Delta 8, Delta 9 & Delta 10 — What’s the Difference?

Delta 8, Delta 9 & Delta 10 — What’s the Difference?

You’ve certainly heard of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive compound in cannabis, but, like many people, you may have been surprised or confused to learn that there is more than one form of THC. There are actually five known forms of THC (THCA, THCV, Delta 8, Delta 9, and Delta 10), each of which has its own effects and interactions.

For the purposes of this article, we’re going to break down the differences between Delta 8, Delta 9, and Delta 10, as these three compounds have been receiving a lot of attention and have become the focus of new and popular product lines.

So what are these compounds exactly? What are their effects? And what sets them apart from one another?

Chemical Differences

Delta 8, Delta 9, and Delta 10 all contain the same basic chemical makeup. The main difference is in the location of a particular molecule. Specifically, all forms of THC contain a double bond. In Delta 8, the bond is found in the eighth carbon chain. In Delta 9, it’s found in the ninth carbon chain. In Delta 10, it’s found in the (you guessed it) tenth carbon chain. This might seem like a small distinction, but it can significantly impact how the cannabinoid behaves in the body.

When you hear the term “THC,” this almost always refers to Delta 9. Delta 9 THC is the primary compound in cannabis, the one largely responsible for getting you high. A gram of cannabis usually contains more than 10% Delta 9 THC (sometimes north of 20% or even 30%). So when we talk about THC in general terms, we’re talking about Delta 9.

Delta 8 and Delta 10 are both degraded forms of THC, and they usually comprise less than 1% of the cannabinoid makeup.

Delta 8

Delta 8 doesn’t occur on its own. It actually results from aged Delta 9 as it oxidizes over time. So whereas Delta 9 concentrations tend to decrease over time as cannabis is exposed to light, heat, and air, Delta 8 concentrations actually increase (albeit slightly). Because it doesn’t degrade as easily, Delta 8 is considered more stable than Delta 9. And because it’s not as psychoactive, it may hold some medical potential for people seeking therapeutic effects without the high. That’s part of the reason why some cultivators are trying to breed strains with naturally higher concentrations of Delta 8.

Delta 10

Delta 10 is a naturally occurring cannabinoid, but it only emerges in tiny concentrations. Because of this, most Delta 10 products are derived through synthetic means. In most cases, processors use a catalyst or solvent to chemically alter CBD into Delta 10. In fact, one popular legend holds that Delta 10 was discovered accidentally when technicians at Fusion Farms treated cannabis with fire retardant, which resulted in the formation of Delta 10 crystals. Delta 10 was initially discovered by researchers in 1984, but the Fusion Farms rediscovery spawned a renewed interest in the cannabinoid many years later.

The Effects

The effects of standard THC (Delta 9) are pretty well-known. It has been associated with marijuana’s psychoactive effects, and it’s sometimes used to address issues like anxiety, pain, insomnia, nausea, or appetite loss. It’s hard to pinpoint the exact therapeutic benefits associated with THC, though, because there are over 100 cannabinoids in cannabis—and many of the effects are actually the result of THC working in concert with other compounds—a phenomenon sometimes referred to as the entourage effect.

Because Delta 8 and Delta 10 (when isolated) behave differently from whole-plant cannabis and from Delta 9, we do have some idea of their unique effects.

Delta 8

Like Delta 9, Delta 8 has psychoactive qualities; they’re just not as strong. By some estimations, Delta 8 is one-half to two-thirds as psychoactive as Delta 9. Anecdotally, Delta 8 has been associated with a calmer, more cerebral high and has been compared to Sativa strains on account of its ability to support focus and concentration.

Delta 10

Delta 10 is known for being about half as psychoactive as Delta 9 and slightly less psychoactive than Delta 8. The psychoactivity may be higher when Delta 10 is consumed in edible form, as cannabis edibles tend to be stronger than other products (as the digestion process causes the liver to release metabolites that are much more psychoactive). The effects of Delta 10 have been described as euphoric and energizing.

