What is Delta-9? A Guide to Delta-9 for Beginners
The legalization and general interest in marijuana products has picked up speed over recent years, so many people already have some sort of introduction to tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD).
But not everyone knows the differences and effects of cannabis and its components, also called phytocannabinoids. There are more than 70 phytocannabinoids naturally present in cannabis. And most of these phytocannabinoids are still being researched and understood by scientists today.
In this article, we’re going to explore one of the most commonly present and most studied phytocannabinoids in marijuana: Delta-9. We’re also going to answer the most common question those new to the marijuana industry often ask themselves: What is delta-9 THC? Continue reading to gain some insight on what delta-9 is, its clinical properties, and its standard consumption.
What Is Delta-9?
The molecular structure and stereochemistry of cannabis and its component, delta-9, was researched and published in 1964 by Raphael Mechoulam (also referred to as the “Father of Cannabis”).1 Mechoulam and his team spent their careers developing an understanding of the complexities of marijuana and its effect on the human body.
Delta-9 THC is the primary active component of the marijuana plant. It’s also a primary product of synthesizing hemp plants. It’s the key to what gives people the “high” they experience when consuming marijuana. Delta-9 THC has psychotropic effects, which means it activates parts of the brain charged with regulating serotonin.2
Delta-9 is also one of the most researched phytocannabinoids out there next to CBD, so there are plenty of facts supporting what users report feeling when they consume delta-9 THC. For much of the science around delta-9 and marijuana, we’re going to be referencing pharmacological research conducted by a team at the Mental Health Clinician in 2016.
What is Delta-9 THC and Where Does It Come From?
Delta-9 THC is derived from two primary sources: marijuana plants and hemp plants. Delta-9 derived from marijuana is the most researched, well-understood form of delta-9 on the market right now. Hemp-derived delta-9 THC is newer and was made possible for commercial use by the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018 (also known as the 2018 Farm Bill).3
Delta-9 THC Derived from Marijuana
As a phytocannabinoid, delta-9 THC comes directly from the marijuana plant. It’s one of the most abundant phytocannabinoids in marijuana, hence why it’s so popular among growers and consumers.
According to research published in 2020 on Frontiers.org, the potency of delta-9 THC in marijuana has increased over the last few decades through selective breeding of the marijuana plant. In the early 1960’s, the percentage of delta-9 THC in marijuana plants was around 3%. In modern times, that percentage is closer to 20% for high potency varieties.4
Delta-9 THC Derived from Hemp
The 2018 Farm Bill made it possible for commercial growers to legally manufacture and sell industrial hemp. Existing within this space are a variety of delta-8, delta-9, and CBD products available to consumers. Currently, those manufacturers can sell hemp-grown products to all 50 states as long as it contains less than 0.3% of delta-9 THC as measured by its dry weight.3
This hemp must be federally compliant, so it’s closely monitored and regulated. From the initial plant to the harvested product, hemp-derived THC and CBD products are tested to ensure they are compliant on a federal level. Manufacturers carefully extract CBD and delta-9 THC from the hemp, integrate this extract into final products, and test it to ensure the final product contains less than 0.3% of delta-9.
The increase in manufacturers producing and selling hemp-derived delta-9 products is largely due to the 2018 Farm Bill. Public interest in delta-9 products manufactured from industrial hemp has skyrocketed in popularity due to their legality in all 50 states. Identical in feeling and experience to marijuana-derived delta-9, hemp-derived delta-9 THC is a useful alternative for consumers who either live in a state where marijuana-derived delta-9 is illegal or who want to try delta-9 THC without consuming marijuana.
For example, Summit’s delta-9 gummies are derived from industrial hemp and can be shipped to all 50 states. They’re infused with natural flavors, shelf stable and heat resistant, and are vegan and gluten free.
How Does Delta-9 THC Work?
