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Delta 8 vs Delta 9 THC: What’s the Difference?

Delta-8-Tetrahydrocannabinol, aka Delta-8, and Delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol, aka Delta-9 aka THC, are both psychoactive compounds found in the cannabis plant. They both belong to the family of at least 113 cannabinoids identified from cannabis. D8 and D9 share a lot of similar psychotropic effects but with some substantial differences. So what sets them apart? Let’s explore. Here are the main differences between these two cannabinoids that we will discuss:

  • Availability
  • Molecular
  • Legality
  • Experience

Differences in Availability

First, to dissect these two, we need to understand their history and how they are related. Delta-9 was first discovered in 1964 by Dr. Raphael Mechoulam, which first began our understanding of cannabinoids. The compound quickly became known and was coined simply as “THC”. 

Additionally, another form of THC, its analog Delta-8 has been hiding in plain sight. Although not as well known due to its relative rarity, it has recently become popularized. It was first discovered in the early 1970s and did not get near the attention of its fellow cannabinoid. Why is this? To understand why D8 has been slower in its popularity, let’s take a closer look at the biology of where the two compounds come from; the cannabis plant. 

The species Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, and Cannabis ruderalis have produced many varieties of cannabis, including hemp (Cannabis sativa L.). D8 and D9 are found in all of these varieties, albeit in varying degrees. The differentiation between hemp and marijuana is based on the amount of Delta-9, or THC, in the plant. To qualify as hemp, the cannabis plant must have less than 0.3% THC, while marijuana would be considered any amount of THC over that. Delta-9 THC is the principal psychoactive compound in cannabis.

Delta-8 is less abundant than Delta-9 in both marijuana and hemp, making it much rarer; it is only present in less than 1% of hemp. This also means that it is much more difficult to extract from the plant. For this reason, D8 has been slow to pick up in popularity. However, recent technological advances have made the process of isolating D8 much easier, allowing it to be more readily available than ever before. 

To produce Delta-8, the hemp flower must be broken down and run through a fractional distillation process. Then, the D8 is isolated using a thin film distillation and variations of temperature and pressure. The distillate can then be further refined to produce a higher concentration. Undergoing this conversion process from hemp flower can be more time consuming, as well as expensive since Delta-8 THC is only found in trace amounts. 

The solution to this is to use a faster and cheaper method. The more common process in producing Delta-9 is an isomerization process which converts CBD or CBG into Delta-8 THC This can be as simple as adding an acid or catalyst and then heating the CBD.

Marijuana, and thus high concentration Delta-9, continues to be illegal in many states, making the legal acquisition of it fairly unattainable (many users still acquire it illegally). However, marijuana has become legal in 15 states for recreational use, and 35 states for medical use. These users can purchase their marijuana from dispensaries which have been popping up all over the US. Currently, there are about 5,000 dispensaries across the country, and the number is rising. 

As Delta-8 THC is popularized, we believe it will take the cannabis spotlight due to the various positive effects it has over marijuana. Currently, the rates of CBD and CBG extracts are falling, as Delta-8 THC climbs to the top as the “next big thing.” We are seeing it spread through traditional cannabis products such as brownies, vape cartridges, oil, dab, tinctures, gummies, and more. The sky's the limit with this exciting cannabinoid. 

A vape pin with hemp oil in it.

Molecular Differences 

Delta-8 THC is an isomer of Delta-9, meaning it has the same number of atoms of each element, but in a different order. Delta-9 has a double bond on the 9th carbon in the chain and Delta-8 has a double bond on the 8th. Though this may seem like a small difference, it makes a big difference in the compounds’ properties. You can liken D8 and D9 to two siblings who have similar genetic makeup but have different looks and personalities. These molecular differences cause the experiential differences we feel when consuming the compounds.

Delta-8 THC is a degraded form of Delta-9 THC. This occurs when Delta-9 THC ages in a cannabis plant and becomes oxidized and breaks down. Some of it will convert to Delta-8. Because Delta-8 THC is an aged form of Delta-9 THC, it is weaker, and thus explains why its effects are milder. 

Both D8  and D9 have profound effects on the body due to the way each of them interacts with the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS helps the body maintain homeostasis in important functions and processes such as sleep, mood, appetite, memory, reproduction, and fertility. It accomplishes this with the use of messenger molecules called cannabinoids, cannabinoid receptors to which the cannabinoids bind, and the enzymes that break them down.

