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Delta-9

The Difference Between Delta-8 and Delta-9

Author: Olivia Evans

The standard partaker in marijuana-derived and hemp-derived tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) products has probably heard of delta-8 and delta-9 THC. Though they may sound quite similar, there are noticeable differences in the general effects and structure of delta-8 and delta-9. 

So what is the difference between delta-8 and delta-9? And how do they even compare when looking at delta-10 vs. delta-8? There are some key components that make delta-8 and delta-9 different from each other. Namely, they differ in their molecular structure, how well-researched they are, their psychoactive properties, what they’re typically made from, and their legal status. 

Let’s cover each of these key differences in more detail. And briefly we’ll look at how delta-8 vs. delta-9 compares to delta-10 vs. delta-8 in terms of effectiveness.  

Delta-8 vs. Delta-9: What is the Difference Between Delta 8 and Delta 9? 

Pictured from below the plants, numerous cannabis plants are illuminated in front of a bright blue and cloudy sky.

Commonly referred to as siblings of one another, delta-8 and delta-9 share many similarities. They’re both components of the same plant and they have nearly identical molecular structures. Also, they both can technically be extracted from both hemp plants (which contain less than 0.3% delta-9 THC)  or marijuana plants (which have more than 0.3% delta-9 THC). So, it could be easy to categorize these two phytocannabinoids (or components of the marijuana or hemp plant) as nearly identical to one another. 

However, beyond surface-level similarities, they differ greatly. For example, their molecular structure may look akin to one another, but there’s a key difference in a double bond between two carbons. That single discrepancy in molecular structure indicates vast differences between delta-8 and delta-9.

The Molecular Structure

As studied and published by Comprehensive Natural Products II, when analyzing delta-8 vs. delta-9, a double bond between two carbons is in a different location.1 Though this single difference doesn’t seem impactful on the surface, the difference in structural makeup is significant in how the human brain processes both delta-8 THC and delta-9 THC.

According to a study published in 2008 on the effects of double and triple bonds on odorants, the location and presence of a double bond in a given molecule has an impact on its smell, its reactivity to solvents, and its effect on the body.2

So, this key difference between delta-8 and delta-9 affects how the product smells and how it feels for the user. Namely, delta-9 THC causes a greater psychoactive effect within the brain than delta-8 THC does.

The Research We Have Right Now on Delta-8 vs. Delta-9

There are significantly more human studies on the effects and long-term use of marijuana-derived delta-9 THC than marijuana-derived and hemp-derived delta-8 THC.3 This is due to two reasons: the popularity of marijuana-derived delta-9 THC and the 2018 Farm Bill.

Marijuana-Derived Delta-9 Is Historically More Studied

Research into the pharmacology of cannabis has dated all the way back to the 1940s. Raphael Mechoulam, also known as the “Father of Cannabis”, and his team developed the leading resource for information on marijuana and its primary active phytocannabinoid, delta-9 THC, in 1965.4 That research has been used to back numerous studies on the effects of marijuana-derived delta-9 on both humans and animals.

In contrast, marijuana-derived delta-8 THC is much less abundant in the plant, and therefore much less researched by the scientific community. Studies are still yet to be conducted to officially deduce the effects and long-term impact of consuming marijuana-derived delta-8.

America’s 2018 Farm Bill Revolutionized the Hemp Industry

Delta-8 and delta-9 are historically derived from marijuana plants, but the 2018 Farm Bill completely transformed the public’s access to both delta-8 THC and delta-9 THC. According to the bill passed by legislators, commercial hemp growers are legally allowed to manufacture products from hemp so long as the raw hemp biomass and finished goods contain less than 0.3% delta-9 THC by its dry weight in the United States and Canada.4

As a result, growers are able to extract and convert large amounts of delta-8 and delta-9 THC from industrial hemp. Federally-compliant delta-9 THC is extracted from hemp plants containing less than 0.3% delta-9 THC. Similarly, delta-8 THC synthesized from hemp must also meet federal standards and contain less than 0.3% delta-9 THC. Once extracted, the final delta-8 or delta-9 product is again tested to ensure that it’s compliant and able to be sold in states where it’s considered legal. 

Because hemp-derived delta-8 and delta-9 are new to the industry, there’s little scientific studies backing the user-reported claims on its effectiveness. It’s less researched than marijuana-derived delta-9 THC, but reports from users so far show the effects to be identical.5 Though it’s grown and made from hemp plants, both delta-8 and delta-9 have identical effects to its marijuana-grown counterparts. 

The Psychoactive Effects

Pictured is a blurry, artistic shot of a few marijuana leaves. The image is rich in color and hue, with vibrant patches of green, pink, yellow, blue, teal, and purple.

Arguably the largest difference between delta-8 and delta-9 reported by its users is the high they experience.5 Both cannabis-derived and hemp-derived delta-8 THC is reported to have less psychoactive effects than delta-9 THC.1 For more in-depth information on the effectiveness of delta-9 vs. delta-8 THC at attaching to cannaboid receptors within the brain, you can check out our blogs on both delta-8 and delta-9.

