Delta-8, Delta-9, Delta-10, and hemp-derived THC: What’s the difference?


Ever since delta-8 THC rose to popularity, the product has unleashed a flood of questions about what it is, how it works, and how legal it is. To add to the confusion, more compounds similar in name but reportedly different in effect have graced the market in recent years, including delta-10 THC and hemp-derived delta-9. The result? Looking at the shelves in most dispensaries is becoming a whole lot like staring at a bowl of alphabet soup.

To clear the air, we’ve put answers to your most basic questions on delta-8, delta-9, and delta-10 THC in one place. We also tackled what the words “hemp-derived” mean on the labeling of these products and what users are reporting to be the primary effects of each compound. And of course, we looked into which of all these products is the most potent.

Here’s the bottom line: Delta-9 THC that is not hemp-derived is the THC you probably already know and love—the one in traditional cannabis products that is associated with the typical marijuana high. Because Delta-8 and Delta-10 only exist in trace amounts in the cannabis plant, delta-10 THC and delta-8 THC products are usually made synthetically (meaning, they are made in a lab).

Several warnings have been released about synthetic cannabinoids. They are not subject to regulatory oversight, so several cases of false advertising have been discovered, and there is a higher chance of them containing heavy metals and other potentially harmful substances than there is in your typical, run-of-the-mill THC or CBD products.

Because of these concerns, delta-8 and delta-10 products have been banned in certain states. Be sure to check the laws in your state and read up on the potential risks of synthetic cannabinoids before purchasing.

Now, let’s get into it.

RELATED: Where is Delta-8 legal in the US? Where is it banned?

Delta-8 THC

Delta-8 is a cannabinoid that can be found in small amounts in the cannabis plant. When consumed, it can produce psychoactive effects, but the high you get from delta-8 typically won’t be quite as strong as what you’d experience from typical delta-9 cannabis products.

As mentioned before, delta-8 products are almost always produced synthetically. You won’t find large quantities of delta-8 THC in the cannabis plant, so most brands prefer to manufacture this type of THC in labs. They do this by turning certain cannabinoids into delta-8 THC so that it is easier to harvest in larger batches.

Because many people experience negative effects from the strong high that can result from traditional delta-9 THC, many users turn to delta-8 for a less trippy experience. Because it is a weaker form of THC, the high you get from delta-8 is less likely to cause paranoia or extreme fatigue. For many people, this compound produces a sense of relaxation and nothing more.

Delta-8 products are legal in most states. This is because they contain less than 0.3 percent THC — traditional, delta-9 THC, that is. But the fact that they can generate a high, and the lack of knowledge and regulation on how these products are produced has made their legality hotly contested in many states, and banned in some.

RELATED: Can you bring Delta-8 on a plane? We explored one of the biggest legal gray zones in cannabis

Hemp-derived delta-8

You may see “hemp-derived” written on many Delta-8 products. Delta-8 is more prevalent in the hemp plant than it is in the traditional cannabis plant.  So, when you see delta-8 products, they are usually hemp-derived.

For this reason, there’s little difference in products you see on the shelves labeled as “delta-8” and “hemp-derived delta-8.” Their legality and effects will typically be the same. It’s also important to note that both delta-8 products and hemp-derived delta-8 products are typically synthetically produced, so the fact that “hemp-derived” is written on the label of one product does not necessarily mean it’s more natural.

Delta-9 THC

Delta-9 is the form of THC most people are used to. It occurs in large quantities in the cannabis plant and can produce a psychoactive high when consumed. Delta-9 is capable of producing effects that are far stronger than the usual effects of its cousin compounds, delta-8 and delta-10.

Many people prefer the stronger effects of delta-9 for various reasons. Some claim that the effects make them more relaxed, increase their hunger, and even improve their creativity.

But this type of THC, as long as it is derived from the cannabis plant and not the hemp plant, is illegal to possess, sell, or purchase in the US, unless you live in a state where recreational or medical marijuana is legal.

RELATED: What is live resin? What you need to know about the trending cannabis concentrate

Hemp-derived delta-9

Here’s the loophole everyone’s been talking about recently. The hemp plant naturally produces very low quantities of delta-9 THC compared to the cannabis plant. For that reason, harvesting this type of THC from the hemp plant is very difficult. Even so, hemp-derived delta-9 THC products have surfaced on the market over the past few years.

These products are gaining traction in states where traditional cannabis products are illegal. Hemp-derived delta-9 comes from something called the “mother liquor,” the liquid residue left over when lab workers extract CBD from the hemp plant.

Without getting too in the weed(s) on this, the US Farm Bill legalized hemp products containing 0.3 percent THC, measured on a dry weight basis. This mother liquor makes it easy to inject exactly the limit of THC into any edible cannabis product while still being able to say it comes from hemp. So, a 2-gram brownie could contain as much as 6 mg of hemp-derived delta-9 THC and still technically be legal.

There is a lot of debate online over whether hemp-derived delta-9 is less potent than traditional THC. While some people say they generate the same effects, others experience a milder high from hemp-derived delta-9 THC products.

We may soon see more widespread crackdowns on hemp-derived delta-9 products, but for now, it’s available in most states.

Delta-10 THC

Of all the compounds listed here, delta-10 is the one about which the least is known. One thing we do know is delta-10 THC is quite similar to delta-8 THC in a variety of ways. They’re both synthetic cannabinoids, for starters. The cannabis plant does not naturally produce large amounts of this compound, so most delta-10 is made artificially.

Delta-10 THC is also quite weak compared to delta-9 THC in terms of potency, and it is generally even weaker than delta-8. This compound can still produce psychoactive effects, but its effects are relatively minor. Some find that this cannabinoid can be helpful for relieving stress and promoting relaxation.

Hemp-derived delta-10

Like with delta-8, almost all delta-10 products will be hemp-derived, whether they say so on the label or not. But unlike delta-8, you won’t find many states that have banned the use of delta-10, possibly because it’s less widely talked about and so little is known about it. For that reason, you can find this type of THC being sold in many states across the country without any legal issues.


When it comes to delta-8, delta-9, delta-10, and their hemp-derived cousins, the main thing you need to know is that delta-9 THC is what most people associate with the traditional marijuana high. Hemp-derived THC is a loophole to the US Farm Bill that is quickly growing in popularity, and delta-8 and delta-10 are compounds usually derived from hemp that, according to many users, tend to generate a milder high than you can expect from normal cannabis products.

Additionally, delta-8 and delta-10 products are usually synthetic while delta-9 can be found in large quantities in the cannabis plant.

At this point, we hope you have a better understanding of which “delta” is right for you. Now, walk into the dispensary with the confidence that knowledge brings.

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