The Differences Between Delta-8 THC and Delta-9 THC

As the cannabis community grows throughout the United States, more consumers seek the benefits of tetrahydrocannabinol (“THC”) products. Two of the most prevalent forms of THC on the market today are Delta-8 THC and Delta-9 THC (“Δ8THC and Δ9THC”)

Δ8THC and Δ9THC present differences in their chemical makeup, impact on the user, production, and legality. Learn more about the key differences between Δ8THC and Δ9THC below. 

Delta-8 THC: The Basics

Δ8THC is a phytocannabinoid that presents in minor quantities in the cannabis plant. This sought-after cannabinoid occurs in minimal concentrations and is often isomerized and converted from cannabidiol (“CBD”). Despite its lineage, Δ8THC generates different effects than CBD. When consumed or inhaled, Δ8THC generally produces anxiety-reducing and psychoactive effects, often linking to pain relief, euphoria, and relaxation. 

Delta-9 THC: The Basics

Δ9THC is the primary THC phytocannabinoid derived from the cannabis plant. Given its abundance, Δ9THC is more quickly and cheaply extracted than Δ8THC. Though it produces psychoactive effects similar to those of Δ8THC, Δ9THC is more often used recreationally for its psychoactive effects. Given its greater psychotropic potency, Δ9THC produces a euphoric high associated with elevation, relaxation, talkativeness, and laughter. Δ9THC has also demonstrated medical efficacy in numerous trials, including providing palliative and pain relief for certain conditions.

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

While Δ8THC and Δ9THC are both popular cannabinoids widely used for recreational and medical purposes, their slight chemical distinction results in different physical and psychoactive effects. Along with their contrast in these effects, the two cannabinoid compounds also present stark differences in production, legality, and molecular structure.

Commercial Production

Because Δ9THC is the cannabis plant’s most commonly-found THC phytocannabinoid, its extraction process is quicker and cheaper than Δ8THC. Cannabis produces very little Δ8THC naturally; therefore, extraction requires greater effort. However, most Δ8THC on the market today is created by isomerizing CBD extracted directly from the cannabis plant. 


The 2018 Farm Bill removed “hemp” from the Controlled Substance Act (CSA)’s definition of marijuana and exempted “tetrahydrocannabinol in hemp” from the scheduling of THC. 

Under the 2018 Farm Bill, “hemp” is defined as the plant Cannabis sativa L. and any part of that plant, including the seeds thereof and all derivatives, extracts, cannabinoids, isomers, acids, salts, and salts of isomers, whether growing or not, with a delta-9 THC concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis.

Federally, Δ8THC derived directly from compliant Cannabis sativa L. plants is legal. Δ9THC derived from hemp with a dry weight basis of less than 0.3% is federally legal. Any quantity in excess of that amount is considered a Schedule I controlled substance under the CSA.

At the state level, the legality of hemp-derived Δ8THC varies across the nation.

Molecular Structure

Δ8THC and Δ9THC each have their own unique molecular structures, with the main difference being the placement of the double bond on their carbon atom chain. Resonating with its name, Δ8THC’s double bonds are on the eighth carbon atom. In contrast, Δ9THC’s double bonds are on the ninth carbon atom. Though this may seem like a minor disparity, this bond placement correlates to how Δ8THC or Δ9THC interacts with your body’s central nervous system.

Side Effects

Given Δ9THC’s stronger potency, Δ8THC is generally known to produce milder side effects than its sister cannabinoid. When consumed or inhaled, Δ9THC often presents intense, intoxicating effects that can elicit both euphoric highs or episodes of anxiety, paranoia, and mental fog. On the contrary, Δ8THC may provide a milder euphoric experience, often causing feelings of serenity and relaxation. 

Business owners and consumers in the cannabis community should familiarize themselves with the differences between Δ8THC and Δ9THC. By partnering with trusted cannabis attorneys like Chelse Spencer, clients gain the counsel necessary to thrive in the hemp, CBD, and cannabis industries. Contact Ritter Spencer Cheng or give us a call at 214.295.5070 for more information.