Delta-8 THC vs. Delta-9 THC: What’s The Difference?

In regions where the use of recreational or medical marijuana is permitted, cannabis dispensaries provide a diverse array of products containing delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (delta-9 THC). Additionally, in several states, delta-8-tetrahydrocannabinol (delta-8 THC), a less potent cannabis compound that shares similar psychoactive effects with delta-9 THC, is also legally available.

Both delta-8 THC and delta-9 THC originate from the cannabis sativa plant, which naturally produces over 100 cannabinoids or active constituents. However, while the plant contains substantial amounts of delta-9 THC, it only contains trace amounts of delta-8 THC, classified as a minor cannabinoid.

The psychoactive effects, or “high,” produced by both delta-8 THC and delta-9 THC can vary based on factors such as quality, quantity, and other considerations. Despite their similarities, it’s crucial to note that delta-8 THC and delta-9 THC possess significant differences that should be understood before consuming either substance.

Continue reading to gain insights into delta-8 THC and delta-9 THC, exploring their similarities and distinctions, potential risks and benefits, and more.

Understanding Delta-8 THC:

Delta-8 THC is a compound found in limited quantities in cannabis sativa, prompting its concentrated production from hemp-derived cannabidiol (CBD). Unlike CBD, which lacks intoxicating effects, delta-8 THC shares psychoactive properties with delta-9 THC, albeit generally in a milder form.

Various delta-8 THC products are available, ranging from gummies, chocolate, and other candies to cookies, tinctures, vaping cartridges, infused drinks, and even breakfast cereal.

Some manufacturers promote delta-8 THC products as remedies for medical conditions. However, it’s important to note that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not evaluated or approved these claims. In fact, as of May 2022, the FDA has issued warning letters to five delta-8 THC product manufacturers for violating the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.

These warning letters specifically address misbranding issues, such as the absence of adequate usage instructions, the unlawful marketing of products as treatments for medical conditions or other therapeutic uses, and the incorporation of delta-8 THC into consumables like gummies, chocolate, and other edibles.

Exploring Delta-8 THC: Benefits and Risks

Discussing the use of cannabis in broad strokes oversimplifies the complex nature of delta-8 THC and delta-9 THC, emphasizes Dr. Dave Gordon, a double-board certified integrative and functional medicine physician and advisory board member for Leaf411, an online resource for safe and effective cannabis use.

To grasp the potential risks and benefits associated with delta-8 THC and delta-9 THC, Dr. Gordon suggests considering several factors:

  1. All compounds being consumed.
  2. The dose consumed.
  3. The frequency of consumption.
  4. The method of administration.
  5. The quality of production, including cultivation, extraction, and formulation for cannabis products.
  6. The demographics and health status of the individual consuming.

Potential Benefits of Delta-8 THC:

Delta-8 THC, typically derived from hemp-derived cannabidiol (CBD), may offer various benefits, such as:

  • Pain relief.
  • Improved sleep quality.
  • Calming effects on an overactive nervous or immune system.
  • Enhanced appetite.
  • Prevention of sensory overstimulation.
  • Reduction of inflammation.

Potential Risks of Delta-8 THC:

Consuming more delta-8 THC than the body requires may lead to short-term adverse effects, which become more severe with increased consumption. Short-term adverse effects may include:

  • Lethargy.
  • Disorientation.
  • Anxiety and potential panic.
  • Dry mouth and eyes.
  • Increased heart rate.
  • Impaired coordination.

These effects typically resolve within a few hours with inhalation or within several hours with edible consumption. Individuals with preexisting conditions, especially those at risk for psychotic diseases, may experience an increased frequency or severity of psychosis with overconsumption.

Large amounts of delta-8 THC, particularly when smoked, could pose risks of heart damage or abnormal heart rhythms in individuals with underlying cardiovascular disease.

Moreover, the FDA highlights potential risks associated with delta-8 THC products, including the presence of harmful chemicals or contaminants used during the synthesis process.

