What is the Difference Between Delta-8 & Delta-9?
Delta-8 THC and delta-9 THC may sound almost identical…but the way they affect your body is actually worlds apart.
It’s true: delta-8 isn’t nearly as similar to delta-9 as their names imply! Keep reading to learn more about the difference — actually, the many differences — between these two special cannabinoids. Here’s an outline of what we’ll be covering:
- THC isomers 101
- Delta-8 vs delta-9: how they work
- Difference #1: mood
- Difference #2: memory
- Difference #3: upliftment
- Difference #4: dosing
- Difference #5: research
- Difference #6: legal status
- Difference #7: drug testing
- How delta-8 and delta-9 THC are similar
- Proven ways to take delta-8 and delta-9 THC
- How to find premium delta-8 and delta-9 products
THC isomers 101
When you hear the word THC, your mind probably jumps right to the most common form of THC: delta-9. Delta-9 THC is what powers most strains of cannabis. If you grew up smoking cannabis flower or making edibles, delta-9 was probably the primary cannabinoid you were getting.
But the reality is that THC exists in several different forms, which scientists call isomers. The most common forms include:
With that being said…what’s the difference between delta-8 and delta-9 THC? Technically speaking, the two cannabinoids share the same chemical formula: C₂₁H₃₀O₂. Their only difference is a single chemical bond.
Within the delta-8 molecule this bond lies on the 8th chain of the carbon atom; within the delta-9 molecule this bond lies on the ninth. In case you were wondering, yes, this is where their respective names came from!
But this small structural difference gives delta-8 and delta-9 THC radically different effects on one’s body and mind. Here’s a nice delta-8 overview from the National Cancer Insitute:
[Delt-8 THC may have] antiemetic, anxiolytic, appetite-stimulating, analgesic, and neuroprotective properties. [Delta-8] binds to the cannabinoid G-protein coupled receptor CB1, located in the central nervous system […]. This [compound] exhibits a lower psychotropic potency than [delta-9 THC], the primary form of THC found in cannabis.” 
Delta-8 THC vs delta-9 THC: how they work
Did you catch that last part? Delta-8 THC binds to the same CB1 receptors that ‘regular’ delta-9 THC does…yet it still produces less psychotropic effects.
Though both cannabinoids bind to CB1, delta-8 THC’s slightly different structure means it binds to CB1 receptors in slightly gentler ways. Delta-8 THC may also interact with CB2 receptors — something delta-9 THC doesn’t do — which further balances out CB1 activation.
This dual binding action makes delta-8 THC kind of unique. It’s more versatile than CBD, which binds mostly to CB2, and definitely more versatile than delta-9 THC, which binds only to CB1.  The chart below should give you a better idea of these differences:
|CBD (cannabidiol)||Delta-8 THC (delta-8 tetrahydrocannabinol)||Delta-9 THC (delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol)|
|Psychological effects||Gentle, subtle, mildly uplifting, mildly calming||Controlled, uplifting, sedating (at high doses), energizing||Powerful, direct, euphoric, sedating, invigorating|
|Modes of Action||CB2 receptors, TRPV1 receptors, adenosine A2A receptors, other GPCR’s||CB1 receptors, CB2 receptors, TRPV1 receptors, serotonin receptors, ACE-2 receptors, other GPCR’s||CB1 receptors, TRPV1 receptors, serotonin receptors, ACE-2 receptors, other GPCR’s|
Now that we’ve covered why delta-8 and delta-9 are different, let’s take a deep dive into the specific differences you can expect from taking them.
Difference #1: mood
Nearly everyone who tries delta-8 THC finds it gentler than delta-9. It doesn’t usually cause drastic changes in mood, nor does it cause drastic changes to blood pressure or heart rate.
Delta-8 usually results in a gentle, side-effect-free high — at least at low-moderate doses.
More than a few cannabis experts have taken to calling it ‘THC lite.’ 
Delta-9 THC’s effects are often anything but light. This type of THC can bind to CB1 receptors powerfully enough to cause some side effects; research shows that THC’s binding affinity surpasses that of any internally-produced cannabinoid.
In other words, heavy delta-9 can temporarily overwhelm the way your endocannabinoid system normally works. If you’ve ever taken too much delta-9 THC, you’ve probably felt what we’re talking about here!