There are two primary receptors for cannabinoids in the brain: cannabinoid 1 (CB1) receptors and cannabinoid 2 (CB2) receptors. When THC enters the body, it activates these receptors, causing them to attach to glutamatergic terminals in several parts of the brain.1 These parts of the brain include the following:
- The basal ganglia
- The frontal cortex
- The hippocampus
- The cerebellum1
This activation is important because the parts of the brain where the glutamatergic terminals activate also regulate serotonin production. With moderate to low doses, newcomers to THC can increase serotonin levels and users can enjoy a number of clinical benefits from delta-9, such as pain relief.5 However, too large of doses can cause the brain to temporarily stop or alter the production of serotonin, which may have a negative impact on users.
What Are the Clinical Benefits of Delta-9?
Not only does delta-9 THC activate certain parts of the brain, but it also causes clinically significant effects. According to a 2016 study published by the Mental Health Clinician, the effects of delta-9 vary from person to person, but commonly include:
- Preventing vomiting & nausea
- Appetite stimulation
- Pain relief
- Relieving symptoms caused by PTSD
- Alleviating symptoms caused by mental conditions
- Calming anxiety
The clinical benefits of delta-9 THC have led numerous officials and researchers in individual states to approve marijuana use for patients with chronic medical illnesses.2 Low to moderate doses are used in managing symptoms and discomfort caused by these physical and mental long-term illnesses.
What Are the Drawbacks of Delta-9?
Delta-9 also has the potential to cause negative effects on individual users. This is especially true for users who take large doses of delta-9 THC initially without being mindful of their consumption size.4
Negative effects of consuming delta-9 THC include the following:
- Cognitive impairment
- Difficulty remembering things
- Dry mouth
- Increased heart rate
- Changing the intensity of sounds1
The most common negative symptom users experience when consuming delta-9 is increased heart rate. Occasionally, consumers of delta-9 may experience paranoia.
The positive here is that people can’t technically medically overdose on delta-9 THC. Marijuana, hemp, and delta-9 have never been reported to cause medical overdose. If a user consumes too much delta-9, they’ll likely experience some negative effects until the THC leaves their system hours later.5
How Long Does Delta-9 Stay in the Body?
When delta-9 is consumed, you can expect to experience psychoactive effects anywhere from 2-10 hours.6 The effects are different depending on a variety of factors such as:
- Overall tolerance to delta-9 and marijuana
- Consumption method (smoking delta-9 flower vs ingesting delta-9 gummies)
- Amount taken
- General mood and setting6
After consumption, delta-9 THC stays present in the body’s excretory system for around 5-10 days for infrequent users and around two to three weeks for habitual users.6 This doesn’t mean that you continue to feel the effects of delta-9 THC for this length of time, but that marijuana and hemp stay present in urine, blood, and hair further after the effects have worn off.
How Is Delta-9 THC Consumed?
Delta-9 THC can be administered a number of ways:
- Oral ingestion (delta-9 gummies)
- Sublingually (under the tongue)
- Through skin
- Smoked/inhaled (delta-9 flower)
- Mixed into food (delta-9 edibles)
Most commonly, it is consumed in four forms: delta-9 edibles, delta-9 concentrates, delta-9 flower, delta-9 gummies, or delta-9 tinctures. Let’s cover the specifics of each below.
Delta-9 Edibles and Delta-9 Gummies
Edibles, like delta-9 gummies, are formulated, marijuana-infused or hemp-infused treats that you can eat. After the consumption of delta-9 gummies, it typically takes around 45 minutes to an hour for you to feel the desired effects. Delta-9 edibles come in all forms and flavors, from chocolates and gummies to lollipops and hard candies.
Delta-9 Distillate (Wax, Shatter, and More)
Non-solvent delta-9 THC concentrates are highly potent and effective forms of marijuana. They’re the product of distilling down THC into concentrated forms (hence the name) and are designed to give users quick, enhanced effects when inhaled. Users feel the effects of delta-9 distillates immediately after consuming.
Delta-9 flower is the natural marijuana plant, though usually it’s a high potency strain that has up to 20% delta-9 THC content. Delta-9 flower is typically smoked, and can be done so in a variety of ways. Users typically feel the effects immediately when inhaling delta-9 flower.
Delta-9 Oils & Tinctures
Delta-9 THC oils & tinctures are products derived from CBD and hemp oil. It’s a complex process - manufacturers use CO2 extraction to get delta-9 THC oil from hemp plants. User reports vary on how soon they feel the effects from delta-9 THC oil in this format. Some report the effects as immediate while others report it taking up to an hour.
