What is Delta-9 THC?

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Since the beginning of the cannabis phenomenon, there has always been delta-9 THC.

Found extensively in the flowering buds and resin of the cannabis plant, delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol, also known as delta-9 THC, is the major cannabinoid molecule known for its health properties and for inducing a “high” sensation.

This fascinating compound has received immense challenges in its legal access. However, expanding scientific research and its successful application in medical circumstances show that delta-9 is a cannabinoid chock full of therapeutic properties that can benefit the health of many.

From its history in 19th-century over-the-counter pharmacies, the Marijuana Prohibition, treatment plans with chemotherapy patients, and recreational use, here we dive deep into the question, "what is delta-9 THC?"

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Key Takeaways:

  • Delta-9 is a naturally present cannabinoid found in large traces in the marijuana plant and up to 0.3% in hemp.

  • Delta-9 is the chemical responsible for the "high" in cannabis.

  • Delta-9 is the THC analog with the most research, popularity, and stigma.

  • Delta-9 was included in the U.S. Pharmacopeia and is used in respected medical treatment plans and studies

  • Delta-9 is federally legal when derived from hemp plants and does not exceed 0.3% total THC content in dry weight

Delta-9 THC and Other THC Isomers

First discovered in 1964 in Israel by the chemist Raphael Mechoulam, delta-9 THC acts at the cannabinoid CB1 and CB2 receptors to produce a wide range of biological and behavioral responses from its user.

The compound's compelling psychoactive properties have spurred experiments to focus mainly on its intoxicating effects. Not many years later, interest more strongly developed for THC's remedial health benefits.

As scientists study cannabis with increasing dedication, research reveals multiple forms of THC, called THC isomers.

Isomers are compounds with identical molecular formulas but a different arrangement of their atoms.

While THC isomers share foundational similarities, they are unique from each other.

Delta-9 THC vs THC isomers will show differences in how concentrated they are in the plant, how the body responds to them, potency levels, and overall effects.

Naturally hemp-derived THC isomers include THCA, THCV, delta 8 THC, delta-9 THC, and delta-10 THC.

A synthetic THC isomer called THC-O Acetate is also being produced and made available within the cannabis industry. Indisputably, delta-9 is the most researched and popular form of THC.

Related Article: What is THC-O examines the designer cannabinoid and addresses its related safety concerns.

The Stigma of THC

Cannabis has a complex history of medicinal, ceremonial, and recreational usage that traces back over two millennia. Unfortunately, social and structural stigmas have shadowed the plant and its compounds.

The discovery of the THC molecule identified the chemical responsible for cannabis intoxication. It came after substantial slander for its plant source had already been developed, thus inheriting its same challenges.

America's usage of cannabis or raw hemp material for textiles was encouraged by the government in the 17th century. The invention of cannabis-derived ropes, sails, clothing, and cannabis was normalized, and domestic production flourished. By the late 19th century, cannabis had become a prominent ingredient in medicinal products and was openly sold in nationwide pharmacies.

In the early 1900s, the versatility of cannabis to be smoked for recreational use began to gain traction in the United States.

The trend coincided with the wave of Mexican immigration to America that followed the Mexican Revolution of 1910. Negative associations quickly developed between the new foreign settlers and their casual use of cannabis, or what was at the time called "marijuana."

The Great Depression's rise in unemployment and crime led to fear, prejudice, and scapegoating. Racist propaganda and anti-drug campaigns merged a caricatured illustration of "racially inferior" immigrants using marijuana as a reason for the country's downfall. By 1936, the infamous "Reefer Madness" was debuted, and in 1937, marijuana was criminalized for non-medical purposes.

Marijuana became federally illegal for all forms of use (medical included) with the 1970 Controlled Substance Act (CSA), which categorized it as a Schedule 1 Drug.

Many individuals protested the marijuana prohibition with alternative lifestyle choices and the development of a subculture. However, it is not uncommon for these persons to be slighted with terms like "stoner" and "pothead" and the associated stigmas of being lazy or noncontributing to society.

Progress is being made to advocate cannabis and its naturally derived compounds.

There have been increased protective laws for medicinal and recreational purposes, expanded research funding, and a shift in public attitudes. However, residual negative perspectives on cannabis use still exist within societies, and additional work must be done to eradicate the medicinal plant from its remaining legal prohibition [1].

Related Article: A Qualitative Review of Cannabis Stigmas at the Twilight of Prohibition explores the history of cannabis, surrounding stigmas, and its legalization challenges.

