THC-O vs Delta 9: What’s the Difference?

by Lura Briggs


Several cannabinoids have recently come on the scene. You might be wondering how these compare to cannabis and CBD. Delta 9 THC— commonly called THC—and THC-O are ones you might have heard about, but you don't understand the difference between the two. We'll break down how they differ, from extraction methods to experiences and everything in between. 

Read more about the difference between delta 9 THC and delta 8 THC.

THC-O vs Delta 9: Extraction Process

Both Delta 9 and THC-O are extracted from hemp, making both cannabinoids federally legal under the 2018 Farm Bill. THC-O is legal at any milligram dosage. In contrast, Delta 9 THC must be less than 0.3% per dry weight. Most classify legal Delta 9 as "hemp-derived" Delta 9 to note that the THC is extracted from legal hemp and not marijuana. 

While Delta 9 can easily be extracted from hemp, the THC-O extraction process is more complex. First, CBD is converted to Delta 8 and goes through an acetylation process. Acetic Anhydride is highly corrosive and flammable, according to. This process should only be done in highly-controlled lab environments using only food-safe ingredients. Again, another reason why you should only purchase THC-O through reputable brands.

THC-O vs Delta 9: Chemical Structure

The chemical difference between Delta 9 THC and THC-O acetate begins with how each compound is produced. Delta 9 is a naturally occurring compound found in both marijuana and hemp. In contrast, THC-O is a hemp derivative that can only be produced in a lab through an acetylating process. THC-O is the acetate ester form of Delta 9 THC. 

In other terms, Delta 9 THC is the analog versus THC-O is the synthetic version. THC-O's chemical structure is similar to THC, yet not identical because it is missing those more organic elements.

THC-O vs Delta 9:The Differences in Experiences

What are the common side effects of Delta 9?

Delta 9, commonly called THC, offers feelings of calm and euphoria. You might experience a heady buzz and body melting sensation depending on the dosage. Some users have noted that they feel slightly paranoid when consuming THC.

How does the THC-O experience differ from Delta 9?

Like other hemp-derived cannabinoids, you will feel the effects of THC-O. For many, THC-O has more potent effects than marijuana-derived THC. The other distinguishing effect of THC-O is its psychedelic properties. Users have noted experiencing visuals similar to psilocybin, and some even say that THC-O can be a very spiritual experience. Like any substance, the effects can vary from person to person.

THC-O vs Delta 9 Dosage Comparisons

Understanding Delta 9 Dosages:

Identifying your ideal Delta 9 THC dosage comes down to your tolerance level, cannabis experience, and what type of effects you're looking to have. 2.5 to 5 mg of Delta 9 is enough for most novice users to feel the effects. But more experienced cannabis users may prefer a higher dose, like 10 to 25 mg. 

How long it takes to feel the effects depends on your method of consumption. If you're inhaling Delta 9 through vaping or an electronic dab rig, you should expect to feel the effects within 15 minutes. Edibles take anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes, depending on your body composition.

Understanding THC-O Dosages:

Many users have noted that THC-O can feel three times as strong as Delta 9 — a reason to start with a low dosage. If you typically prefer low doses like 5 mg of Delta 9, try a third of that dose when first trying THC-O — 1.5 mg. A more experienced cannabis user who typically chooses a higher dosage like 25 mg may start with 7.5 mg of THC-O. Starting with a low dose helps avoid the "I remember my first edible..." experience. Trust us.

Another thing to note when trying to find your ideal THC-O dosage is that it is a "pro-drug." Meaning that THC-O takes longer to be processed through the body (so, practically, if you have to take a drug test, Delta 9 THC will exit your organism much sooner). Unlike most cannabinoids, like THC, THC-O isn't pre-activated by heat. It typically takes anywhere from 20 to 60 minutes to begin to feel the effects, even when inhaled. Again, this difference between Delta 9 and THC-O is an important reason to go slow when trying new alt-cannabis products.

Differences in Legality and Availability

After the Farm Bill passed in 2018, all hemp-derived delta 9 products became federally legal. Although these products are federally legal, many states have passed more specific laws around these hemp cannabinoids. Check whether THC-O and Delta 9 are legal in your state now:

Is THC-O legal in your state?

