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Difference Between Delta-8 and Delta-9: A guide for CBD Consumers

scientist analyzing hemp properties

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The Cannabis sativa plant has been cultivated for centuries, if not millennia, in cultures worldwide for various therapeutic and recreational reasons. But it’s only within the past few decades that scientists in the medical field have really begun to research and substantiate what others have known all along. 

This is partly thanks to the destigmatizing of this plant, which has led to beneficial law reforms such as the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill that federally legalized industrial hemp production across the USA.

As opportunities to study Cannabis sativa grow, so do the discoveries and unlocking of the potential contained within its stems, leaves and flowers.

Most studies are related to unique compounds contained within Cannabis sativa, known as cannabinoids. With over a hundred discovered so far, the two most prominent are CBD (cannabidiol) and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol).  

Recently, there has been a lot of talk about two different types of THC, Delta-8 and Delta-9. And it’s a conversation that is important for folks interested in CBD products to know about. So, let’s take a look at some of the details.

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A Little More About Delta-8 and Delta-9

When most of us hear the term “THC,” we think about a psychoactive cannabinoid that causes euphoria, red eyes and a mean case of the munchies. The scientific name for this cannabinoid is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, which gets shortened to delta-9 THC, or just Delta-9.

Then there’s delta-8-tetrahydrocannabinol, which gets shortened to delta-8 THC, or simply Delta-8. 

Delta-8 and Delta-9 are chemically similar, except for one crucial point the placement of the double bond in their carbon chains. This double bond is theorized to produce specific intoxicating effects and is in different places. While Delta-8 has it on the eighth carbon, Delta-9 has it on the ninth.

This means that while Delta-8 does have psychoactive properties, it will not have the same intoxicating intensity as Delta-9. However, it is believed to deliver many of the same benefits. Some of these, according to reports, include:

  • Supporting relief from pain and inflammation
  • Helping with stress and anxiety
  • Helping with nausea relief
  • Producing a “clear-headed” high without the more potent effects caused by Delta-9

Another big difference between these two THC cannabinoids is their source. Delta-9 is typically found in Cannabis sativa plants labeled as THC-dominant or simply marijuana plants. Delta-8, on the other hand, is often derived from CBD-dominant plants, which are referred to as hemp. 

Delta-8’s History and Sudden Popularity

You might think that Delta-8 was only just discovered, given the recent buzz about it. 

However, the studies first began in 1974 at the National Cancer Institute when researchers tried to prove that THC harmed the immune system. They instead discovered that Delta-8 possessed cancer-fighting abilities. 

This investigation continued in 1975 when a group of researchers examined the shrinking of certain types of tumors after the oral administration of cannabinoids that included Delta-8, Delta-9 and cannabinol (CBN).

 chemist working with chemicals

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Research more or less stalled after this until the 1990s when THC was tested as an antiemetic in pediatric patients with cancer to stop children undergoing cancer treatment from vomiting. It was found to do a good job. Then, another study was conducted in 2004 where Delta-8 was found to be an effective hunger stimulant. And as recently as 2018, Delta-8 was studied for pain-reducing and anti-inflammatory properties.

But why the sudden explosion in popularity?

As we mentioned, Delta-8 is primarily derived from hemp plants, which under the 2018 Farm Bill are perfectly legal to grow and process for their derivatives. However, as we also mentioned, Delta-8 does have psychoactive effects. That’s why folks in states that have yet to legalize marijuana (think Delta-9 here) have jumped at Delta-8 as a legal loophole.

Currently, Delta-8 exists in a legal gray area in most of the country and is being sold everywhere you can find CBD. However, according to some reports, this may be changing in the future as legal battles ramp up surrounding the popularized cannabinoid.

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CBD and Delta-8

When it comes to the CBD industry, you’re going to find three kinds: full-spectrum, broad-spectrum and isolate. Of the three, only full-spectrum CBD will ever contain THC, and even then, it will be at 0.3 percent or less to abide by federal laws. 

Since Delta-8 is generally derived from the same plants that CBD comes from, does that mean the THC in full-spectrum CBD is Delta-8? 

Not necessarily. The only way to know this is to check a company’s third-party lab reports. Each batch will have a certificate of analysis (COA) to list the cannabinoids contained within the product. This allows you to monitor the consistency of a product. And, yes, also check if and how much THC is contained. 

When you’re looking at a COA, Delta-9 will often be listed as “Δ9THC” and Delta-8 as “Δ8THC.”

And the truth is, the amount of legally allowed THC in full-spectrum CBD is so low that it rarely has any effect on the people who take it anyway.

man dropping cbd oil into bottle

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There are some 1:1 CBD to Delta-8 products on the market, however. Be aware of this when shopping, as these are quite different than regular CBD products and will deliver a completely different experience. Those looking to experience the benefits of CBD without psychoactive effects should avoid this kind of product. 

Whether or not you choose to purchase a CBD tincture or other product with THC in it – Delta-8 or Delta-9 – is a personal choice. If you do, just be sure you are buying from a trusted, reputable company and distributor, and you’ll be sure to get a high-quality product that you can trust.


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