The cannabis market in the US has grown exponentially in the last decade and with it, so has the public’s necessity to learn more about cannabis’ different components in order to make informed decisions before consuming any related products.
Although the cannabis plant contains more than 100 cannabinoids, the attention has focused mostly on 2: THC and CBD. These two cannabinoids have the ability to interact with the human body’s endocannabinoid system, reestablishing faulty or non-existent processes within the central nervous system and helping bring balance when the body alone can’t find it due to illness or other issues causing malfunction.
Delta-8 and delta-9 are two different forms of THC found in different varieties of the cannabis sativa plant. While delta-9 THC is the most well-known and abundant form, delta-8 is gaining popularity for its unique properties. Both compounds have some common uses but they also have significant differences which make them distinct from one another.
Are you curious about the differences between delta-8 and delta-9 THC? Wondering which one offers the best benefits or if they are even legal? You’re not alone, and that’s why we explain below these and other questions about these two forms of THC.
What is Delta-8?
Delta-8 is a phytocannabinoid present in small quantities in the hemp plant (a form of cannabis). Because of THC’s limited quantity in the natural form of the plant, delta-8 is the result of extracting THC from hemp CBD which is then synthesized to produce a concentrated form of THC; basically, delta-8 is a synthetic less potent form of THC derived from the hemp plant.
Because hemp was legalized at the federal level with the adoption of the Farm Bill in 2018, all hemp derived products (including delta-8 related products) are legal and can be distributed over-the-counter in any state that allows it.
What is Delta-9?
Delta-9 is the more commonly known form of THC, the component that can cause psychoactive effects also known as “high” when consumed. Delta-9 is naturally abundant in the marijuana plant (a different form of cannabis) so contrary to delta-8, its extraction originates in a different type of cannabis plant, its psychoactive effects are more potent, its elaboration doesn’t require the use of chemicals and therefore it’s a natural, not a synthetic, component.
Because of its psychoactive effects, delta-9 is still considered illegal at the federal level and its commercialization is limited to only certain states that have legalized the use of cannabis for medical or recreational purposes, or both via authorized dispensaries.
There are more considerations that are relevant to the legality of both delta-8 and delta-9 THC. Let’s take a closer look into those next.
Delta-8 and Delta-9: Legal or Not?
The legality of cannabis products depends on 2 aspects: the type of plant used for cannabis extraction, and the laws applicable to that type of product at the specific location where it is intended to be distributed and consumed (both at a federal and a state level).
Cannabis origin: Cannabis can be extracted from different plants, mostly hemp and marijuana. Although these 2 plants are similar, they are not the same and therefore the products derived from each have marked differences (for more in depth information about this, check out our blog on hemp vs. marijuana). In a nutshell, hemp and its derivatives (including delta-8) are legal at the federal level, marijuana (delta-9) is not. Because of this, most US consumers have easy and legal access to hemp products (delta-8 included) online and at retail stores, but not to marijuana derived products (such as delta-9).
Federal and state laws: As we said before, hemp is legal at the federal level but marijuana is not. In principle, you should be able to travel domestically with hemp products and not get in trouble, but that’s not quite true either. Some states have banned the use of hemp products at the state level, so even if hemp is legal at the federal level, it might not be at the state level in some places.
These contradictions are also applicable to marijuana because even though it is illegal at the federal level, many states have adopted laws legalizing the use of marijuana for recreational purposes or medical purposes or both; in that context, the state law prevails within the state borders and consumers might have a legal path to access marijuana for the uses approved by state law.
In conclusion, delta-8 and delta-9 can both be legally accessed in the US, depending on the applicable local law. Traveling between states with delta-8 might be permissible, but you have to check on a case by case basis; traveling with delta-9 between states is not allowed. You can find more information on the legality of cannabis in Texas and the Texas’ Compassionate Use Program here.
How Are They Similar?
Delta-8 and delta-9 share some common features:
- Forms of THC.
- Derived from the cannabis sativa plant family.
- Cause psychoactive effects.
- Interact with CB1 and CB2 receptors in the endocannabinoid system.
- Reduce inflammation, help alleviate pain, curb nausea and vomiting, stimulate appetite so they are useful at providing relief to patients suffering from cancer, chronic pain and neurodegenerative diseases such as MS or spasticity to name just a few.
Differences Between Delta-8 and Delta-9
Although delta-8 and delta-9 share some common features, there are marked differences that separate them:
- Origin: Delta-8 is derived from hemp, delta-9 is derived from marijuana.
- Chemistry: Delta-8 is synthetic, delta-9 is naturally occurring.
- Legality: Delta-8 is legal at the federal level, delta-9 is not.
- Ease of legal access: Delta-8 can be found over-the-counter, delta-9 is only available at dispensaries in states with laws in place legalizing marijuana use.
- Psychoactive effects: Delta-8 is less potent so it causes milder psychoactive effects than delta-9.
A special note about quality, purity and safety: Because hemp is legal at the federal level, there is much less scrutiny about the production process of hemp derived products and they’re not regulated by the FDA. Delta-8 is a synthetic compound that requires the use of an acid to synthesize THC from hemp CBD. Often, harsh chemicals are used in its production, which translates into delta-8 potentially posing health risks because it might contain traces of heavy metals, pesticides, mold or other detrimental components. Also, by not being regulated, consumers can’t be certain about the veracity of the label information in these products. Keep this in mind when choosing over-the-counter products and look for those that have a third party verify the validity of the content information.
Purity, quality and safety are not a concern with delta-9 found in medical cannabis since this is a highly regulated product and the whole process (from cultivation to final sale at authorized dispensaries) is subjected to strict norms that guarantee the purity, quality and safety of the final product.
Is Delta-8 or Delta-9 Best for You?
In Texas, if you don’t have a qualifying condition, delta-8 might be the only choice available but as we mentioned before, beware of the purity, quality and safety of the products you consider and consult with your physician before including them in your routine.
If you are looking to treat a qualifying medical condition, you are much better off choosing delta-9/ medical cannabis because this option grants you access to the medical cannabis registry via a cannabis doctor who will take into consideration your medical history, any other medications you are currently taking to avoid negative interactions and can provide continuous support and advice. For example, a medical cannabis doctor will be able to customize a treatment that combines the appropriate ratio of THC:CBD that will allow you to benefit from THC’s medical properties while also limiting its psychoactive effects by combining it with CBD (this is something you don’t get by picking a bottle at a retail store). Medical cannabis also gives you peace of mind in terms of knowing the product you are consuming has a seal of transparency and quality of its components.
So there you have it! Although both delta-8 and delta-9 share some common features, there are key differences that set them apart. Knowing those differences will empower you to be able to make the best choice for you.
If you are considering including THC as an option to treat a medical condition, contact us! We can help you identify whether you qualify for the Texas’ Compassionate Use Program (TCUP) and support you all along your healing journey.