Alabama: THC-O is legal in Alabama

Alaska: THC-O might be illegal in Alaska

Arizona: THC-O might be illegal in Arizona

Arkansas: THC-O might be illegal in Arkansas

California: THC-O is legal in California

Colorado: THC-O might be illegal in Colorado

Connecticut: THC-O is legal in Connecticut

Delaware: THC-O might be illegal in Delaware

Florida: THC-O is legal in Florida

Georgia: THC-O is legal in Georgia

Hawaii: THC-O is legal in Hawaii

Idaho: THC-O might be illegal in Idaho

Illinois: THC-O is legal in Illinois

Indiana: THC-O is legal in Indiana

Iowa: THC-O might be illegal in Iowa

Kansas: THC-O is legal in Kansas

Kentucky: THC-O is legal in Kentucky

Louisiana: THC-O is legal in Louisiana

Maine: THC-O is legal in Maine

Maryland: THC-O is legal in Maryland

Massachusetts: THC-O is legal in Massachusetts

Michigan: THC-O is legal in Michigan

Minnesota: THC-O is legal in Minnesota

Mississippi: THC-O might be illegal in Mississippi

Missouri: THC-O is legal in Missouri

Montana: THC-O might be illegal in Montana

Nebraska: THC-O is legal in Nebraska

Nevada: THC-O is legal in Nevada

New Hampshire: THC-O is legal in New Hampshire

New Jersey: THC-O is legal in New Jersey

New Mexico: THC-O is legal in New Mexico

New York: THC-O might be illegal in New York

North Carolina: THC-O is legal in North Carolina

North Dakota: THC-O is legal in North Dakota

Ohio: THC-O is legal in Ohio

Oklahoma: THC-O is legal in Oklahoma

Oregon: THC-O is legal in Oregon

Pennsylvania: THC-O is legal in Pennsylvania

Rhode Island: THC-O might be illegal in Rhode Island 

South Carolina: THC-O is legal in South Carolina

South Dakota: THC-O is legal in South Dakota

Tennessee: THC-O is legal in Tennessee

Texas: THC-O is legal in Texas

Utah: THC-O might be illegal in Utah

Vermont: THC-O might be illegal in Vermont

Virginia: THC-O is legal in Virginia

Washington: THC-O is legal in Washington

West Virginia: THC-O is legal in West Virginia

Wisconsin: THC-O is legal in Wisconsin

Wyoming: THC-O is legal in Wyoming 

Is Delta-9 legal in your state?

As a result of the 2018 Farm Bill, hemp-derived Delta-9 has been federally legalized. However, each state can create their own laws and regulations. Delta-9 is illegal in 4 states and is legal in 46 states. Read more about the legality of Delta 9.

Mixing THC-O and Delta 9: Is it safe?

Mixing THC-O and Delta 9 is similar to other cannabinoids. You can blend THC-O with Delta 9, Delta 8, or CBD to create your preferred formula and experience. You can take it one step further and incorporate terpenes to create even more complex effects. Combining other cannabinoids and terpenes makes the experience more similar to smoking natural flower. 

Does THC-O affect your Delta 9 tolerance?

THC-O, like other cannabinoids, acts similarly on your body's endocannabinoid system. This begs the question, can you use THC-O if you're taking a tolerance break from Delta 9. In one study, mice were given Delta 9 for two days. The researchers found that after the first 24 hours, the mice showed a 6-fold tolerance to the effects of Delta 9. The study results showed that cannabinoid tolerance could be rapid in onset. Regardless of which cannabinoid you consume, your tolerance level will likely increase. 

Final Takeaways

With so many new alt-cannabis products on the market, THC-O might be the most interesting one for new and experienced users. Its psychedelic properties and spiritual-like effects make it a must-try at least once. But, as with most substances, we recommend starting with a low dose at first. Many users note that THC-O is three times as strong as Delta 9. If you're trying to take a Delta 9 tolerance break, you might want to reconsider trying THC-O as it can increase your tolerance levels. 

Finally, the big question on everyone's mind — is THC-O legal? Yes, as with any product derived from hemp. THC-O is federally legal, thanks to the 2018 Farm Bill. You can even purchase THC-O online and ship it right to your door.

Lura Briggs


Lura Briggs is a digital marketer and writer in Orange County, California. She holds a philosophy degree from the University of Utah and has over six years of experience as a writer and social media marketer. Today, Lura works as a freelance marketer with a focus on the cannabis space. Lura is passionate about wellness and philanthropy. She has worked with several brands in the wellness, ecommerce, and tech space.