Difference #2: memory
CBD may be neuroprotective, and delta-9 THC may promote neurogenesis…but delta-8 THC seems to provide the best of both worlds. Most people find its blend of neuroprotection and neuroplasticity to be great for cognition and memory. Users report that it’s easier to stay focused and eliminate distractions. All in all, small doses of delta-8 THC may boost productivity more than most other cannabinoids.
Recent research affirms this concept. One study found that delta-8 may boost the brain’s levels of an important neurotransmitter called acetylcholine. Interestingly enough, heavy delta-9 use can deplete acetylcholine levels. If you want to keep your neurotransmitters nice and balanced, just use both cannabinoids. 
Difference #3: upliftment
Both delta-8 THC and delta-9 THC are uplifting. Even so, they usually feel different. Delta-8 THC usually feels:
While delta-9 THC usually feels:
- Highly sedating
- Overpowering (at high doses)
In basic terms, delta-8 THC is less psychoactive than delta-9 THC. It’s still psychoactive, sure, just less so than delta-9. This is partially because delta-8 THC binds to such a wide variety of receptors. Below is just the shortlist:
- CB1 receptors (located throughout the brain)
- CB2 receptors (located throughout muscles/organs)
- CB3 receptors (other GPCR’s)
- Endorphin receptors
- TRPV receptors
Pretty complex, right? When it comes to effects, though, this complexity is a good thing. It makes delta-8 THC uplifting…but not too uplifting…relaxing…but not too sedating.
Just keep in mind that some people actually prefer the greater power of delta-9 THC. If you desperately need to reduce stress or sleep better, its added oomph might make it the best choice for you! One of the beauties of cannabis-derived compounds is that they can be mixed and matched according to your preference.
Difference #4: dosing
Delta-8’s gentleness makes it much easier to dose than delta-9. Even large doses of delta-8 THC aren’t usually overpowering enough to cause side effects like anxiety or dry mouth.
Delta-8 THC may become even easier to dose right when it’s taken alongside other cannabinoids and terpenes. CBD, for example, has been shown to balance out more psychotropic cannabinoids. Taking things a step further, terpenes have been shown to balance out the effects of CBD! 
That being said, your mileage may vary. Stick with a low dose anytime you try a new cannabinoid — even if higher doses appear okay on paper. And regardless of whether you opt for delta-8 or delta-9, try to take it via a full spectrum product that retains all of cannabis’s best ingredients.
Difference #5: research
Like most other natural cannabinoids, delta-8 and delta-9 THC were discovered in the 1940s.
Delta-9 is much better studied, however. According to stats from PubMed’s database, delta-9 is about 20-30 times more researched than delta-8 is.
Why? Primarily because delta-8 THC is harder to source. Most cannabis cultivars contain next-to-none of it, which means that researchers don’t always have access to purified delta-8. If researchers do want to study delta-8, they sometimes have to make it themselves. As cannabis expert Dr. Ethan Russo explains, “delta-8-THC can be converted in a lab from cannabidiol (CBD) and Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).”
In recent years delta-8 has begun getting the attention it deserves, though research still lags behind what we’re discovering about CBD and ‘regular’ THC. Here’s to hoping that changes in the near future.
Difference #6: legality
Delta-8 and delta-9 are surprisingly different when it comes to legal status. Delta-9 THC is considered a schedule 1 substance, and it’s illegal on the federal level. Delta-8, on the other hand, is completely federally legal if it’s derived from industrial hemp.
Why the discrepancy? Mostly thanks to the Federal Farm Bill that legalized hemp in the first place. According to this Bill delta-9 THC is the only hemp-derived cannabinoid that’s not legal — which implies that any other cannabinoid is just fine, even if it gets you high.
Coats & Rose, a leading cannabis law firm, explains more:
“[…] Because the 2018 Farm Bill included hemp derivatives within the definition of hemp, [delta-8 THC] appears, perhaps unintentionally, to be deemed hemp and not a controlled substance.” 
More than a few states have taken actions to resolve this legal gray area since delta-8 THC started getting popular. Many states have banned the cannabinoid, while others have welcomed it with open arms. Here’s where D-8 is currently illegal:
Several states have either banned or strictly restricted delta-8 sales — and more look poised to ban it soon. Here’s the list:
- New York
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
* Delta-8 THC rules and regulations are constantly changing. We’d encourage you to do some research of your own to ensure that delta-8 is still legal (or illegal) in your area.
