Delta-8 is a cannabis compound that has become popular because of its similarity to delta-9 THC, the main compound in cannabis that gets you high, causing euphoria, happiness, sedation, symptom relief, and much more. Large amounts of THC are found in a majority of cannabis strains.
The similarities between the two cannabinoids lie in their chemical structures and their names. THC’s scientific name is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or delta-9 THC, or just delta-9. Delta-8 is short for delta-8-tetrahydrocannabinol, or delta-8 THC. Delta-8 THC can cause effects similar to regular delta-9 THC—but they will be much less potent.
Delta-8 and delta-9 are both forms of THC. In common usage, when people refer to THC they are talking about delta-9 THC. (In this article, when we use the term “THC” without a modifier, we are referring to delta-9 THC.)
Currently, the legality of delta-8 is hazy. It can be extracted from either hemp or cannabis. Because of the 2018 farm bill, hemp can be legally grown and used for extractions all over the United States, making delta-8 legal in states where delta-9 THC is illegal—sometimes.
Nearly all delta-8 THC on the market today is manufactured from hemp-derived CBD, which makes it, in theory at least, part of a federally legal chain of origin.
People in states where THC is illegal crave cannabis products and are now looking to delta-8 because it may be legal in their state, even though it is less potent than regular THC. Many hemp-based extractors are ramping up delta-8 production to meet this new demand and shipping it all over the US.
Delta-8 vs. delta-9 THC: What’s the difference?
Delta-8, like delta-9 (regular THC), binds to the body’s endocannabinoid system, which causes you to feel high. Chemically, delta-8 and delta-9 are similar in that they both have a double bond in their structures. This double bond is thought to produce the intoxicating effects that make you feel high.
The two THCs are chemically different in the placement of the double bond. Both cannabinoids have a chain of carbon atoms, but delta-8 has the double bond on the eighth carbon, whereas delta-9 has it on the ninth.
Delta-8 binds to the endocannabinoid system in a slightly different fashion because of the location of its double bond. This is what is thought to make delta-8 much less potent than regular THC. However, more research needs to be done on delta-8 and how it interacts with the body.
Will delta-8 get you high?
Delta-8 will get you high, albeit not as high as common delta-9 THC. For those living in states where cannabis is illegal, delta-8 may be a legal way to experience some THC-like effects from cannabis.
Some consumers may even prefer cannabis products that aren’t as strong as common THC, even if they can legally obtain THC products. THC can cause negative effects for some, bringing on anxiety or paranoia. Delta-8 may offer a smoother, milder high.
Leafly’s Dante Jordan tried delta-8 THC and described it as a lighter, more energizing high than traditional delta-9 THC. “Yes, delta-8 definitely gets you high,” he wrote, “but it was a lighter high than I’m accustomed to from smoking joints, taking dabs, and eating regular edibles.”
How long does a delta-8 high last?
A delta-8 high will last as long as a high from regular THC, but the high will be less strong. How long it last depends on how much you consume—if you hit a vape or smoke delta-8 flower, it can last an hour or more, and if you take some gummies, they can last a few hours.
Benefits of delta-8
As delta-8 is similar to THC, consumers can get some of the same benefits from consuming it. Some conditions delta-8 can help with include:
- Pain relief
More research needs to be done on delta-8, how it interacts with the body, and what potential benefits it may have for consumers.
Effects of delta-8
Delta-8 consumers report many of the same effects as THC, such as mild euphoria, happiness, uplifting feelings, and relief from some symptoms such as pain, although the compound is much less potent. Delta-8 can also help with insomnia.
Side effects may be similar to those of THC, including dry mouth, red eyes, getting the munchies, short-term memory, paranoia, or anxiety. It’s important to note that delta-8 hasn’t been studied extensively and more research is needed on the effects it has on the mind and body.
Delta-8 vs. CBD
Delta-8 has more similarities to THC (delta-9) than CBD, both in its chemical structure and because it gets you high. Delta-8 THC binds to the body’s endocannabinoid system more like delta-9 THC. CBD doesn’t bind as readily to the endocannabinoid system, making it non-intoxicating, although CBD can offer medicinal benefits for the consumer.
If you are looking for effects similar to THC but with a reduced potency, delta-8 may be for you. If you seek relief from certain symptoms and don’t want to get intoxicated, you may want to try a CBD product.
How much delta-8 should I take?
For most people, especially moderate or experienced consumers, delta-8 will feel much weaker than regular THC. If you are new to cannabis, delta-8 could affect you strongly—it depends on your body chemistry.
Delta-8 can be purchased in many of the same forms as traditional marijuana products, but vape carts and gummies are the most common.
To give a sense of delta-8’s potency relative to THC, delta-8 edible producers commonly measure and dose their gummies at more than twice the strength of THC gummies:
- THC gummies often come in 10mg gummies—people may take half a gummy or a full gummy for a dose, either 5mg or a full 10mg.
- Delta-8 gummies often come in 25mg gummies—so half of one would be 12.5mg, and a full gummy is 25mg.
In creating these standard gummies, producers are calculating that delta-8 is less than half as strong as regular THC, so a 25mg delta-8 gummy might equate to the effects of a 10mg THC gummy.
Again, it’s important to note that very little research has been done on delta-8. We don’t know much about how strong its effects are, and how it affects the body. As with any cannabis product, the chemical profile of the cannabis, your body’s chemistry, your tolerance level, your set and setting, and the amount you take all affect how you will feel.
It’s always recommended to take a little bit at first and then wait for the onset of effects before taking more. The consumption method will affect how quickly you feel those effects. If you’re vaping delta-8, you should feel the effects within ten minutes or less; if taking edibles, wait at least an hour or two before taking more.
Is delta-8 legal?
Delta-8 currently exists in a legal gray area. Always check the legallity of this product within your own state or country!
Few state laws specifically address delta-8 THC at this time. Most state laws that pertain to marijuana or cannabis use language that covers marijuana, cannabis, THC, CBD, or delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol. There are 11 states where delta-8 is believed to be illegal according to state law. (See list below, under “Can I get delta-8 in the mail?”)
The federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has, in a proposed rule, indirectly classified delta-8 THC as a Schedule I controlled substance, which would make it federally illegal. That rule is not yet final.
Delta-8 THC is commonly sourced from hemp, not cannabis, which is why it’s currently sold in many states where cannabis is illegal. To be more specific, nearly all delta-8 THC currently on the market is derived from CBD extracted from federally legal hemp.
This can be a little confusing because hemp is, technically, a cannabis plant that contains less than 0.3% THC. When we talk about “cannabis,” though, we’re commonly referring to cannabis plants with THC content of 0.3% or higher.