CBD & Delta 8 vs. THCO, THCP, HHC & Delta 10: Ultimate Cannabinoid Showdown

Published Mon, August 09, 21

Throughout recent weeks, we’ve looked at various new, rare cannabinoids and compared them to existing options on the market. As a refresher, the new hemp cannabinoids we’ve looked at have been delta 10 THC, THCO, THCP, and HHC, and we’ve mainly compared these newcomers to CBD and delta 8.

It’s now time to bring it all together with an overarching guide to how these cannabinoids compare. The main variables we’ll compare are intoxication, method of acquisition, regulation, and safety.

Non-intoxicating vs. intoxicating

Let’s start by comparing the factor people care most about: the way that each cannabinoid makes you feel when you use it.

Out of the cannabinoids we’re comparing, the only one that’s strictly non-intoxicating is CBD. Just to be thorough, the list of (at least somewhat) intoxicating cannabinoids is:

If you want to use cannabinoids but avoid intoxication, CBD is the only way to go. All the other cannabinoids we’re comparing provide roughly the same sorts of intoxicating effects in various different ways and at varying levels of intensity and safety.

Natural vs. synthetic

Out of the cannabinoids we’re comparing, the substances with at least the potential to be natural are:

  • CBD
  • Delta 8 THC
  • THCP

And, the cannabinoids that are always strictly synthetic are:

  • Delta 10 THC
  • THCO
  • HHC

There are a couple of caveats, though:

  • Even though it's inherently a natural cannabinoid, any genuine forms of THCP currently on the market would have to be synthetic.
  • To our knowledge, we are the only breeders of delta 8 rich hemp, so we’ll be the first to know when natural delta 10 became available.

Your pick might be different, but it's our belief that the differences between natural and synthetic cannabinoids will become the single-most defining conflict of the global cannabis industry’s future. Let’s just make our position very clear: While acceptable in certain situations, synthetic cannabinoids are inherently inferior to natural cannabinoids.

As a society, we should work together to bring out the best parts of the natural cannabis plant, not slice and dice it on the altar of greed. Taking natural substances and synthesizing them into mass-producible drugs is the default playbook of Big Pharma, but the existence of illicit synthetic cannabinoids makes it clear this approach isn’t without significant dangers.

When synthesized or otherwise altered, cannabinoids can take on new, dangerous properties that in some cases cause serious harm. In natural forms, cannabinoids are at least reasonably safe, but they can become profoundly unsafe with just a little bit of Frankenstein tweaking in a lab.

Illegal vs. legal

In this industry, you learn to leave absolutes like “legal” and “illegal” to the proper authorities. We can still contrast and compare, though, the relative legality of different cannabinoids. Let’s separate it into three groups: (1) hemp, (2) gray area, and (3) illegal drugs.

  1. HEMP: The only strictly hemp cannabinoids are those naturally derived from Cannabis sativa and accompanied by less than 0.3% delta 9 THC. As the sole cannabinoids to meet these qualifiers, only CBD and delta 8 have the potential to be called “hemp” right now.
  2. GRAY AREA: THCO, HHC, and THCP are in a legal and regulatory gray area due to their strictly synthetic status. Even delta 10 can only be derived synthetically right now, placing it in the same boat.
  3. ILLEGAL DRUGS: The only cannabinoid strictly considered an illegal drug as per the CSA is delta 9 THC. Since that isn’t one of the cannabinoids we’re discussing, none of the cannabinoids in our list can be considered on equal footing with delta 9 when it comes to illegality.

Regulated vs. unregulated

In an unregulated market, the differences between “illegal” and “legal” lose their relevance. So far, regulation of the so-called “hemp THC” economy has been so lax that HHC and CBD are essentially in the same ballpark even though they’re wildly different in terms of effects and safety. An illogical situation like this cannot persist forever, so expect some cannabinoids to become more illegal while others become more legal in coming days.