Potential Benefits

When people consider the benefits of cannabis, THC (Delta 9) and CBD usually receive the lion’s share of the credit, as these are the dominant compounds. For instance, THC and CBD have both been associated with anti-inflammatory effects, and THC specifically has been associated with appetite stimulation, nausea control, and other products (though more research is still needed). But while THC and CBD may hog the glory, Delta 8 and Delta 10 may bring their own benefits to the table as well.

Delta 8

A growing body of research attests to the potential benefits of Delta 8 THC. One study from the Journal of the National Cancer Institute found that Delta 8 was able to shrink cancerous tumors in mice. Another animal study found that Delta 8 might increase levels of neurotransmitters associated with memory and learning. Additional research suggests that Delta 8 might show promise for anxiety, appetite, and inflammation.

Delta 10

Because Delta 10 only recently caught the attention of researchers and cannabis processors, very little data is currently available. Delta 10 does appear to have therapeutic effects similar to Delta 9 (though perhaps less pronounced), but researchers are currently looking into the potential of this minor cannabinoid.

Legal Status

The legal status of Delta 9 THC varies. At the federal level, any Cannabis Sativa plant containing more than .3% THC is considered marijuana, a Schedule I Controlled Substance (completely illegal). Any Cannabis Sativa plant containing .3% THC or less is considered industrial hemp and is legal for cultivation, distribution, interstate commerce, and consumption.

At the state level, things get a little more complicated. In states where recreational cannabis is legal (like California, Colorado, Washington, etc…), THC products are legal for all adults 21 and over. There are certain limitations, though, including purchase limits and maximum THC limits that vary by state.

THC products are legal exclusively for individuals with a valid medical marijuana card in medical-only states. To obtain a medical marijuana card, prospective patients must have a qualifying medical condition and receive a recommendation from a state-authorized physician.

In states with no recreational or medicinal access (like Idaho and Kansas), THC products are completely illegal. Only hemp products with .3% THC or less are permitted.

Delta 8 & Delta 10

When it comes to Delta 8 and Delta 10, the laws are even more complex. In a majority of states, Delta 8 and Delta 10 are legal because they can be sourced from industrial hemp. The “.3% THC” rule only applies to Delta 9. The federal government has taken no steps to expand its definition of THC or to restrict Delta 8 and Delta 10.

However, a few states have imposed restrictions of their own. Some have updated their Controlled Substances list to include all tetrahydrocannabinol, while other states have more specifically banned “synthetic cannabinoids” (most Delta 10 products are synthetic).

Delta 8 and Delta 10 are illegal or restricted in the following states:

  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • Colorado
  • Delaware
  • Idaho
  • Iowa
  • Mississippi
  • Montana
  • Rhode Island
  • Utah

Delta 8 and Delta 10 products are still available in the other 39 states.

Available Products

Full-spectrum cannabis products like flowers and edibles contain substantial amounts of Delta 9 THC as well as trace amounts of Delta 8 and Delta 10. If you’re looking to isolate just one of these cannabinoids and enjoy it in higher concentrated amounts, your best bet is to shop for an extract that emphasizes the desired cannabinoid(s). For instance, Delta 8 and Delta 10 edibles are becoming very popular.

In addition, you can find Delta 8, Delta 9, and Delta 10 in the form of:

  • Vape cartridges
  • Gummies
  • Tinctures
  • Capsules / soft gels
  • Topicals

Most of these products are available online, in cannabis dispensaries, and in other retail shops including smoke shops.

Should You Try Delta 8 or Delta 10?

Are you curious about Delta 8 or Delta 10? You might want to give them a try if:

  • They’re legal in your state
  • You want to access the benefits of Delta 9, but Delta 9 is restricted in your state
  • You enjoy the experience of cannabis but are seeking a less intense psychoactive experience
  • You’re specifically seeking the kind of targeted relief that Delta 8 is known for
  • You’re not subject to random THC drug testing (yes, Delta 8 and Delta 10 can show up in a drug test result)

Researchers are only beginning to discover the unique benefits of individual cannabinoids. If you’re curious about the potential of Delta 8 or Delta 10, decide for yourself whether they’re worth exploring. As long as you guard your expectations (you’re not going to “get baked”) and keep an open mind, you might find the experience to be extremely edifying.