0.3% by dry weight.
Federally legal when hemp- derived.
Banned or restricted in nearly 20 states.
Delta 8 vs Delta 9 Effects
Delta-9-THC is known for its potent psychoactive effects, inducing a more intense euphoria and potential for anxiety or paranoia. In contrast, Delta-8-THC is generally considered less potent, providing a milder and clearer-headed psychoactive experience, often with reduced anxiety.
Still, dosage plays a major role in how these compounds affect the mind and body.
For instance, delta 8 THC can feel a lot like delta-9 when users increase their normal THC dose to 1.3 to two-times.
Cannabis naturally contains high delta 9 THC concentrations, up to 25%, inducing a powerful euphoric "high" with classic effects like:
- Increased appetite
- Talkativeness and laughter
Some people love this intense experience, while others report feeling panicked, paranoid, or overly groggy the next day. Adverse outcome risks from high delta 9 levels include:
- Red eyes
- Rapid heartbeat
- Paranoia or anxiety
Despite the risks, delta-9 has significant therapeutic potential for conditions like:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Low appetite
- Insomnia and obstructive sleep apnea
- Muscle spasticity
- Neurological disorders, such as multiple sclerosis (MS)
Delta-8 THC induces a "high" feeling, though it is less potent when comparing like-for-like dosages to delta-9. Many users say this hemp-derived isomer elicits calming effects, like the feeling many associate with calming indica weed strains. Anecdotally, delta-8 users describe the predominant effects as heightened relaxation, pain relief, euphoria, and increased appetite.
A 2021 study of delta-8 users found that about half of the people surveyed used delta-8 for medical reasons, such as:
- Panic attacks
- Bipolar disorder
- Chronic pain
Most participants said they could perform their normal daily activities without experiencing the adverse side effects associated with cannabis use, such as paranoia and anxiety. At higher doses, Delta 8 can also be an effective sleep aid.
Delta 8 vs Delta 9 Extraction
Delta-8 THC and delta-9 THC both come from cannabis and hemp containing higher delta 9 and minimal delta 8 levels.
Delta 9 THC is abundant in cannabis, making it inexpensive and straightforward to extract directly from the plant. Extraction methods range from solventless water-based hash to solvent-based methods using butane, ethanol, or CO2 to chemically separate the compound from the plant.
Delta 8 exists in much lower quantities, so manufacturers produce this THC compound through a semi-synthetic process. Typically, manufacturers extract CBD from hemp. Then they chemically convert the CBD into delta 8 using proprietary solvents and acids formulas.
Delta-8 vs Delta-9 Chemical Structure
When looking at the delta 8 vs delta 9 molecule, it can be hard to distinguish them at a glance. Both contain the same elements, carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen, with a chain of carbon atoms. However, the double carbon bond occurs in different locations along the chain.
In delta 8 THC, the double carbon bond exists on the 8th carbon atom. For delta 9, it appears on the 9th carbon atom–hence the names “delta 9” and “delta 8.” Researchers theorize this atomic deviation could also explain differences in their receptor binding strength and effects
Delta 8 vs Delta 9 Legality
In 2018 the USDA passed an updated Farm Bill, making hemp and hemp-derived compounds like delta 8 legal if they contain less than 0.3% delta 9 THC by dry weight. Delta 8 products soared in popularity nationwide as a result.
Regardless of federal law, nearly 20 states have enacted regulations against delta 8 over the past few years, so it's important to research local rules before purchasing.
Delta-9’s legal status is complicated.
Delta 9 THC appears on the DEA’s Controlled Substances List as a Schedule I illicit substance, making it federally banned nationwide. However, state marijuana laws and the 2018 Farm Bill makes delta-9 legal in specific circumstances.
- States with established adult-use programs allow all delta-9 products and concentrations.
- Delta 9 is also legal nationwide from low-THC hemp containing less than 0.3% delta 9 by dry weight.
Hemp-derived delta 9 THC is a relative newcomer to the market, so states may consider banning it in the future. But for now, hemp delta 9 products deliver a robust and legal "high" for anyone interested in exploring new avenues. Concentrations are lower than marijuana, but many hemp-derived delta 9 products also contain delta 8 to boost the overall potency.
Delta 8 Dosage Compared to Delta 9
Everyone's body responds to cannabinoids in different ways. Therefore, the ideal delta 8 dosage compared to delta 9 depends on a person’s height, weight, and overall tolerance level.
The appropriate dosage for delta-9 THC generally falls between 5 to 30 mg when consuming edibles. The appropriate delta 8 dosage may vary since isn't as strong,
People who prefer a milder high might also start with 5 mg of delta 8. Others might start with 6.5 to 10 mg to amplify the effects. Regardless, it's best to begin on the lower end to determine the effects and move up slowly from there.
Delta 8 Potency vs Delta 9
Delta 8 vs delta 9 potency differs significantly between the two cannabinoids. 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.
The study findings mean that the delta 8 to delta 9 conversion is about 1.3 servings of delta-8 to 1 serving of delta-9. When deciding how much delta 8 to equal delta 9, consider starting with a dose of no more than twice as much.
Delta 8 Tolerance vs Delta 9
Delta-8 and Delta-9 THC can have different effects on tolerance. Tolerance refers to the body's familiarity with the substance, resulting in reduced sensitivity or less intense effects over time.
Some people may experience a slower development of tolerance with delta 8 compared to delta 9 because delta 8 is about two-thirds the strength. Delta-9 THC is known to lead to tolerance development relatively quickly, where people need higher doses to achieve the desired effects.
However, individual responses can vary, and more research is needed to fully understand the differences in tolerance development between Delta-8 and Delta-9 THC.
Does Delta 8 Stay in Your System Longer Than Delta 9?
Whether delta 8 stays in your system longer than delta 9 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.
Mixing Delta 8 and Delta 9
Several products, like vapes, edibles and beverages, blend delta 8 and delta 9. Combined, these compounds can produce synergistic effects due to their interaction with the body's receptors.
Some people find that mixing delta 8 and delta 9 leads to a more intense effect, with heightened euphoria, relaxation and altered perception. Different ratios may result in varying potency levels and degrees of euphoria, mental clarity, sedation, or other subjective effects. Finding the right balance for an individual's preferences and desired experience is critical.
Disclaimer: Researchers have not explored the exact mechanisms or safety profile of combining delta 8 and delta 9.
The Bottom Line:
Delta 8 and Delta 9 have key distinctions in product types, potency, legality, and chemical structures. However, both deliver similar experiences and are federally legal when derived from hemp. For those looking to experience the effects first-hand, buy delta 9 online or delta 8 from QWIN's store.