Safe vs. unsafe

This is absolutely the most important point we will cover in this guide. Despite suddenly being equally accessible, the cannabinoids we’ve listed are nowhere near equal in terms of safety. Science of the future may prove some of them to be practically harmless at the same time it damns others as being ruefully dangerous.

Let’s separate our cannabinoids along the lines of major discovered side effects:

Cannabinoids with no or very few major discovered side effects:

  • CBD

Cannabinoids with potential significant side effects:

  • Delta 8
  • Delta 10
  • THCP

Cannabinoids practically guaranteed to cause dangerous side effects:

Let’s discuss. We don’t think most of the cannabinoids in the THC family are particularly dangerous, but they have certain well-known side effects that are part and parcel with the experience.

When you start messing around with THC and make it synthetic, though, all hell breaks loose. The serious, life-destroying side effects of Spice and K2 are well known, and the dangerous chemical wreaking all that havoc is just a few bonds away from HHC.

Even THCP could be dangerous just due to its potency even though it’s not inherently synthetic. There’s simply so much we still don’t know about cannabinoids that an abundance of caution is the only prudent path forward. What we’re seeing instead is so-called hemp brands recklessly throwing synthetic chemicals at the wall of the internet economy and hoping they stick.

Cannabinoid showdown FAQ

That’s a lot to take in. Let’s cool down with a calm and sedate FAQ session:

1. Is hemp the same as CBD?

No, hemp can contain lots of different cannabinoids, not just CBD. Some of the other cannabinoids hemp can contain are CBG, THCV, and delta 8 THC. As long as delta 9 THC is present in concentrations under 0.3%, products containing these cannabinoids are usually considered to be industrial hemp, which was separated from cannabis by the 2018 Farm Bill.

2. Are CBD and delta 8 the same?

No, CBD and delta 8 are very different since CBD is non-intoxicating while delta 8 causes intoxicating effects. Also, most delta 8 is synthetically derived while the majority of CBD is natural. Delta 8 is starting to be bred naturally, though, placing it in the same class as CBD in that one specific way.

3. What’s the difference between delta 8 and delta 9?

The chemical differences between delta 8 and delta 9 are very minor. These substances appear to operate via slightly different neurological pathways, but the experienced effects are largely the same. The major important difference between delta 8 and delta 9 is the way they’re regulated with delta 9 still being considered a Schedule I drug and delta 8 often being considered hemp.

4. What’s the difference between THC and THCO?

THCO, also known as THCO acetate, is a synthetic form of THC originally created by the Army Chemical Corps as a non-lethal incapacitating agent and tested on dogs. Unlike THC, THCO is not naturally found in cannabis, and it takes around an hour to activate while offering effects that are around three times as potent.

5. What’s the difference between THC and THCP?

THCP is a newly discovered cannabinoid believed to be around 30x as strong as THC. So far, it isn't naturally available in cannabis, but as an inherently natural cannabinoid, it’s only a matter of time until high-THCP strains are bred. Until that time, we’d suggest staying away from synthetic THCP, which could be the sketchiest of the lot.

6. What’s the difference between THC and HHC?

HHC was the first successfully synthesized form of THC, and it is both the basis of highly useful clinical endocannabinoid agonists and the source of the nefarious drugs Spice and K2. Consider HHC the Pandora’s Box of synthetic cannabinoids… is it too late for us to ask to shut it again?\

7. Which is stronger: HHC or THCP?

Out of the two, THCP is almost certainly quite a bit more potent than HHC. Very little research has been conducted into THCP so far, but initial estimates indicate that this natural cannabinoid may be as much as 30 times as potent as conventional THC.

HHC, on the other hand, is generally estimated to offer about the same potency as THC. There’s no evidence that HHC is any more potent than THC, and depending on how it's made, it’s usually even less potent.

