Splitting Red Hairs: 5 Differences between THC Delta-8 and THC Delta-9

by | Jun 15, 2021 | Delta-8 THC | 0 comments

Since the introduction of our THC Delta 8 product line here at Alpine Dispensary, we’ve had to answer the challenging questions about how THC Delta 8 is different from THC Delta 9. The results of consuming either of these psychoactive cannabinoids will vary by person and tolerance, method of ingestion and whether the cannabinoid is isolated by itself or consumed in combination with terpenes from specific strains and other cannabinoids. Although the results of activating the Endocannabinoid System, ECS, with phytocannabinoids are yet to be fully understood, the scientific community has reached consensus that each individual cannabinoid uses the ECS in unique ways to generate specific responses in the body. The overall goal of the ECS is to create homeostasis, by learning about the specific ECS response to each cannabinoid a more exact determination can be made in regard to using a specific strain or method of delivery to achieve a desired result. THC ∆8 and THC ∆9 stimulate a lot of the same responses in the ECS to varying degrees. The buzz, for example, is similar; however, THC ∆8 and THC ∆9 also have some clear distinctions. These are the top five.

1. THC Delta-9 is naturally abundant, THC Delta-8 is not. YET!

The cannabis plant is famous because of the mind altering pain relieving effects of THC ∆9, the most abundant cannabinoid in the cannabis plant. Breeders have worked for years to create the wide variety of high THC ∆9 strains and to create subtle nuances between the effects of each individual strain and to maximize the buzz.

The second most common cannabinoid, CBD occurs in low levels in most recreational marijuana strains. The popularity of CBD for medical and health benefits led breeders to select specific strains and breed them together to increase CBD content. It took way less time to create high CBD strains because of the knowledge already gained through breeding for THC ∆9. Hemp strains high in CBD with low levels of THC are now common but that was not the case twenty years ago.

The level of THC ∆8 in most hemp and marijuana strains is only found in trace amounts. Some strains do have higher levels of THC ∆8, reaching right at or above 1%. Cannabis breeders, especially in modern settings, test each individual offspring of a mother and father plant to see how much of what cannabinoids and terpenes are present. As in any species, the children of the same parents will each have individual characteristics. The phenotypes that have the highest potential THC ∆8 are cross pollinated to create new plants with higher levels of THC ∆8. Cannabis grows rapidly so it is possible to get through multiple generations in a year indoors and significantly increase the levels of any desired cannabinoid in a relatively short amount of time compared to the long complex history of breeding for THC ∆9.

The unique benefits of THC ∆8 are slowly being realized. This ensures that cannabis farmers and breeders will work together to produce plants that are high in THC ∆8. Until that happens though, it is one of the fundamental differences between THC ∆8 and THC ∆9. Hemp derived THC ∆8 is made by converting CBD into THC ∆8 and not from an extraction. 

2. The structure of the molecule is different.

The THC ∆8 and THC ∆9 molecules have the same chemical formula, C21H30O2, but a different molecular structure. Molecules containing only Carbon, Hydrogen and Oxygen are classified into two groups: hydrocarbons which dissolve in water and lipids which do not. THC molecules are lipids. Basically, fatty molecules that will not dissolve in water. In these types of molecules, the Carbon atoms form a chain that serves as the main structure of the molecule. The other atoms in the molecule link up to the carbon chain at various positions.

Sometimes atoms share electrons during the formation of molecules, chemists call that a covalent bond. When atoms share two electrons chemists call that a double covalent bond. When a double bond occurs in a chain of carbon molecules, the carbon atoms bend around the other atoms that they are bonding with. This creates different and unique shaped molecules. The position where the double bond occurs determines which isomer of THC is present. THC ∆9 has a double bond in between the 9th and 10th Carbon atoms in the chain. THC ∆8 has a double bond in between the 8th and 9th Carbon atoms in the chain. This gives each molecule a slightly different shape. The shape of the molecule will determine how and where the molecule will bind in the brain. The differences between how THC ∆8 and THC ∆9 make you feel and the subsequent physical results in the body will be related to this variation in the shape of the two molecules.

3. Paranoia and Anxiety are not as likely with THC Delta-8. 

As mentioned in the introduction to this blog, each individual’s response to using cannabis will vary based on their own ECS response. Collectively, we cannot say that THC ∆8 will not cause anxiety or paranoia in every individual. We can say that it is not as likely as THC ∆9 to cause paranoia and anxiety based on anecdotal evidence and studies that show a weaker bond to the CB1 receptor. The placement of the double bond in the carbon chain in THC ∆8 bonds in a different way from THC ∆9. Because of this the psychoactive effects of the THC ∆8 are different from THC ∆9 and it is easier for an inexperienced cannabis user to determine their appropriate dosage without going to far, as long as they do it incrementally.