Where Is Delta-9 Legally Available in the United States?
Marijuana-Derived Delta-9 THC
Marijuana and its most active phytocannabinoid, delta-9 THC, are classified as a Schedule 1 substance under the Controlled Substances Act. Though it isn’t legal federally, a number of states have legalized it for medical and recreational use.7
As of March 2022, 37 states have legalized medical marijuana use and 18 states have legalized recreational marijuana use. You can find an up-to-date listing of all the states and their legalization status at Brittanica’s ProCon.org.
Hemp-Derived Delta-9 THC
As a newcomer to the hemp industry, delta-9 THC that’s been derived from industrial hemp is currently legal in all 50 states. Its legality is directed by the 2018 Farm Bill regulations at a federal level, however, states may pass new regulations around hemp-derived delta-9 THC in the future.
The 2018 Farm Bill states that “so long as the THC concentration does not exceed 0.3%,” a hemp product is legal for manufacturing and selling in all 50 states. It’s easiest to stick to that rule with delta-9 gummies, so consumers can expect to see delta-9 products derived from hemp in gummy form most often.
Summit’s delta-9 gummies are great for beginners compared to hemp-derived delta-9 THC who want to try it out for themselves. They’re infused with natural flavors rather than coated with them, which makes them more shelf stable and heat resistant. For more information on Summit’s delta-9 gummies, you can visit our site.
What Are the Typical Doses of Delta-9?
Delta-9 THC is the most active phytocannabinoid in marijuana, so first-time users should expect to start with lower doses and increase if they feel comfortable. As stated before, the effects of consuming delta-9 vary by user and depend on key factors like consumption type and overall tolerance.
In general, first timers should start dosing at around 5mg and work their way up from there, gradually increasing over time and gauging their individual reactions to the dose of delta-9 they’ve consumed. Users can get a good idea of their dosing size from the type of product they’re using. For example, most marijuana-derived delta-9 edibles found at dispensaries offer around 10mg of THC per complete dose.
On the other hand, Summit’s hemp-derived gummies come in doses of 15mg each, with 300mg per container. Beginners can start with half a gummy and those more experienced with THC can begin with a full gummy.
What Happens If You Consume Both Delta-9 THC and CBD Together?
Delta-9 is a naturally occurring, active component of marijuana. CBD is also a naturally occurring, yet non-psychoactive component of marijuana.1
The clinical effects of CBD are still being explored, but its most common effect is sedation. Additionally, CBD is known to decrease the negative effects of marijuana by decreasing the effectiveness of delta-9 THC at allowing CB1 and CB2 receptors to attach to glutamatergic terminals within the brain. CBD activates these receptors of the endocannabinoid system, but acts antagonistically, preventing the receptors from activating those terminals within the brain.2
So, users who consume CBD products alongside THC have reported lesser negative effects from delta-9 THC, such as anxiety or paranoia.
Does Delta-9 THC Show Up in Drug Tests?
Yes. Delta-9 THC is the key molecular structure laboratories test for when examining for marijuana in either urine or plasma. Delta-9 THC can remain present in urine and plasma for weeks, remaining even longer in hair follicles. Users who consume delta-9 THC will show as having consumed marijuana during federal drug testing procedures.
For more information on drug testing and THC, you can check out our blog which covers the legality and processes more in depth.
In Conclusion: What is Delta-9?
Delta-9 is a primary active component of the marijuana plant. It provides users with a number of clinical benefits and has been shown to alleviate symptoms caused by chronic illnesses. It’s one of the most studied phytocannabinoids, so users can easily understand more about delta-9 and its effects through decades of existing research.
Complex in structure and available in a variety of forms, such as delta-9 gummies, delta-9 flower, etc., this type of either hemp-derived or marijuana-derived THC offers users an exciting opportunity to explore something new, so long as it’s taken in moderation and consumed responsibly.
If you’re interested in learning more about marijuana and THC, we have blog articles that cover more topics related to this one. Check out our blog for information on delta-8 THC or explore the differences between delta-8 and delta-9.