Delta 8 vs. Delta 9

Published July 15, 2021
Delta 8 vs. Delta 9 - Secret Nature

Delta 8 took everyone by surprise. While the FDA was still busy debating what to do about non-intoxicating CBD, what essentially amounts to a carbon-copy of THC suddenly proliferated across the internet.

People in all 50 states can buy delta 8 from more than a hundred retailers now operating online. The FDA and DEA have both made vague warnings about the delta 8 industry, but major action hasn’t occurred.

Will delta 8 get squashed by the federal government? Is it really the same as delta 9? And, perhaps most importantly, is delta 8 actually legal, or will I get in trouble for possessing it?

What is delta 9 THC?

We all know delta 9 THC. It’s the “marijuana” that public-school drug programs scared us away from, and it’s the illegal drug the federal government still hasn’t admitted has medical benefits.

Nearly half the nation has embraced legalized cannabis in one form or another, but the feds haven’t budged. THC (in its delta 9 form, at least) remains federally illegal, and it will be a while before the shambling bureaucracy the United States federal government has become makes any major changes.

In short, delta 9 THC is a federally illegal drug that’s legal in some places on a state-by-state basis. You can’t buy it online — not on the light side of the internet at least.

What is delta 8 THC?

Delta 8 THC is a close chemical cousin of delta 9 THC. In chemistry, we call these pairs analogs, and delta 8 is considered to be an analog of delta 9 because the chemical differences between the compounds are not be significant.

These two types of THC are different enough, though, to be considered separate substances by the US federal government. Even though they exert pretty much the same effects in the body, delta 8 and delta 9 THC are regulated completely differently.

Which is stronger — delta 9 or delta 8?

Recently, new forms of THC have been discovered that might be as much as 30 times more potent than delta 9. Delta 8 THC isn’t one of them, however — everything we know so far points to the conclusion that delta 8 and delta 9 have roughly equal potency. 

What is the difference between delta 8 and delta 9?

Just a few chemical bonds — nothing more, nothing less. Delta 8 is simply a variant of THC nature tried as the cannabis plant developed. Eventually, delta 9 THC ended up on top, but delta 8 or any number of other as-yet-undiscovered versions of THC could also have been created somewhere along the way.

We might uncover profound differences between delta 9 and delta 8 at some point in the future. It’s unlikely, though, since everything we’ve seen up until this point indicates these cannabinoids are essentially indistinguishable without close inspection.

Does delta 8 get you high?

In a word, yes. Delta 8 is almost exactly the same as delta 9, and the two cannabinoids are the same in this way as they are in all others.

It’s possible, though, that delta 8 might get you high in a slightly different way than delta 9. Since these two cannabinoids are chemically distinct, after all, they interact with your neurochemistry differently. As a result, delta 8 might bypass tolerance to delta 9 THC or offer any number of other unique benefits.

Is delta 8 the same as CBD?

No, delta 8 is not the same as CBD. While CBD does not get you high, delta 8 has intoxicating attributes, and many of the most desirable attributes of CBD may be missing in delta 8.

For instance, there’s no indication that delta 8 has any antiepileptic properties, and we don’t know how useful it might be for anxiety. Delta 8 is also regulated differently from CBD, and it isn’t usually naturally derived.

As an interesting side note, most of the delta 8 on the market has been converted from CBD. This method is the easiest way to make delta 8, but delta 8’s semi-synthetic status further separates it from CBD, which is almost always naturally derived.

Is delta 8 federally legal?

That depends on how you look at it. Delta 8 is not specifically regulated by the United States federal government in one way or the other, but hemp cannabinoids in general are legalized by the 2018 Farm Bill.

Delta 8 may be very similar to delta 9 THC on a chemical level, but it’s very different from delta 9 from a regulatory and legal perspective. Changes to delta 8 regulation may take place at some point in the future, right now, this cannabinoid is in the same legal class as CBD.

Is delta 8 legal in my state?

Some states have made individual regulations regarding the sale, possession, or use of delta 8. At last count, 14 states have made delta 8 regulations in one form or another, so it’s important to stay abreast of recent changes.

In almost every case, though, these state-specific regulations have to do with the sale of delta 8 in-state, not online. Furthermore, these laws mainly target the sale of delta 8, not its possession, and prosecution of individual delta 8 users is rarely a priority.

There are two motivations for prohibitive delta 8 regulations: greed and fear. In the case of recreational cannabis states facing decreased taxation revenue due to online delta 8 competition, greed. In the case of states preventing the sale of any type of THC at all, fear.

Why can I buy delta 8 and not delta 9?

That’s a very good question, and it’s a question the nation will have to grapple with in one way or another in the very near future. According to the federal government, delta 9 THC is still just as dangerous as heroin, but half the states in the country sell medical or recreational cannabis, and a chemical copy of delta 9 is now running amok across the internet.

The hard truth is that Pandora’s box has been opened, and there’s no stuffing the cat back in the bag at this point. It’s time to face the reality that THC is already being sold everywhere — how do we regulate it responsibly and make sure it stays in grown-up hands?

The future of delta 8

We’re looking forward at a very uncertain time in the history of hemp and cannabis. On the one side, cannabis prohibition feels like it’s almost finally over, but on the other, persistent lack of federal reform continues to confuse consumers and producers alike.

We have high hopes for the future of delta 8 THC. Hopefully, it will spur a very important conversation about responsible THC use throughout the country and open the door to a future in which the cannabis plant is regulated and respected the way it deserves.

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