Essentially, delta-9 THC is better at activating receptors which attach to glutamatergic terminals within the brain. These parts of the brain, among other things, regulate serotonin production. So when users consume delta-9 THC from either hemp or marijuana, they can enjoy a number of clinical benefits including appetite stimulation and pain relief.2

Delta-8 isn’t as effective at activating glutamatergic terminals. So users report that delta-8 THC gives them a high, but it doesn’t do so as effectively as delta-9.5 Delta-8 doesn’t have as much of a psychoactive effect on users as delta-9. So, the difference between delta-8 and delta-9 is that delta-8 doesn’t typically cause as much of a strong or negative effect on users as delta-9. 

The Base Product

Delta-9 Gummies fanned out on flat surface.

Delta-9 Historically Comes from Marijuana

The majority of the information we’re sharing on marijuana-derived delta-9 comes from a Mental Health Clinician article published in 2016. Delta-9 THC is a naturally occurring phytocannabinoid contained in marijuana. The amount of delta-9 THC contained within marijuana has risen throughout the years, with modern, high-potency strains containing up to 20% THC within marijuana flower.6

The majority of delta-9 THC sold in the market is derived from marijuana plants, available through dispensaries in states which allow the medical or recreational use of marijuana. However, delta-9 produced from hemp has emerged in recent years as a useful alternative for those wanting to experience the benefits of delta-9 without living in a state with legal recreational marijuana or without ingesting marijuana. 

Products like hemp-derived delta-9 gummies are designed to allow users to experience marijuana-derived delta-9 THC without living in a state with legalized marijuana. It also allows people to try delta-9 without trying the marijuana plant itself. For those interested, Summit provides delta-9 THC gummies that are infused, not coated, with natural and organic flavors. Their gummies are tested by third-party labs, shelf stable, and resistant to temperature changes.

Commercial Sales of Delta-8 Were Made Possible by Industrial Hemp

With UV light and oxygen, cannabis-derived delta-9 THC breaks down into cannabidiol  (CBD) and less than 1% of delta-8. As a result of its scarcity, the vast majority of commercial delta-8 THC is synthesized from other phytocannabinoids, like CBD, in industrial hemp.

Whereas delta-9 can either be procured from marijuana or hemp plants, most delta-8 products are synthesized from hemp. As stated before, the effects of delta-8 and delta-9 remain the same regardless of whether it originated from hemp or marijuana. 

For those looking into delta-8 products, Summit also offers delta-8 gummies which are infused with natural flavors. They’re tested just as rigorously as their delta-9 gummies, assuring consumers receive safe, delicious products made to withstand any of life’s situations.

The Definitive Legality

Marijuana-derived delta-9 is considered by legislators to be a Schedule 1 drug on a federal level. Though it’s illegal on a federal basis, it’s been legalized in 37 states for medical use and 18 states for recreational use.7 Hemp-derived delta-9 is yet to be officially deliberated on by state and federal-level legislators, so as of April 2022 it’s legal to be shipped to all 50 states. Hemp-derived delta-9 lacks scientific study and legal deliberation to be classified as any sort of drug on a federal scale. 

In contrast, hemp-derived delta-8 is newer to the market, and is currently sitting in a legal gray area on a federal level and in a number of states. As of now, delta-8 THC is legal in 32 states, legally unclear in 3 states, and illegal in 13 states.8 More studies have been conducted on hemp-based delta 8 vs. delta 9, and the status of its regulation continues to develop around delta 8. 

Delta-8 vs. Delta-10

Another phytocannabinoid making waves in the hemp market is delta-10 THC. It shares many of the same properties as delta-8 in that it doesn’t cause as much of a psychoactive effect on users.9 It’s also a hemp-derived phytocannabinoid that’s available in many of the states where marijuana-derived delta-9 isn’t. 

But looking at delta-8 vs. delta-10, the biggest difference between the two is that delta-10 is even less effective at activating receptors which attach to glutamatergic terminals than delta-8. So where delta-8 is the less potent version of delta-9, delta-10 is even less potent than delta-8 when comparing delta-8 vs. delta-10.

Conclusion: What is the Difference Between Delta-8 and Delta-9?

Delta-8 Hemp-Derived THC Gummies stylized on flat surface with packaging

When looking at the bigger picture, there doesn’t seem to be that many differences between delta-8 and delta-9. But to those wanting to understand the emergence of legal industrial hemp sales and the growing significance of marijuana- and hemp-derived products on a national scale, there are a lot of differences that can be gleaned from delta-8 vs. delta-9. 

If you’re interested in trying out the difference between delta-8 and delta-9 for yourself, we offer hemp-derived delta-8 gummies and delta-9 gummies on our site. And for more information on Summit’s standards for testing and safety on their products, check out our page dedicated to the subject.


Referenced Articles

  1. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/B9780080453828000915 
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2219952/ 
  3. https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/can.2021.0124 
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1760722/#:~:text=The%20structures%20and%20stereochemistry%20of,was%20first%20isolated%20from%20cannabis 
  5. https://www.buffalo.edu/news/releases/2022/01/009.html 
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6007535/ 
  7. https://marijuana.procon.org/legal-recreational-marijuana-states-and-dc/ 
  8. https://cbdthinker.com/is-delta-8-thc-legal/#:~:text=Meanwhile%2C%20delta%2D8%27s%20legality%20is,Vermont%2C%20Utah%2C%20and%20Washington 
  9. https://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.152.52&rep=rep1&type=pdf#page=82 
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