Skip to Content

Whats stronger delta-9 or 8?

Delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (delta-9 THC) and delta-8 tetrahydrocannabinol (delta-8 THC) are two of the most well-known cannabinoids found in cannabis plants. Both produce psychoactive effects when consumed, but they have some key differences in terms of potency and legal status.

In short, delta-9 THC is considered to be more potent than delta-8 THC. However, the difference in their effects and potencies is not completely straightforward. Many factors like individual body chemistry, tolerance levels, and consumption methods impact how strongly a person will feel the effects of either delta-8 or delta-9 THC.

What is Delta-9 THC?

Delta-9 THC is the main psychoactive compound found naturally in cannabis. It is responsible for producing the “high” associated with marijuana.

Chemically, delta-9 THC and delta-8 THC have a very similar molecular structure that differs by only a few atomic bonds. However, this small difference has a significant impact on how the two compounds interact with the endocannabinoid system.

Delta-9 THC binds very readily with CB1 receptors in the brain and central nervous system. This stimulates the release of dopamine, producing feelings of euphoria and relaxation. At high doses, it can also cause impaired motor function, altered perception, anxiety, and paranoia in some users.

Delta-9 THC content varies widely across different strains of cannabis. Some strains may contain as little as 3% delta-9 THC, while high-potency strains can contain more than 25% THC.

What is Delta-8 THC?

Delta-8 THC is an analog of delta-9 THC that occurs naturally in cannabis in only very small concentrations. Chemically, it differs from delta-9 THC by the location of a double bond in its molecular chain.

Delta-8 THC produces psychoactive effects similar to delta-9 THC, but it is considered less potent. The differences in chemical structure mean that delta-8 binds less readily with CB1 receptors.

While delta-9 THC occurs naturally, most delta-8 products on the market are synthetically derived from CBD through a chemical process. This makes it more widely available and less strictly regulated in some areas compared to delta-9 THC.

Potency and Effects

Many users report that delta-8 THC produces a lower-intensity high compared to delta-9 THC. However, scientifically speaking, potency is difficult to measure directly.

Some key differences between the two compounds:

  • Delta-8 has lower bioavailability, meaning less of it reaches the bloodstream when consumed.
  • Delta-8 may have a lower binding affinity for CB1 receptors responsible for psychoactive effects.
  • Anecdotal reports suggest the effects of delta-8 do not last as long as delta-9.

There is not a great deal of formal research directly comparing the effects and potencies of delta-8 and delta-9. However, most sources suggest delta-9 THC is roughly two times more potent than delta-8 THC.

The table below summarizes some of the perceived differences in potency and effects:

Effect Delta-9 THC Delta-8 THC
Intoxication effects Strong and potent high Milder high
Anxiety/paranoia Higher risk Lower risk
Duration of effects Longer lasting Shorter duration
Psychoactivity Full agonist with high binding affinity for CB1 receptors Partial agonist with lower binding affinity

However, real-world effects can be influenced by many other factors:

  • Delta-8 and delta-9 content will vary across different strains and products.
  • Other terpenes and cannabinoids modulate the effects.
  • Individual physiology and tolerance levels differ.
  • Effects can vary based on dosage and consumption method.


Given its lower potency, delta-8 THC requires higher dosages (by weight) to achieve psychoactive effects compared to delta-9 THC.

However, because delta-8 is not used directly in natural cannabis strains, delta-8 products generally list dosage in milligrams rather than percentage by weight. Specific doses vary widely across different forms:

  • Typical vape cartridge: 1 or 2 puffs = 5-10 mg delta-8 THC
  • Tinctures/oils: 10-50 mg delta-8 THC
  • Edibles: 10-25 mg delta-8 THC
  • Flower: 200-400 mg delta-8 for light effects, 600+ mg for strong effects

Comparatively, more common delta-9 THC doses are:

  • Vape cartridge: 1-2 puffs = 5-10 mg delta-9 THC
  • Tincture/oil: 5-20 mg delta-9 THC
  • Edible: 5-15 mg delta-9 THC
  • Flower: 5-15% THC content by weight

So while the qualitative effects are somewhat weaker, quantitatively much higher doses of delta-8 THC are required for similar effects. However, it’s not an exactly proportional conversion between the two.

Consumption Methods

Both delta-8 and delta-9 THC can be consumed through various methods:

  • Inhalation via smoking/vaping – effects felt within minutes, last 1-3 hours
  • Oral ingestion of edibles/oils – takes 30-90 mins to feel effects which last 3-8 hours
  • Sublingual oils/tinctures – drop oil under tongue for faster absorption than edibles
  • Topicals – applied externally, localized effect only

Smoking or vaping produces the fastest effects, while ingestible products like edibles provide longer-lasting effects. There is little difference between delta-8 vs. delta-9 for most consumption methods. However, delta-8 is more commonly found in commercial vape cartridges and edibles rather than natural flower.

