Delta 8 vs Delta 9 – What Every Cannabis User Needs to Know

This detailed guide will teach you the differences between Delta-8 and Delta-9, introduce you to some top-selling products, and prepare you to make informed purchases in the future.

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With the sudden popularity of delta-8 THC and the rapidly expanding market for cannabis products in the United States, there is a lot of confusion about what these various new forms are and even what these terms mean. If you feel a bit confused, we’ve got you covered! If you’re simply looking for somewhere to buy Delta products, then feel free to skip this and head straight to You and your wallet can thank us later…

All those who are on a quest for knowledge definitely want to stick around. This detailed guide will teach you the differences between Delta-8 and Delta-9, introduce you to some top-selling products, and prepare you to make informed purchases in the future.

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What is Delta-8? 

Ok let’s get the technical stuff out of the way first, this section may be filled with complex terminology, but this will help you be an expert on the compounds found in cannabis. Both delta-8 and delta-9 are forms of THC. Tetrahydrocannabinol called THC for short is the active compound that produces the high associated with cannabis.

THC comes in several forms called isomers, which all have the same chemical formula but each has its atoms arranged differently.  Delta-8 and Delta-9 are both isomers of THC. Delta-9 is the primary isomer, occurring naturally in cannabis in high amounts. Delta-8 also occurs naturally in cannabis but only in very small amounts, typically less than 3% of the total cannabinoids.  

THC is a cannabinoid, which is a family of compounds that occur naturally in cannabis and are all psychoactive, which means they affect the behavior of the nervous system when inside the human body. There are currently 113 known cannabinoids that occur in cannabis.

Another cannabinoid related to THC is Cannabidiol, called CBD for short. CBD also occurs in cannabis in high amounts and CBD behaves differently in the body than THC. CBD does not have the associated effects of producing a high and instead has a mild sedative and relaxing effect.

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What is Delta-9?

THC is produced by specific varieties of the plant Cannabis indica and Cannabis sativa, commonly called marijuana, cannabis, or simply cannabis. These two plants have been interbred and carefully selected over many generations to produce large amounts of Delta-9 THC. These two plants are also used to produce hemp, a natural fiber used to make rope. Due to complex laws limiting the production of THC, hemp varieties of cannabis produce almost no THC and instead produce high amounts of CBD.

Both delta-9 and CBD are processed in a wide variety of ways to extract them from the plant. Cannabis varieties high in THC of course are commonly smoked directly from the source material, the flower buds of the plant and are commonly rolled into joints or smoked from a pipe or bong.

THC is also processed into an extract resin that can then be added to a large number of other products such as edible gummies, cannabis oils, vape cartridges, and is also added as a component of various medications. CBD is not commonly smoked and is typically processed out of hemp and made into an oil extract that is then added to various body products or sold as an oil.

Delta-8, though occurring in small amounts in cannabis, is not easy to isolate and remove from cannabis oil. The method of producing delta-8 is synthesizing it from CBD oil. The process of turning CBD into delta-8 is fairly straightforward and involves dissolving CBD oil into a solvent, adding an acid, and heating it to instigate the molecule to change shape into delta-8. The remaining acid is then neutralized and the product is cleaned from impurities. 

Ideally, the finished delta-8 will have no flavor or scent to it, and sometimes has a light solvent scent to the final result. Many manufacturers go through some additional steps, which are intended to increase the quality of the experience of the delta-8, this includes adding terpenes to give it a more familiar cannabis flavor. Oftentimes,  flavors like strawberry, citrus, or mint are also added. 

The process of making delta-8 is not without nuance– different acids, solvents, and temperatures can produce different cannabinoids other than delta-8, and this same process can be used to produce other exotic drugs, commonly called spice, which is also sold as synthetic cannabinoids. 

The use of CBD oil is a very convenient and obvious choice for making delta-8. Recent increases in CBD production in the United States have caused the price of CBD oil to fall and have led growers to seek out more profitable uses for the surplus of CBD oil. Synthesizing delta-8 is a lucrative way to use CBD oil and the process to synthesize it has been known since the 1960s and only recently has become economically profitable.

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Is Delta 8 Legal?

Now that we understand what delta-8 is and how it’s made, we can start to get a better understanding of why it is lucrative as a new form of THC. Both delta-9 THC and CBD are produced in high amounts from different strains of cannabis, and each is widely available in areas where they are legal.

THC is legal for recreational use in a handful of states and allowed for medical use in 38 states as of 2021. CBD on the other hand is legal across the United States since 2018. This means there are significantly more places where CBD is legal than where delta-9 THC is legal. 

Where does delta-8 THC fall into this legal web? As discussed above delta-8 is synthesized from CBD. The way that cannabis oils are regulated is based on the plant source material. CBD is freely legal in the United States if it is produced from a variety of hemp that produces less than 0.03% delta-9 THC in its oil content.

