Delta-8 THC Vs. Delta-9 THC: Differences in Cost, Potency, Benefits, & Cautions

Area 52
March 16, 2021 | Blog

THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is the active ingredient in marijuana. Most people are familiar with the characteristic effects of this psychoactive ingredient.

Most people don’t know there are two different types of THC — delta 8 THC and delta 9 THC.

In this article, we’re going to compare both of these different forms of THC. We’ll compare the two in terms of cost, where they come from, what effects to expect, and how they’re regulated.

What’s The Difference Between Delta 8 THC & Delta 9 THC?

Delta 8 and delta 9 THC are almost identical. The only difference between the two from a molecular standing is the location of a double bond in their carbon structures.

The location of these bonds is reflected in their names — delta 8 has the double bond at the eighth carbon chain, while delta 9 has this bond at the ninth carbon chain.

While the structure of these compounds is largely the same, there’s a lot of differences between each of these molecules that may make one a better option than the other in certain cases.

Here are the primary differences between delta 8 THC and delta 9 THC: 

  • Delta 8 has looser regulations than delta 9 and is legal in most states.
  • Delta 8 has a longer shelf-life than delta 9 THC
  • The effects of delta 8 are smoother & more clear-headed
  • Delta 8 is less likely to result in stress-related side-effects
  • Delta 8 is a stronger appetite stimulant than delta 9
  • Delta 8 is about half as potent as delta 9

Delta 8 THC vs. Delta 9 THC Comparison

Comparisons Delta 8 THC Delta 9 THC
Potency Moderate Strong
Cost $0.06–$0.10 per mg $0.02–$0.08 per mg
Dosage Range 10–60 mg 5–20 mg
Most Common Side-Effect Sedation Anxiousness
Legality Legal in Most States Medical-Only

Delta 8 vs. Delta 9: Potency

Illustration of delta 8 and delta 9 chemical structure

There haven’t been any official tests that compare the relative potency of delta 8 THC against the standard delta 9 THC products. However, many seasoned delta 8 users have weighed in on this question.

The general consensus is that delta 8 is about half as strong as the equivalent dose of delta 9 — at least in terms of the psychoactive effects. Some of the other effects are on-par with delta 9, or stronger — for example, delta 8 has a notable calming action. Most people who use delta 8 for non-recreational purposes take a lower dose than they would with delta 9 THC products.

With that said, if you’re after the psychoactive effects, you’ll need to take roughly twice as much as you would normally take with other THC products.

Delta 8 vs. Delta 9: Cost

There’s no beating around the bush — delta 8 is more expensive, on average than delta 9.

It’s not a substantial increase, but generally, delta 8 products are going to run you about 10 to 20% more than the equivalent delta 9 products.

There are a few reasons for this: 

  • Delta 8 requires more processing to isolate & extract than delta 9
  • Delta 8 is present in very small concentrations in both hemp and marijuana.
  • There are few companies selling delta 8, so laws of supply & demand bring up the price.
  • Delta 8 requires a lot of extra testing, which can be expensive.

Delta 8 vs. Delta 9: Dosage

The usual dosage range of delta 8 is between 10 mg and 60 mg per dose. If you’re using tinctures, this dose could range from a few drops to a few milliliters depending on how potent the oil is. Capsules and gummies come with either 10, 20, or 30 mg each.

Delta 9 is roughly twice as strong, so most people find a dose between 5 and 30 mg to be sufficient with this cannabinoid.

You can use delta 8 and delta 9 THC in all the same ways — the most common is in the form of a vape or tincture, followed by capsules, gummies, and distillates.

Delta 8 vs. Delta 9: Safety & Side-Effects

There has never been a death attributed to THC on its own. This compound has incredibly low toxicity. The toxic levels are so high there’s literally no way to reach it short of guzzling over a liter of pure distillate or injecting several grams of pure extract at a time (obviously not recommended).

The dosage ranges listed above are about 1/70th of what’s considered a toxic dose.

With that said, there are some differences in terms of side-effects and safety considerations between delta 8 and delta 9 THC.

Delta 8 THC is much more likely to result in side-effects related to lethargy or sedation compared to delta 9. It has a higher body load and tends towards the more relaxed and chill side of the equation. Delta 8 is very unlikely to result in stress-related side effects or paranoia — which is the primary reason why so many people are becoming interested in delta 8 THC, to begin with.

Delta 9 THC often leads users to a state of panic and anxiety — it’s one of the biggest downsides of this useful compound. D9 is also more likely to cause issues with sleep due to its more stimulating nature.

Delta 8 vs. Delta 9: Legality

judge mallet on marble table

One of the main differences between these two molecules is their legal status.

According to the Drug Enforcement Agency in the United States, Delta 9 is clearly identified as an illegal compound. It’s classified as a Schedule I drug along with heroin, LSD, and cocaine.

A handful of states have formed their own laws to legalize marijuana on a local level. Over a dozen others allow THC products for patients granted medical exemption only.

Delta 8 is viewed differently. It isn’t listed on the DEA database at all, and there are no specific laws that ban this substance on a federal level. Delta 8 is legal throughout the United States aside from 7 specific exceptions.

There are seven states that name delta 8 as a restricted substance: 

  1. Alaska
  2. Arizona
  3. Arkansas
  4. Colorado
  5. Delaware
  6. Hawaii
  7. Idaho
  8. Iowa
  9. Kentucky
  10. Louisiana
  11. Maryland
  12. Mississippi
  13. Montana
  14. Nebraska
  15. Nevada
  16. Rhode Island
  17. Utah
  18. Vermont

Interestingly, Colorado made this list, which was the first US state to officially legalize marijuana and its chief constituent THC. They have since decided to ban delta 8 THC alone — which means they’re operating in the complete opposite fashion as the federal rulings on this topic.

Final Thoughts: Delta 8 vs. Delta 9 THC, Which is Better? 

From a molecular perspective, delta 8 and delta 9 THC share a striking resemblance. The only difference is the location of a single, double bond in the chemical structure. Delta 8 holds this bond at the 8th carbon in the chain, while delta 9 holds this bond at the ninth carbon chain.

From a biological and legal perspective, these compounds have a lot of differences.

In general, delta 8 THC is preferred for its more relaxing and clear-headed nature. It’s a little bit more expensive than delta 9 THC and requires about twice as much for an equivalent level of intensity — but it’s worth it for people who want the benefits of THC but feel like it makes them too stimulated or overwhelmed.

May we suggest?