Medical Uses

Both delta-8 and delta-9 THC offer therapeutic benefits that may help treat some medical conditions. A few of the common uses include:

  • Reducing nausea and vomiting
  • Increasing appetite
  • Pain relief
  • Reducing inflammation
  • Helping sleep disorders
  • Reducing anxiety (low doses)

For medical purposes, delta-8 offers similar benefits as delta-9 THC but with lower psychoactivity. Smaller doses of delta-8 can provide therapeutic effects while reducing side effects like anxiety or cloudy mental states.

Both compounds are being investigated for applications including supporting cancer treatments, neurological conditions, and autoimmune disorders. More research is still needed, but their similarities suggest delta-8 could be used for many of the same medical applications as the more studied delta-9 THC.

Some advantages of delta-8 THC for medical use include:

  • Clearer-headed, more functional effects
  • Lower anxiety/paranoia side effects
  • Shorter duration of psychoactive effects
  • Preference for patients wanting mild psychoactivity
  • May complement higher doses of delta-9

However, delta-9 THC remains the predominant cannabinoid used for medical cannabis. It occurs abundantly in natural cannabis, so more studies have been conducted on its effects.


Delta-9 and delta-8 THC have very different legal statuses under U.S. federal law and various state regulations.

Delta-9 THC Legality

Under U.S. federal law, delta-9 THC remains a Schedule I controlled substance under the Controlled Substances Act. This means it is considered to have no accepted medical value and a high potential for abuse.

However, many U.S. states have legalized and regulated cannabis products containing delta-9 THC at the state level:

  • 19 states + Washington D.C. have legalized recreational delta-9 cannabis
  • 36 states have comprehensive medical marijuana programs for delta-9 products

In these states, adult use, possession, and sale of delta-9 THC cannabis is permitted following state cannabis regulations. However, it remains federally illegal.

Delta-8 THC Legality

Delta-8 occurs naturally in traces in cannabis plants. When derived from hemp, which contains no more than 0.3% delta-9 THC, delta-8 can fall into a legal gray area.

The 2018 Farm Bill federally legalized hemp and derivatives like CBD. However, it does not explicitly mention delta-8 THC. Most legal experts argue delta-8 derived from legal hemp should be legal. But there are differing interpretations by courts and regulators in some states.

Here is the current status of delta-8 legality:

  • Federally legal, derived from legal hemp – but federal policy could change
  • Explicitly illegal in ~15 states
  • Legal by default in ~35 states where it is not banned
  • Legality unclear in some states like CA, NM, NY

The legal landscape for delta-8 THC remains confusing due to contradicting federal and state laws. Consumers should check local cannabis laws to ensure delta-8 products comply with state regulations.

Despite its current legal advantage, delta-8 exists in a riskier regulatory gray area compared to broadly accepted delta-9 THC products in adult-use states.

Safety and Side Effects

Both delta-8 and delta-9 THC have some similar safety concerns and potential side effects:

  • Impaired cognition and motor function
  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure
  • Impaired coordination and balance
  • Red eyes and dry mouth
  • Anxiety or paranoia at high doses
  • Potential for abuse/addiction

However, delta-8 THC is perceived as less potent, so it may have a slightly better safety profile with lower risks of adverse events like anxiety. But more research is still needed comparing the two directly.

Other safety concerns with commercial delta-8 products:

  • Varying manufacturing quality standards
  • Risk of contaminants in untested products
  • Inaccurate labeling of potency
  • Unknown long-term effects with frequent use

Regulations around testing and labeling delta-8 THC products lag behind established cannabis industries in legal states. Consumers should take caution with delta-8 products from unreputable brands.

Overall, delta-9 THC has more evidence for its safety profile based on its prevalence in cannabis products and research. But when used responsibly, both can be consumed with reasonable safety.


In summary, delta-9 THC is widely regarded as the more potent of the two main THC isomers. The differences in their chemical structures lead delta-9 to more readily bind CB1 receptors and trigger psychoactive effects.

While not directly proportional, delta-8 THC requires substantially higher doses by weight to create similar effects as delta-9 THC. Anecdotal reports suggest it provides a milder intoxication with lower anxiety risk.

For medical use, delta-8 THC offers the advantage of therapeutic benefits with less psychoactivity. It provides an option for patients seeking the medical effects without the intensity of a delta-9 THC “high”.

The legality of delta-8 falls into a gray area, while delta-9 THC remains federally illegal but legalized by many state cannabis programs. In adult-use states, consumers have access to highly regulated delta-9 products.

While delta-8 THC may offer some advantages in certain situations, delta-9 remains the standard for recreational and medicinal cannabis. When used properly, both can be enjoyed reasonably safely by cannabis consumers. But delta-9’s potency and prevalence in cannabis make it the stronger and more popular of the two THC compounds.