Is Delta-9 Legal?

Delta-9 THC is federally legal when derived from hemp, and products made with the compound must not exceed the limits of 0.3% THC by dried weight, as outlined in the 2018 Farm Bill.

Select states have enacted their own laws allowing medical marijuana and/or recreational use that contains delta-9 THC with THC levels above 0.3%.

Want to Try? The federally compliant Neurogan Full Spectrum Delta-9 THC Gummies is a delicious and low-dose treat perfect for those looking to leverage the elevating benefits of cannabis.

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Does Delta-9 THC Get You High?

Yes, delta-9 THC will get you high! This cannabinoid works with the body's endocannabinoid system and interacts with the CB1 and CB2 receptors to illicit a mind-altering state.

How Much Delta-9 Does it Take to Get High?

The amount of delta-9 you need to feel a buzz depends on a few factors, such as genetics, developed tolerance, and administration type. Generally, delta-9 THC products are offered in the 5mg-25mg range.

An individual may want to start with a 5 mg dosage before moving forward with a larger dose.

The Benefits of Delta-9

Cannabis Sativa was used as a licensed medicine for over a century in the United States before it was removed from the 12th edition of the U.S. Pharmacopeia.

Come 1985, select pharmaceutical companies received approval to work with delta-9 THC for medicinal purposes again. As a result, cannabinoids were reintroduced to the scene with an affirmation of their scientifically proven benefits.

Delta-9 stimulates higher than normal levels of dopamine release, the neurotransmitter responsible for influencing mood and pleasure. Studies show that the cannabinoid can deliver a state of deep relaxation and euphoria for its users.

Substantial evidence also shows that delta-9 THC can be used effectively in treating more serious health conditions, such as chronic pain, chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, stress management, sleep regulation, and more [2].

The Food and Drug Administration has approved 1 cannabis product and 3 cannabis-related products with a prescription from a licensed medical provider.

What Are People Using Delta-9 THC For:

  • Support deep relaxation

  • Increase comfort levels 

  • Healthy inflammatory response

  • Encourage social interactions

  • Increase a deeper appreciation for music, art, food, and nature

  • Deeper meditation practice

  • Healthy appetite

  • Encourage one's creative process and problem solving

The Side Effects of Delta-9

The usefulness of delta-9 is plentiful, although adverse effects are possible. Therefore, the consumption of delta-9 or any mind-altering product should always be handled with care and include the avoidance of operating heavy machinery.

On a cognitive level, delta-9 THC may impair the user's ability to discriminate time intervals or space distances, which can cause delayed comprehension or even onset confusion. Physically, delta-9 THC may have a sedative effect on the user that results in muscular depression and reduced coordination. Red eyes, dry mouth, and an increased appetite are other common side effects of marijuana use [3].

Did You Know? The World Health Organization has proposed that delta-9 THC be rescheduled to a Schedule IV drug as it does not pose a substantial long-term risk to public health, and its abuse is considered limited.

Delta-9 side effects:

  • Sedative

  • Cognitive distortion

  • Slowed reaction time

  • Decreased coordination

  • Paranoia

  • Red eyes

  • Dry mouth

What's The Difference Between Delta-8 and Delta-9?

Delta-8 and Delta-9 are both variants of THC.

However, differences exist between their molecular structure, concentration levels in the cannabis plant, and effects.

Delta-9 gets its name for having its double bond on the 9th carbon atom, whereas delta-8 has its double bond on the 8th carbon atom.

Additionally, delta-9 THC is significantly more readily available in the cannabis plant than delta-8 THC.

Its presence as a major cannabinoid can constitute up to 0.3% THC in hemp plants and upwards of 25% in marijuana plants.

The difference is that delta-8 THC is only found in very small traces. Most cannabis plants produce an average of 0.1% delta-8 THC, thus making extraction processes challenging in terms of financial viability.

While delta-9 and delta-8 are each psychoactive cannabinoids that deliver sensations of deep relaxation and jubilation, they may also provide therapeutic benefits such as pain relief, anti-nausea, and anti-inflammation. The difference is that delta-9 is significantly stronger, up to 5 times as much, and may have more adverse effects than delta-8 products [4].

Related Article: What's The Difference? Delta-8 vs Delta-9 Effects explores the varying properties of two psychoactive cannabinoids.

Want to Try? If you're seeking a mellow high, then Neurogan Delta-8 THC Gummies will provide a relaxing and smooth cannabinoid experience.

