Delta-9 vs. Delta-10: What’s the Difference?

by Elena Schmidt

Delta-9 THC is the "OG" of cannabis, popularized for the psychoactive effects people know and love. Delta-9 is also the most abundant chemical compound, along with CBD, in marijuana. However, Delta-9 isn't the only-child people once thought it was. In reality, Delta-9 has at least seven molecular siblings, known as isomers. And 20 years after scientists studied Delta-9 in 1964, they successfully extracted the second isomer known as Delta-10.

Today Delta-10 products appear on shelves across the country, and unlike Delta-9, they're federally legal. So, how does Delta-10 compare to Delta-9 in effects, products, and legality? Is Delta–10 THC stronger than Delta-9? And how do people describe the Delta-10 vs. Delta-9 high? Let's explore.

Delta-10 vs Delta-9 Extraction

Delta-9 and Delta-10 typically undergo very different extraction processes due to their distinct potency levels in the plant. Delta-9 is extraordinarily potent in marijuana cultivars, which contain up to 25% or more of the compound. As a result, commercial manufacturers quickly and inexpensively extract marijuana-based Delta-9 using solvents like ethanol, CO2, and hydrocarbons. Alternatively, some use more craft methods like solventless water-based extraction to create purer blends. As a result, nearly all cannabis-based Delta-9 products undergo plant extraction. However, hemp-based Delta-9 edibles and oils concentrates may undergo a slightly different process that aligns more closely with Delta-10 extraction methods.

Unlike Delta-9 extracts, nearly all Delta-10 products are hemp-based and created through a chemical conversion process. Why? Delta-10 occurs in such trace amounts (for less than 1%) that it's extraordinarily inefficient and expensive to pull it directly from the plant. Manufacturers would waste significant biomass only to produce a small amount of product. As a result, most brands create Delta-10 from hemp-based extracts. Here's how it works:

Typically processors first remove CBD due to its abundance in hemp plants. Then, they add solvents and acids to convert CBD into Delta-10 using standardized lab practices. After the conversion, manufacturers thoroughly cleanse the solution of residual solvents and prepare the extract for final production into an edible, concentrate, or distillate.

Delta-10 vs. Delta-9 Chemical Structure

Just like with Delta-9 vs Delta-8, the difference between Delta-10 and Delta-9 regarding chemical structures is nearly indistinguishable to the naked eye. Delta-10 and Delta-9 are isomers of the same molecule, meaning they have slightly different atomic arrangements. For example, delta-10 contains a double-bond electron on its 10th atom chain, while Delta-9's double bond appears on its 9th atom chain. 

The Differences in Effect Profiles of Delta-9 and Delta-10

Disclaimer: Describing the Delta-10 vs. Delta-9 high requires a bit of overgeneralization. Ultimately, Delta-10 and Delta-9 effects profiles depend on the dosage, product type, and other cannabinoids and terpenes the product contains. With that said, most people report that Delta-9 delivers more intense euphoria, perceptual changes, and physical sensations. In other words, Delta-9 is anecdotally stronger than Delta-10. That's why Delta-10 consumers say they need higher dosages to feel the effects. Consumers describe Delta-10 as more "Sativa-like," reporting uplifting and energizing results that are great for daytime use.

Delta-10 Dosage Compared to Delta-9

Delta-9 and Delta-10 products exist in various forms, affecting the dosage recommendations. Additionally, dosing best practices depend on the person's cannabis experience and the outcomes they seek.

After an initial experimentation period, those with Delta-9 experience might consider increasing their Delta-10 dosage on like-for-like products. For example, people who can handle one-gram joints with 25% Delta-9 potency might consider a Delta-10 pre-roll with 50% or higher concentration. Similarly, those who like 5 mg Delta-9 THC gummies could do well with 10 mg Delta-10 gummies. That said, it's wise to start low and slow with any new cannabinoid before increasing the dosage.

Those new to both Delta-9 and Delta-10 might consider starting with cannabis tinctures to determine the best dose. Delta-9 and Delta-10 tinctures allow people to control their doses and incrementally increase or decrease until they find their sweet spot.

Others may want to start with vape products. Vaping can be another great entry point for Delta-9 and Delta-10 beginners as long as they take small hits and wait at least 10 minutes before inhaling more.