8. Is HHC better than delta 10?

No, HHC shouldn’t be considered superior to delta 10 in any way. While delta 10 is so rare that it can’t be extracted from hemp or cannabis yet, it’s inherently a natural cannabinoid, meaning you don’t have to add any non-cannabis substances to make it. Delta 10 is believed to be considerably more potent than delta 9, which would make it that much more potent than HHC, a synthesized cannabinoid that is usually estimated to be somewhat less potent than THC’s original form.

9. Is HHC stronger than delta 8?

Based on anecdotal evidence and limited scientific research, HHC and delta 8 appear to offer roughly the same level of potency. Delta 8 is estimated to offer around 75% the potency of delta 9, and the same is usually said of HHC.

Delta 8 has the advantage, though, of being an entirely natural cannabinoid that is gradually becoming more abundant in hemp. HHC doesn’t exist naturally in hemp and must be hydrogenated — like turning vegetable oil into margarine.

10. Which delta is the strongest?

Out of all the “deltas” (delta 8, delta 9, delta 10, and delta 11), delta-11-tetrahydrocannabinol appears to be the most potent. This position is based on conjecture, however, since no rigorous scientific comparison of the various natural forms of THC has been conducted to date.

What we can observe in the chemical structure of THC molecules combined with anecdotal testimony, though, provides enough grounds for hypothesizing that the further along the body of the THC molecule the double carbon bond is located, the more potently the molecule affects the CB1 receptors in the brain. If you want the most potent form of good ‘ol tetrahydrocannabinol, then, delta 11 would be a safe bet.

11. Is delta 9 or 10 stronger?

It’s reasonable to assume that delta 10 THC is at least slightly stronger than delta 9 THC simply based on the observed relationship between delta 8 and delta 9. Since delta 9 is stronger than delta 8, it logically follows that delta 10 should also be stronger than delta 9. This theory appears to be carried out by anecdotal testimony from cannabinoid users, but we don’t have sufficient data yet to be sure.

12. Is HHC stronger than THCO?

Between the two, THCO is considerably stronger than HHC. Both cannabinoids have been subjected to a relatively simple form of synthesis with THCO being made via acetylation and HHC via hydrogenation.

THCO, however, comes out of its transformation on top with a whopping three times the potency of normal THC. Since it’s usually viewed as slightly weaker even than normal THC, HHC is certainly the lower-potency option.

13. Is THCP stronger than delta 9?

Yes, THCP is considered to be at least 30 times stronger than delta 9, though we don’t have enough evidence yet to make any firm statements. Cannabis users who have tried THCP generally report that their experiences were massively more potent than what they’re used to with cannabis, but more research will need to be done before we know if THCP is truly THCx30.

14. Is THCV stronger than THCP?

No, THCV is usually rated at around 60% the potency of delta 9 while THCP is 3000% more potent than conventional THC. As a result, THCV is certainly not stronger than THCP even though “V” does certainly come after “P” in the alphabet. That’s not how cannabinoids get their names.

The “V” in THCV is short for varin, the end of tetrahydrocannabivarin, and the “P” in THCP is short for phorol, the end of tetrahydrocannabiphorol. These tongue-twisting syllables designate the shape of the molecule, not its potency.

15. Which strains contain THCP?

So far, THCP has only been naturally discovered in the Carmagnola hemp strain, a landrace strain indigenous to rural Italy. Attempts are underway to breed this cannabinoid in higher concentrations in cannabis, but at present, THCP is not available in high concentrations in any strain — including Carmagnola. Even in the strain in which it was discovered, THCP was only present in concentrations so small that isolation proved challenging for the research group that discovered this ultra-potent cannabinoid.

16. How long does it take for THCP to kick in?

The amount of time it takes for THCP to kick in depends on the same set of factors that affect the activation times of any other cannabinoid. If you ingest this cannabinoid orally, you should be able to feel its effects within around 30 minutes, and the effects of inhaled THCP should kick in within less than a minute.

With that said, there’s still a lot we don’t know about THCP and how it works in the body. There might be unseen variables at play that could either improve or prolong this rare cannabinoid’s activation times.

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