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Is Delta-9 The Same as CBD

THC vs CBD: Difference on the molecular level

Delta-9 and CBD are both major cannabinoids.

Their prevalence in cannabis plants has led them to be the most researched and sought-after cannabinoids. They each offer immense wellness benefits but produce slightly varied effects.

The major difference is that delta-9 is psychoactive and produces a mind-altering state, whereas CBD does not.

CBD has been more well tolerated as its pharmacology does not impair cognitive and physical performance like delta-9.

Delta-9 binds to the CB1 and CB2 receptors to produce strong effects throughout the body and mind. Alternatively, CBD does not directly interact with the two cannabinoid receptors but works throughout the endocannabinoid system with specialized enzymes to prevent endocannabinoids from being broken down.

Cannabidiol (CBD) acts as a negative allosteric receptor modulator. It has the ability to prevent the intoxicating effects of THC while still producing similar, albeit gentler, benefits for mood, sleep, recovery, pain management, and more in studies[5].

Related Article: CBD vs THC: Battle of the Most Helpful Cannabinoid provides a full dive read into the specific benefits and effects of CBD and THC.

Related Article: Is CBD Psychoactive further examines CBD cannabidiol and how it may counteract the psychoactive effects of THC.

Delta-9 THC Drug Test

When delta-9 THC is consumed, the body will metabolize it to elicit its effects. As your liver metabolizes the compound, residual amounts are left in the user's blood, urine, sweat, hair, and organs.

How long delta-9 THC metabolites remain in the system will vary on the individual's unique circumstances and choices. Influencing factors may include genetics, lifestyle, THC consumption amount, frequency, administration type, etc.

A drug test will seek out these metabolites for a positive detection status or a failed delta-9 THC drug test.

Different drug test types detect metabolites at varying rates from the last use time. The most common drug test for THC is a urine sample test, which can pick up on metabolites up to 29 days after the last use. Although more rarely administered, hair follicle drug tests have increased detection sensitivity and can pick up on THC metabolites up to 90 days after the last use.

The Takeaway: Delta-9 THC is Both Psychoactive and Therapeutically Robust

Delta-9 THC has been behind profound historical events and is closely involved in the evolution of science and medicine.

Its intoxicating properties have unfortunately made the cannabinoid misunderstood and contributed to its therapeutic pharmacology's overshadowing.

Fortunately, advancements in research, successful reintegration for medical use, and progressive state legalization have since helped to shift perspectives to a more respectful attitude towards delta-9 THC.


What Is Delta 9 THC?

Delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol, often known as delta-9 THC, is the primary cannabinoid chemical renowned for its health qualities and for creating a “high” sensation. It is abundant in the flowering buds and resin of the cannabis plant.

What Is The Difference Between Delta 9 vs Delta 8?

Delta-9 THC is far more abundant in the cannabis plant than delta-8 THC. While both delta-9 and delta-8 are psychoactive cannabinoids, delta-9 is up to 5 times stronger and may have greater negative effects than delta-8 products.

How Much Delta 9 It Takes To Get High?

The amount of delta-9 required to produce a buzz is determined by several factors, including heredity, established tolerance, and delivery method. Because delta-9 THC products are available in dosages ranging from 5mg to 25mg, an individual may wish to start with a 5 mg dose before progressing to a higher dose. 

What Is The Difference Between HHC vs Delta 9?

HHC is claimed to generate a mind-stimulating and invigorating high, which makes it suitable for social situations and creative work. It is also thought to have milder intoxicating effects than marijuana's delta-9 THC. It is therefore perfect for first-time users or those who have had a terrible experience with anxiety and paranoia while using marijuana.


  1. PBS (2014). Frontline. https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/dope/etc/cron.html

  2. The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids: The Current State of Evidence and Recommendations for Research. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2017 Jan 12. 4, Therapeutic Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK425767/

  3. Carlini E. A. (2004). The good and the bad effects of (-) trans-delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Delta 9-THC) on humans. Toxicon : official journal of the International Society on Toxinology, 44(4), 461–467. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.toxicon.2004.05.009

  4. Kruger, J.S., Kruger, D.J. Delta-8-THC: Delta-9-THC’s nicer younger sibling?. J Cannabis Res 4, 4 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1186/s42238-021-00115-8

  5. Pertwee R. G. (2006). Cannabinoid pharmacology: the first 66 years. British journal of pharmacology, 147 Suppl 1(Suppl 1), S163–S171. https://doi.org/10.1038/sj.bjp.07064

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