Understanding Delta-9 THC:

Delta-9 THC is the primary intoxicating component of the cannabis plant. Legal in states where recreational use is permitted, delta-9 THC products come in various forms, including gummies, cookies, candies, infused beverages, tinctures, vaping cartridges, topical lotions, and pre-rolled joints.

Potential Benefits of Delta-9 THC:

Consuming delta-9 THC may yield various potential benefits, including:

  • Relaxation.
  • Decreased anxiety.
  • Increased appetite.
  • Feelings of happiness or exhilaration.
  • Heightened imagination.
  • Improved sensory perception.

Studies suggest therapeutic benefits for conditions like nausea and vomiting from chemotherapy, seizure disorders, chronic pain, spasticity associated with multiple sclerosis, and sleep disorders in individuals with other chronic conditions.

Research on the long-term effects of delta-9 THC on sleep is limited, with conflicting results.

Potential Risks of Delta-9 THC:

Adverse side effects of delta-9 THC, depending on factors like quantity and quality consumed, may include:

  • Paranoia.
  • Heightened anxiety.
  • Sedation.
  • Confusion.
  • Dry mouth.
  • Feelings of unease.

It’s crucial to consider these potential risks, as the FDA has not evaluated or approved any delta-8 THC or delta-9 THC products for safe use. Manufacturers may market their products with unproven health claims, posing potential risks to public health.

Delta-8 THC and Drug Tests:

In contrast to delta-9 THC, delta-8 THC is less likely to trigger a positive result for THC on a drug test, unless the test specifically looks for delta-8 THC metabolites. However, if a delta-8 THC product contains concentrations of delta-9 THC, a drug test may register a positive result for THC. To address the growing popularity of delta-8 THC, some commercial laboratories are incorporating confirmation analysis for delta-8 THC into drug tests.

It is challenging to definitively assert that delta-8 THC will not yield a positive result on a drug test, as it hinges on the quality and composition of the specific delta-8 THC product used, as well as the type of drug test administered.

Distinguishing Delta-8 THC from Delta-9 THC:

Dr. Gordon notes that both delta-8 THC and delta-9 THC share a similar elemental composition (carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen) but differ slightly in the arrangement of these elements. Despite these similarities, there are notable differences between the two.


Delta-8 THC and delta-9 THC can produce both positive and adverse effects, activating the body’s CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors, including those in the central nervous system. Dr. Gordon highlights that the activation of CB1 receptors can have various positive effects, such as pain reduction, improved sleep, increased relaxation, and appetite enhancement. Similarly, CB2 receptor activation can calm an overactive immune system and reduce inflammation, benefiting many chronic conditions. However, overstimulation of CB1 receptors due to excessive delta-8 THC or delta-9 THC consumption may lead to adverse effects, including lethargy, disorientation, anxiety, dry mouth, increased heart rate, and loss of coordination.


While delta-9 THC has undergone extensive research for nearly six decades, limited research is available on delta-8 THC. Another significant difference lies in regulation. Delta-9 THC is highly regulated in states with legalization measures, with specific rules on testing, extraction, and labeling. In contrast, many delta-8 THC product manufacturers may not adhere to specific regulations, potentially overlooking product purity and accurate labeling.

Potency is another distinguishing factor, with properly labeled delta-8 THC considered about one-quarter to one-third less potent than an equivalent amount of delta-9 THC, according to Dr. Gordon.

Additionally, the mode of consumption differs. Delta-9 THC can be smoked or vaporized in flower form without extraction, whereas nearly all delta-8 THC products undergo synthesis, extraction, and purification from cannabis-sourced DiamondCBD.

Legal Status of Delta-8 THC and Delta-9 THC:

Presently, delta-8 THC holds federal legality; however, its legality varies by state. In contrast, delta-9 THC is illegal at the federal level but enjoys recreational and/or medical legalization in numerous states. It is essential to note that regulations pertaining to the production, sale, and use of both delta-8 THC and delta-9 THC are in a state of constant evolution.

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