THC-producing cannabis varieties are controlled based on their oil production as well, as the oil generated will be much higher than the 0.03% delta-9 THC that is federally allowed.

This legal CBD oil is then synthesized to produce delta-8 THC resulting in a legal grey zone. Because of this process, delta-8 is not considered a controlled substance, but very likely will face some legal restrictions in the future.

Though delta-8 is an isomer of THC it is currently unregulated and is rapidly becoming available in many states that have restrictions on Delta-9 THC. The difference is simply the method of production and the fact that delta-8 occurs naturally in very small amounts, and therefore has received little legal attention because of it.  

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Differing Effects of Delta-8 and Delta-9 

First, some more technical information will help us understand how delta-9 and delta-8 feel different when you use them as well as explain the differences in potency. The part of the THC molecule that bonds to a human receptor is situated around a carbon-carbon bond.

On Delta-9 this bond is located in an ideal location to interact with the receptor. In delta-8 this bond is located at a less ideal location, causing the molecule to bond less regularly and less strongly. This translates to different behavior between the two forms of THC.

One might think that delta-8 should be similar to CBD since it is synthesized from it, but delta-8 is much more closely related to delta-9 THC than CBD. The reason for this is that CBD lacks this carbon-carbon bond discussed above altogether, and cannot bond to the same receptors as THC, which means it does not have the associated effects that cannabis does.

When modifying the CBD into delta-8 this carbon-carbon bond has been generated in the delta-8 giving it the ability to bond and behave similarly to delta-9. 

Delta-8 can be expected to produce a less intense high, a longer and slower effect on the body, and is around half as effective at generating a high as delta-9. The exact effectiveness of delta-8 is not yet fully studied and figuring out the correct dose involves trial and error. Most delta-8 products adjust their dose differently than delta-9 allowing for the same relative intensity of an experience.

Often edible gummies that have a dose of 10 milligrams of delta-9 THC will have an equivalent dose of 20-25 milligrams for delta-8. Even though the relative dose is the same, expect the effects to take longer to set in with delta-8. Because delta-8 gives a milder high and has widely been reported as relaxing, it is also likely effective as a sleep aid and has been reported to be more effective than delta-9 for reducing anxiety. 

Delta-8 currently has only been approved for uses that are recreational, and delta-8 is significantly less studied for its health impacts and benefits than delta-9. If you intend to use delta-8 for therapeutic purposes, know that there is still no major consensus on its benefits, and taking it may not have the intended effects.

That being said, millions of people throughout the country use Delta 8 and other cannabis products for a variety of reasons. Some people use it to help with chronic pain, others use it for sleeplessness, and many people use it for general wellness and recreation.

Dosing varies from person to person. Consuming twice the dose of delta-8 as you would consume of delta-9 is generally considered a way to get an equivalent high. The effects of too high a dose are similar for both delta-8 and delta-9 and include mental fogginess, increased anxiety, general unpleasant feelings, tiredness, and impaired motor skills.

It is not recommended to drive or do any kind of highly technical work after consuming delta-8 or any other cannabinoids.  It is also not recommended to give any amount of delta-8 to children, anyone who is pregnant, and anyone who experiences seizures. If you are unsure what dose to take, start with a small dose and increase it only once you are sure the dose was insufficient. 


What Delta-8 Formulations are Available?

Because there is no natural source of delta-8 you cannot find flowers, buds, or any other directly smokable form of delta-8. Instead, delta-8 is available as an oil and in various products that use the oil. The most common forms you will find are Delta-8 gummies and vape cartridges. Delta-8 can also be found in care products, pills, and tinctures. Delta-8 products are often priced cheaper than delta-9 products that have the same relative dose.

There are two main reasons for this, the first is that many jurisdictions have high tax rates on delta-9 THC products, and the high tax rates carry over to the cost of the products. The second reason is that delta-8 can be synthesized from CBD oil, which is currently selling for a much lower price than other cannabinoids. Since CBD is used to make delta-8 this reduces the cost of production.

Expect delta-8 products to increase in price as the products become more popular and there is higher recognition of the products and a greater demand develops. CBD is currently being produced in amounts that exceed demand, but with delta-8 and other innovative uses of CBD oil, the access supplies are unlikely to remain and prices will increase as demand matches production. 

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Where is Delta-8 sold?

Delta-8 is sold in a much wider variety of places than delta-9 THC and can be found even in some gas stations and convenience stores throughout the United States. That being said, it’s usually a far better idea to buy cannabis products online. CBD and delta-8 also have few restrictions on being shipped in the United States. This means that delta-8 is available online and is legal in places where delta-9 THC remains illegal.

Delta-8 products have rapidly expanded from a handful of manufacturers in 2018 to a countless amount of brands and products. This gives buyers a wide variety of choices on where to buy their delta-8 products. This wider availability also makes delta-8 an excellent choice for recreational use in places where delta-9 products are not available.