When smoking or vaping Cannabis, go one puff at a time and wait five minutes to fifteen minutes to see what happens before taking another puff. Gummies or other edibles can be divided into smaller pieces, especially if you are unsure of the potency. The effects of edibles can last for hours. Once you swallow something and it breaks down in your digestive tract you cannot change your mind about how much you consumed. Another aspect of edibles is that they can take up to two hours to kick in. With edibles don’t take more without allowing a sufficient amount of time to pass for the effects of the initial dose to take hold. Sublinguals, tinctures, and tonics allow for more control over dosing. Proceed by gradually increasing the dose to reach the desired level of experience and relief. The effects of sublinguals occur faster than edibles so they are a good choice if smoking and vaping are not your thing or when you need more precise control over your dose.

If you are prone to anxiety or paranoia, avoid the strongest products and make sure that the people selling them will provide lab reports so that you can see all the chemicals present in the products. Not all products are created equal and sometimes one hit from a concentrate vape pen or taking a dab can send you reeling with either THC ∆8 or THC ∆9 based on your own ECS response, your tolerance to THC and the other compounds present in the products. Mixing CBD with THC can also reduce the likelihood of anxiety. Find strains and products with a CBD to THC ratio that suit your needs. One thing a lot of our customers that don’t smoke have been successful with is blending our THC ∆8 tincture with our CBD tincture to find their own Goldilocks ratio to avoid anxiety or paranoia and get the relief they need. If you do smoke or vape, you can keep some CBD flower or a CBD wax pen around to bring you down if you start to get overwhelmed by the powerful effects of THC ∆8 or THC ∆9.

4. THC Delta-8 and THC Delta-9 initiate different ECS responses in the body.

Throughout history people have used Cannabis to alleviate the symptoms of mans different conditions. The how and why were unknown because of technological limitations. The primary goal was to make people feel better. We’ve known for quite a while that THC ∆9 gets you high or stoned. We’ve also known that cannabis is medicine, powerful medicine. In essence, simply feeling better and or altering your perception can be viewed as a medical solution, especially in cases of depression or general malaise. CBD is another widely know cannabinoid that lifts up the mind and body. By studying these two cannabinoids in depth we’ve learned that cannabinoids behave in unique ways.

Each cannabinoid signals the body to raise or lower certain neurotransmitters to generate specific results. THC ∆9 interacts predominately with dopamine, CBD with cortisol levels and with THC ∆8 it appears to be acetylcholine. Now each of these cannabinoids have also been shown to affect other neurotransmitter activity simultaneously. However, the building evidence shows each cannabinoid effects one specific neurotransmitter more than others.

The more that we learn about each individual cannabinoid, the more effective treatments will become. Even then, a person by person approach to medicinal cannabis regimens must be taken to determine how much and what products to consume based on user experience and observation. Studies performed on isolated cannabinoids cannot account for the “Entourage Effect” created by taking multiple cannabinoids in combination with terpenes.

5. THC Delta-8 does not oxidize and change form.

A fifth distinguishing factor between THC ∆8 and THC ∆9 is related to the stability of the molecule. THC ∆8 is stable and THC ∆9 is not. When exposed to oxygen and light, THC ∆9 turns into Cannabinol (CBN). This occurs mostly after the Cannabis flowers are dried and cured. To avoid the degradation of THC ∆9 into CBN, cured buds should be stored in sealed dark containers at a relative humidity of 62%. If you have ever smoked old dry compressed bud that made you eat like crazy and pass out, it was probably full of CBN with a little bit of THC ∆9.

Naturally occurring THC ∆8 comes from THC ∆9 too. This happens when the heat generated by sunlight weakens the double bond of the molecule causing the bond to shift from the 9th position into the 8th. Breeders that are trying to increase the naturally occurring levels of THC ∆8 will look for strains with higher conversion rates of THC ∆9 to THC ∆8 on average or strains that grow well at a higher temperatures thus creating the potential for more THC ∆8 to form. As previously mentioned, the majority of hemp derived THC ∆8 is not extracted from living plants, it is made by converting CBD isolate into THC ∆8. The point being, because THC ∆8 is the result of a reaction, either occurring naturally or by converting CBD, it is less likely to break down further. A stable molecule is medically advantageous because it has a longer shelf life.

Here at Alpine Dispensary we do the science so you don’t have to. If you have any questions or want to know how to apply this knowledge to your own regimen give us a call or drop us an email.

Live well,

Dyer, Mojo Coordinator

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