Those who decide to start with edibles should do so conservatively: about 1.5 mg for Delta-9 THC and about 5 mg for Delta-10 products.

Differences in Legality and Availability

Legality and availability may be the most significant difference between Delta-10 and Delta-9 THC. However, legality depends on the state and the plant from which the compounds are derived. In many cases today, Delta-9 and Delta-10 are broadly available and permitted across the country. Let's explain.

Delta-9

Until recently, the government banned all marijuana-based Delta-9 THC as a Schedule 1 illicit substance. However, Delta-9's explicit prohibition evolved when legislators passed the Farm Bill in 2018. The Bill legalized hemp, defined as any cannabis sativa plant containing less than 0.3% Delta-9 THC by dry weight. As a by-product of the law, Delta-9 THC became federally legal as long it comes from low-THC hemp.

Now, cannabis enthusiasts and novices alike have access to legal hemp-derived Delta-9 products online and in stores across the country. However, those looking for potent Delta-9 marijuana, extracts, and edibles must still follow local laws until the federal government declassifies the substance. 

Read more about Delta-9 legality in the US. 

Delta-10

Wondering, where is Delta-10 legal? Unlike Delta-9, the answer is that Delta-10 is available almost everywhere. Remember, the Farm Bill legalized all hemp strains that contain less than 0.3% Delta-9 THC. However, the Bill doesn't mention the other THC isomers, like Delta-10 and Delta-8. So all Delta-10 commercial products derived from hemp are federally legal and accepted in nearly every state of the country. But not every place allows it.

At least four states, including New York, Colorado, Alaska, and Vermont, banned Delta-10 sales, despite their pro-cannabis stances overall. As a result, unfortunately, Delta-10's regulatory story seems to be following closely behind Delta-8 THC.

Just a few years ago, hemp brands began selling legal, psychoactive Delta-8 THC to the excitement of countless Americans. Sales exploded, but regulators–particularly in adult-use states–weren't so excited about the substance. For example, many cited Delta-8 THC brands for taking advantage of legal loopholes in the Farm Bill. Additionally, they expressed safety concerns over solvent-based manufacturing methods. As a result, 17 states enacted official bans, and some expanded the laws to include Delta-10. However, Delta-8 and Delta-10 are still driving hemp market sales despite their best efforts and show no signs of slowing down.

Delta-10 vs. Delta-9 Product Types

There are far more similarities than differences when it comes to Delta-10 vs. Delta-9 product types.

Delta-10 and Delta-9 Edibles

Infused edibles are one of the most beloved products by experienced cannabis customers. People love Delta-10 and Delta-9 edibles because they're discreet and taste great. Delta-10 and Delta-9 edibles come in various forms and flavors, but fan favorites include cookies, taffy, gummies, chocolate bars, rice crispies, and cakes.

People also love edibles because they deliver more intense psychoactive effects and last significantly longer than most cannabinoid products. Edibles exhibit stronger euphoric and physical properties because the body processes them much differently than smoking.

For example, when a person inhales or vapes Delta-10 or Delta-9, their bloodstream absorbs and eliminates the compounds relatively quickly. However, when a person ingests edibles, their stomach and liver slowly metabolize the compounds into a more potent version known as 11-hydroxy-THC. As a result, the onset takes about an hour, with psychoactive effects lasting several hours.

Those characteristics are ideal for many people. However, others prefer a quicker onset, less intensity, and more control over dosage.

Delta-10 and Delta-9 Beverages

Delta-9 and Delta-10 beverages are also popular for some of the same reasons as edibles–they typically taste delightful and are highly unsuspecting. These infused drinks come in various forms like syrups, sodas, coffees, and juices and are widely available online and in dispensaries.

Like edibles, beverages can also provide an intense experience depending on the dose, and quantity one takes. However, beverages are much different than edibles in that the onset and duration of effects are much shorter. Typically Delta-10 and Delta-9 beverages kick in, starting around ten to fifteen minutes, and subside within an hour. This allows the customer to feel the mental and physical benefits without devoting a significant portion of their day to the experience.