Of course, this wide availability can also raise questions about the quality and safety of delta-8 products. The market for cheap and easy to access cannabis is quickly being filled with a large variety of products with many delta-8 sales booming across the country.

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Is Delta-8 THC safe? 

As a molecule, delta-8 has very similar safety concerns as delta-9 THC and is considered safe in recreational and therapeutic doses. Where safety becomes a concern is in the various products that are labeled delta-8. Since there is no major regulation on CBD products, there is also no regulation on delta-8 products either. As discussed earlier, the process of making delta-8 from CBD oil is not without nuance, and if the variables of synthesizing delta-8 vary, so can the resulting cannabinoids.

There has already been some scientific study looking at the contents of various products sold as delta-8 and many have shown to have inconsistent chemical compositions. There has also been a large uptick in reports to the FDA of adverse effects from delta-8 products, this is likely connected to poor quality control in some delta-8 products. Luckily there are some helpful ways to know if delta-8 products are what they claim to be. 

The easiest of these is to only buy delta-8 oil that comes with a Certificate of Analysis (COA) that can confirm what kinds of cannabinoids are in the product. COA may be provided by the manufacturer and are also issued by some vendors. COAs are commonly available at cannabis dispensaries, smoke shops, and specialty stores and are unlikely to be available somewhere like a convenience store.

A COA will typically list the amounts of cannabinoids found in the product and may sometimes also list the various terpenes and any other compounds specific to the product. This can include things such as sugars and flavors used to make flavored gummies as well as the food-safe stabilizers used in vape cartridges. 

Unknown delta-8 brands are less likely to have a COA, as the process of having a lab analyze the product is costly and increases the price of the product. COA is the best way to ensure that you are buying a quality product that does not contain any unexpected and undisclosed compounds. Look for products that are sealed in a box, with a tamper-proof seal and products that have batch numbers.

Often a COA can be found on a manufacturer’s website, and if there is a batch number on the product, that specific batch can be linked to a COA. Many online vendors will provide links to a COA for the benefit of the customers and to improve confidence in their products.

Reliable vendors will make it clear to buyers what is in the products they sell and they will be critical of the quality of products they sell. If you are buying cannabis products from a vendor that does not disclose any information about what they sell, you should treat any claims they make with suspicion. 

Will Delta 8 Show Up on a Drug Test?

Most likely yes! Not all drug tests are made the same, and some detect a wide array of cannabinoids while others target specifically delta-9 THC. To add another layer of complexity, not all delta-8 products are pure delta-8 and may even contain small amounts of delta-9 THC but those are still high enough levels to be detected in a drug test.

If you are consuming delta-8 or any other cannabinoid there is always a chance it will show up on a drug test. This of course means that consuming delta-8 is not a replacement for delta-9 when trying to avoid a positive drug test. 

What is the Difference Between Delta-8 and Spice?

Spice, sometimes called K2, or synthetic cannabis is the common name for a group of drugs made from synthetic cannabinoids. These cannabinoids are much more exotic than delta-8 and are often produced as complex cocktails containing other uncommon psychoactive compounds as well.

Because spice is a mixture it can vary dramatically between manufacturers. Spice evades legal restrictions by constantly changing the composition depending on which compounds are legal, and can vary regionally based on local legislation. This also makes spice difficult to categorize and makes the effects of recreational use inconsistent.

Delta-8 and Spice are quite different. The only similarity between spice and delta-8 is that they are both at their core synthetic cannabinoids. Delta-8 differs in that the target properties are made to be consistent and the chemistry used to make delta-8 is much more simple than the chemistry used to make the spice.

Spice may be sold as an oil, vape cartridge, or impregnated into leaves, to closely match the look of pre-ground cannabis. These products are intended to be smoked, and in some cases have been labeled as containing delta-8. Any product that contains spice should be considered much more risky to consume than delta-8 and reputable dealers will often refuse to sell spice products over safety concerns.


Delta-8 THC is a safe, new form of recreational THC that has developed rapid popularity and is quickly becoming available around the United States. Reading this guide should give you the confidence and terminology to know the differences and nuances between various common cannabinoids and should have given you the skills and knowledge to shop responsibly when buying delta-8 THC products.

The cannabis market in the United States is in a state of rapid change with new innovative products being released in rapid succession. It is important for consumers to understand the products they are buying, especially when those products have a psychoactive effect and this guide should have given you a much better understanding of this complex industry. Ultimately, Delta 8 and Delta 9 are similar cannabinoids that have great potential to become a staple of the wellness community. 

If you’re interested in the benefits of cannabis, both Delta 8 and Delta 9 are fantastic options!
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Delta 8 vs Delta 9 – What Every Cannabis User Needs to Know