The most well-known cannabinoid receptors are Cannabinoid-1 (CB1) and Cannabinoid-2 (CB2) receptors. CB1s are mostly found in the central nervous system, the brain, lungs, liver, and kidneys. CB2s are mostly found in the immune system. Delta-9 THC binds to the CB1 receptor in the brain and the body, which causes the user to feel high. This is due to the fine-tuning of communication between neurons, which results in slowed reaction time, memory, anxiety, and judgment. Interestingly, Delta-9 THC only activates the CB1 receptor, while Delta-8, as well as CBD, activate both CB1 and CB2 receptors. It is for this reason that many people believe Delta-8 THC has more benefits than Delta-9 THC. And since CBD also binds to the same receptors, some people think of D8 as a cross between it and D9. Certainly, the effects would suggest this is the case. 

Differences in Experience

Effects of Delta-8 THC: Many people enjoy Delta-8 due to its psychoactive effects: a cerebral high that is still mild and clear. There is a much lower psychotropic potency in D8, with a high that is 50 to 70% the intensity of a Delta-9 THC high. Delta-8 THC’s high is less intense, more gentle, and manageable. It also has an uplifting feel in the body. This, in our opinion, makes D8’s high more enjoyable because of its lack of severe side effects. You can feel high but still function.

Delta-8 THC’s effects seem to take longer to set in and last about half as long as THC’s effects. However, once the high is over, you don’t feel drained or exhausted. You can characterize the trip as a smooth come up, a chill buzz, and then a smooth come down.  

You can take it a step further and combine Delta-8 THC with terpenes for an entourage effect. Terpenes are aromatic oil compounds found in cannabis, as well as other plants, that produce different scents and flavors. You can use terpenes to personalize your experience to your individual needs. For example, strains can combine myrcene, caryophyllene, and pinene with Delta-8 THC to help you sleep better. The myrcene is the active ingredient causing this positive effect. Pinene helps counteract compromised memory. Other terpenes can help enhance the benefits that encourage the reduction of pain and inflammation.

Research and Health Benefits of Delta-8: In 1974, a study was conducted on the effects of Delta-8 THC on rats. Unexpectedly, the researchers found that the cannabinoid had cancer-killing properties. There was not much follow-up research after this amazing discovery. The public is mostly unaware of the findings due to the decades it took for the government to admit the find. To this day, the possible health benefits of Delta-8 still hasn’t been well-researched. As the cannabinoid is more popularized, we hope for more research proving Delta-8 THC’s amazing effects and to gain more knowledge on how it can treat various conditions.  Let’s go over what we do know.

Delta-8 THC is said to have “antiemetic, anxiolytic, appetite-stimulating, analgesic, and neuroprotective properties,” according to the National Cancer Institute. 

  • Antiemetic: Nausea occurs as a symptom of many disorders, as well as a side effect of many treatments. One of those nausea-inducing treatments is chemotherapy. In 1995, Dr. Raphael Mechoulam, the same doctor who discovered Delta-9 THC, discovered that after taking Delta-8 THC, children undergoing chemotherapy saw an improvement in their nausea and vomiting. These patients, aged 3 to 13, showed no psychotropic effects. Delta-8 THC is 200 times more effective as an antiemetic than D9. In some cases, it is 3 to 10 times less potent. 
  • Anxiolytic: People experiencing Delta-8 THC do not feel paranoid or anxious. Users report feeling uplifted and alert, yet still calm and relaxed. D8 is much less likely to induce anxiety in high doses than Delta-9 THC. This is an especially attractive quality for people who are using the cannabinoid for health benefits. There is one study that has proven the CB1 receptor has a link to anxiety. When it is blocked, the person experiences more anxiety. Delta-8 THC is an agonist to CB1 when they are bound together. This means that it promotes a physiological response. In this case, once D8 binds with CB1, it activates effects that promote relief from stress and anxiety. 
  • Appetite-Inducing: Patients experiencing loss of appetite from cancer and other illnesses have seen an increase in appetite, which allows them to get the vital nutrition needed. In 2004, a study on mice backed up these results. 
  • Pain-Relieving: Delta-8, like Delta-9, has shown to provide some pain relief, but with less cerebral effects. In 2018, a study of mice with corneal injury under the influence of Delta-8 THC showed a reduction in their pain score. It also showed that D8 blocked the pain and had anti-inflammatory effects through the CB1 receptor. This showed that D8 could help treat ocular pain and inflammation. Additionally Delta-9 works as an analgesic. For instance, a study of 172 central neuropathic patients saw a big improvement in symptoms and a drop in opioid use. However, 25% of the patients did not tolerate the treatment well due to the Delta-9 THC’s side effects. In this case, D8 could be a viable alternative.
  • Anti-Cancer: Studies on animals in 2006 showed evidence that D8, D9, and CBN may inhibit lung cancer. In 2013, the National Cancer Institute cited in a report that D8, D9, and CBD can stop tumor growth.  