Delta-10 and Delta-9 Vapes

Connoisseurs to newbies alike love Delta-9 and Delta-10 vape products. Vapes deliver a smoother smoking experience because they're not burning paper or plant material. Instead, they heat the Delta-9 or Delta-10 until the concentrate is hot enough to create an aerosol instead of harsh smoke. Vapes are also more discreet than hemp or cannabis flower because their mild scent quickly dissipates, leaving no smoke trail behind. Additionally, vapes come in disposable form, making them uber convenient for people on the go.

Since vapes contain cannabinoid concentrates, they're more potent than hemp and cannabis flower. Delta-9 vapes, in particular, can be extraordinarily powerful and pure. On the other hand, Delta-10 vapes are slightly less pure but still very powerful. Typically, they contain no more than 50% Delta-10 because the compound is much more difficult and expensive to extract from the plant. As a result, Delta-10 vapes typically incorporate other THC isomers like Delta-8, cannabinoids like CBD, and botanical terpenes for flavor and taste.

Delta-10 and Delta-9 Flower

High Delta-9 marijuana flower is the most classic form for traditional cannabis users. Additionally, research also shows flower is still the top-selling cannabis product (61%) by far.

Smoking Delta-9 flower in a bowl or pre-roll allows consumers to ingest the entire plant, benefiting from its full spectrum of cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids. Additionally, some people prefer natural marijuana flower because it’s less potent than vapes, edibles, and oils. For many people, a milder experience rife with hundreds of beneficial compounds is precisely what the doctor ordered. For others, the experience feels too harsh on the lungs and isn't quite subtle enough for everyday use.

Delta-10 flower also exists, but not it's not quite as natural as Delta-9. As discussed, Delta-10 appears in undetectable amounts in hemp and cannabis. So users wouldn't effectively experience Delta-10's benefits from smoking freshly harvested plants. To overcome this issue, savvy manufacturers create Delta-10 distillates and then spray the formulas on top of the flower. Voila!

Delta-10 and Delta-9 Concentrates

Delta-9 and Delta-10 concentrates aren't quite flower-level popularity status. But they're certainly rising stars across the hemp and cannabis industries. According to a recent MJBiz Daily article, non-vaping concentrates rose more than 40% last year as dabbing entered the mainstream cannabis conversation. Dabbing concentrates include budder, crumble, hash, lief, live resin, moon rocks, rosin, shatter, sugar, sauce, and wax. To consume these highly potent products, consumers must ingest them in a smoking device known as a dab rig.

Delta-10 and Delta-9 concentrates are exciting innovations, but new or sensitive users should avoid starting with these products. Instead, the concentrates category is best left to experienced customers equipped to handle up to 95% potency levels.

Delta-10 vs. Delta-9 Safety Levels

Delta-9 and Delta-10 products are safe as long as brands produce them responsibly. It's normal to manufacture cannabis extracts using solvents, acids, or even heavy metals. These substances induce necessary chemical reactions to create the final results. However, manufacturers must meticulously wash the formulas before bottling them because residual compounds can be dangerous to ingest at high levels. To ensure their products are clean, responsible brands send samples to third-party laboratories to test for these contaminants. 

Transparent brands also test Delta-10 and Delta-9 products for potency to verify the concentration of the psychoactive compounds and accurately label their products. They will then publish laboratory results on their websites or via QR codes on product packaging,

Mixing Delta-10 and Delta-9: Does Delta 10 Affect Delta-9 Tolerance?

The human body develops tolerance to every drug it takes, including alcohol and tobacco. When it comes to THC, the same rule applies–regardless of the isomer in question. So even though Delta-10 has a slightly different atomic structure than Delta-9, it still interacts with the same chemical receptors in the brain. With that, users who consume highly concentrated Delta-10 products regularly may develop a higher tolerance to Delta-9 THC and Delta-8 THC as well.

In any case, if you received a note, that you have to take a drug test, make sure you've done your research on how long THC products might stay in you system.

Final Takeaways

Delta-10 THC is Delta-9's legal, milder, less abundant, more uplifting little sibling. As a result, hemp brands create Delta-10 products much differently than Delta-9, and consumers have access to them nationwide. That said, Delta-10 and Delta-9 are cut from the same molecular cloth. So cannabis newbies should always dose with caution, while experienced smokers should expect relatively familiar psychoactive effects from both cannabinoids.

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.