Difference #7: drug testing
Both delta-8 and delta-9 THC can be problematic for those who take frequent drug tests. Despite delta-8’s legality, some drug tests can confuse it for less legal THC isomers — like delta-9.
That’s because these drug tests identify cannabinoid metabolites, not the cannabinoids themselves. Since delta-8 THC gets metabolized the same way delta-9 does, it can essentially trick these tests into thinking you took an illicit substance. CBD can cause false test results, too.
Thankfully there’s an easy solution. If you’re consistently taking CBD or delta-8 THC, notify your employer prior to your drug test. Any false positive test results can be cleared up through what’s called confirmation testing. This type of drug test uses more advanced methods to correctly distinguish between cannabinoids that are federally legal…and cannabinoids that are not.
How delta-8 and delta-9 THC are similar
Now that we’ve looked at 7 top differences between delta-8 and delta-9 THC, let’s turn our attention to a few important similarities!
Delta-8 THC and delta-9 THC may both:
- Cause intoxicating levels of upliftment (i.e. get you ‘high’)
- Relieve anxiety, mood swings, and OCD symptoms
- Increase your appetite (i.e. cause the munchies)
Regarding that last point, delta-8 might actually up your appetite more than delta-9 THC. does. It’s not yet known why this is, so just FYI.
Last but not least, both delta-8 and delta-9 THC may be worth adding to your health and wellness routine. With a little bit of experimentation you should be able to find the right doses of each — doses that mesh with your lifestyle and boost your wellbeing.
Proven ways to take delta-8 and delta-9 THC
Like most cannabinoids, delta-8 and delta-9 can be taken in a variety of ways. Taking them via oils/tinctures is a proven method that offers good absorption and quick onset times. Vape pens, gummies, and other edibles can also be great product choices.
Want to know which delivery method is best for you? Chances are it’s whatever you enjoy the most. Just think: if you enjoy taking a cannabis product, you’ll take it consistently…and if you take it consistently, your body’s endocannabinoid system just might grow stronger and stronger over time.
*Start off with a low dose if you’re taking delta-8 or delta-9 via an edible product. These products can take hours to kick in, making them almost impossible to be dosed by feel in the moment. Eating a fatty meal alongside delta-8 or delta-9 can also drastically improve their absorption.
How to find premium delta-8 and delta-9 THC products
Ready to experience the upliftment of delta-8 THC, or the euphoria of delta-9? Check out the products below for some ideas of what’s out there.
Delta-8 THC gummies
Hemp Bombs Mellow Mango Delta-8 Gummies encourage peace of mind to provide complete relaxation and total comfort. Each edible is infused with 25mg of max strength Delta-8 and offers all-encompassing benefits. Our Delta-8 Gummies are available in a variety of delightful flavors, including Mellow Mango. Try them for yourself and see why they’re one of our best-selling products.
Delta-9 THC gummies
Urb Extrax introduces our Blueberry Citrus Burst Premium Delta 9 THC Gummies! This berry, citrus medley of flavors is a sure shot to get an explosion of flavor and effectiveness all at once. Also, these 6-gram gummies feature 10mg of hemp-derived Delta-9 THC. Basically, this means that our gummies are a fully legal hemp product under the 2018 Hemp Farm Bill as they contain 0.25% delta-9-THC.
Concentrated Concepts Premium Delta 8 THC Flower is a Sativa-dominant hybrid hemp strain made by crossing Blueberry with Haze. Novice and veteran consumers alike enjoy the calming and euphoric effects that Blue Dream provides. Consumers also love the flavor — it smells and tastes just like sweet berries. Fun Fact: Blue Dream originated in California and has achieved legendary status among West Coast strains.
Summing things up
Delta-8 and delta-9 are more different than they might seem at first glance. That’s not a bad thing, though, as their differences make it possible to really customize your cannabis-centric wellness routine! Delta-8 may also be more accessible for those of you who live in areas where cannabis is still illegal.
Stay tuned as we continue to learn more about delta-8 THC. What we know now is likely just the tip of the iceberg, and the best is yet to come…