Effects of Delta-9 THC

While D9 shares a lot of the same health benefits as Delta-8 THC, it has a lot more negative side effects. Delta-9 varies from Delta-8 in its effects in that users are more likely to experience anxiety, paranoia, memory problems, hallucinations, delusions, dry mouth, dry eyes, and cloudy thinking. However, for a lot of people, the tradeoff is worth it. Here are some positive effects of D9: 

  • Euphoria
  • Heightened sense perception
  • Relaxation
  • Altered perception of time
  • Increased appetite

But let’s be real. When you are impaired by Delta-9, you are more likely to make poor choices due to your cloudy reasoning. For instance, combining alcohol and marijuana double the odds of drunk driving. Also, you are more likely to experience legal, professional, or personal problems than just by drinking alone. 

There has been a lot of evidence concluding that THC is associated with an increased risk of developing psychosis, especially among younger users. Young adults may experience increased anxiety, difficulty learning, as well as decreased memory forming. Utilizing the entourage effect, many people combine THC with CBD to counter these effects. Or simply take Delta-8 and experience the best of both worlds.

Legality Differences

The subject of legality is complex for both Delta-8 and Delta-9. The great thing about D8 is that it is federally legal. The legalization of Delta-8 happened in 2018 with the passing of the Farm Bill, also known as the Agriculture Improvement Act. The Farm Bill removed hemp from the Controlled Substances Act making it no longer illegal and allowing for all derivatives, isomers, and cannabinoids from its legality as well. To be legal, the product must have less than 0.3% Delta-9 THC. This means that Delta-8 THC is federally legal when derived from hemp. Granted, a few states have outlawed D8 (they have the power to override federal law). However, D8 is still legal in the states in which CBD is medicinally and recreationally legal. And more and more states seem to be getting on board with it. 

To confuse matters, there is currently a gray area for the regulations because of the isolation process D8 goes under. There have been DEA crackdowns on the hemp industry, leading both consumers and producers to uncertainty. In 2019, an Interim Final Rule was added to the Farm Bill. It stated that any synthetically derived THC will still be considered Schedule I controlled substances. Extractors and manufacturers use CBD to isolate D8 and then add it to products to promote their special effects. The hemp industry is concerned that since Delta-8 is derived through a synthetic process of CBD, that it will fall under this category. The ambiguous language will determine the near-future of Delta-8 once clarified.

In contrast, any cannabis substance that has over 0.3% THC is considered federally illegal. Cannabis remains on the list of Schedule I controlled substances. Since states have the power to override federal law, however, many states have legalized it. 

When it comes to consuming either Delta-8 or Delta-9 substances, we encourage you to do so responsibly. Research the laws in your state to be aware of what you are legally allowed to consume. Since the rules often change, being armed with this knowledge will set your mind at ease and allow you to act accordingly in the most responsible way. 

Marijuana oil being dripped into a jar.

Delta-8 FTW

Delta-8 and Delta-9 cannabinoids each come with their own set of positive attributes as well as challenges. When it comes to availability, THC is much easier to get due to its widespread use, however is still illegal in many places. And the rarity of D8 makes it less available and lesser-known. However, it continues to grow in recognition from the public. The positive effects it has on people have made it a viable alternative to Delta-9 THC, encompassing all the best qualities in one compound. 

We can tell you all the great benefits of Delta-8 THC, but sometimes you just gotta try it yourself. Here at Bay Smokes, we offer a range of Delta-8 THC products, which all offer a satisfying and pleasant alternative to both Delta-9 as well as tobacco.  What are you waiting for? Just try it! 

As a disclaimer, we want to state that the information on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice. All information, content, and materials available on this site are for general information purposes only. The content of this posting is “as is”. No representations are made that the content is error-free.