February 26, 2021 5 min read

If you haven’t heard the news, Delta-8-THC is now legal across the U.S. because it can be made from hemp-derived CBD. This unique manufacturing process makes Delta-8 accessible, but it also makes it very different from CBD in its original form.

Here, we take an in-depth look at Delta-8-THC vs CBD in terms of effects, legality, product types, and much more.

Here’s what you should know:

Table of Contents
Chemistry
Effects
Legality
Accessibility
Dosing Method
Use
Which Should You Choose?
Resources

Key Takeaways

  • Delta-8-THC can be made from hemp-derived CBD, which makes it legal by U.S. law, but the two are very different.
  • Delta-8-THC is psychoactive, CBD is not. For that reason, Delta-8 is often chosen as an alternative to recreational Delta-9-THC, which isn’t always accessible.
  • CBD products may be more common than Delta-8 for now, but the Delta-8-THC market is rapidly expanding. Since it’s legal, you can order it online just like CBD.

Chemistry

An image comparing the molecular structure of Delta-8-THC vs CBD

Delta-8 is generally made from CBD through a process called “isomerization,” but the resulting compound is incredibly different from the starting material.

The Delta-8-THC molecule is actually almost identical to the Delta-9-THC molecule, or the common type of THC found in most recreational cannabis strains. Thanks to these similarities, Delta-8 reacts in similar ways with the cannabinoid receptors in the immune system and in the brain.

CBD, on the other hand, is thought to act indirectly on immune system receptors, but doesn’t have the same impact on the brain as THC. Instead, it may modify the way the body interacts with other cannabinoids, which is why people sometimes prefer to take CBD alongside THC to potentially reduce any negative effects.

Effects

The effects of Delta-8-THC vs CBD is the area where they differ the most. Simply put, CBD is not psychotropic, but Delta-8 is.

Generally speaking, Delta-8 is known for having psychoactive effects that are similar to Delta-9’s, but they are thought to only be about half as potent. These light psychoactive effects may pose an array of benefits, especially for users who feel they are too sensitive to Delta-9 products. The effects of Delta-9 are often described as “euphoric” or “relaxing.”

Alternatively, CBD doesn’t cause any psychoactive high at all. Because it can still modify the reactions within the Endocannabinoid System, many people think of CBD as a “therapeutic cannabinoid” instead of a recreational product.

CBD’s effects are less apparent and more difficult to describe, but many people report feeling at ease after taking CBD. Others take CBD for very specific health related reasons and report positive results.

Read our articles about CBD and Delta-8-THC effects to learn more.

Legality

The 2018 Farm Bill effectively legalized hemp and its derivatives, including naturally derived cannabinoids, isomers, salts, salts of isomers, and more. Under this law, CBD is legal when it is derived from hemp that contains less than 0.3% Delta-9-THC.

Delta-8-THC legalitywas generally unclear for a while, but technical details seem to settle the matter for now. Keep in mind that laws regarding cannabinoids are still subject to change as hemp regulations are ironed out by the DEA and FDA.

Delta-8-THC has been listed in the Controlled Substances Act as a Schedule I substance alongside delta-9-THC since before hemp was legalized on a federal level. However, the same bill that legalized hemp and CBD includes a clause in Section 12619b that specifically addresses tetrahydrocannabinols in hemp.

The wording clearly suggests that Delta-8-THC that is naturally derived from industrial hemp which contains less than 0.3% Delta-9-THC is specifically exempt from scheduling.

In short, both CBD and Delta-8 derived from hemp are legal and are exempt from scheduling under the Controlled Substances Act.

Hemp growing indoors, the federally legal material used to make both CBD and Delta-8-THC products.

Accessibility

As we described above, both CBD and Delta-8-THC are generally made from hemp, which is legal on a federal scale.

CBD is generally covered by the legal definition of “hemp,” which includes all naturally derived cannabinoids. Hemp-derived tetrahydrocannabinols have been specifically removed from the Controlled Substances Act, and many states have taken steps to legalize Delta-8-THC on a local level, too.

CBD and Delta-8-THC products are available in the majority of U.S. states and there are very few regulations (and no medical requirements) concerning who can buy them. Since it’s federally legal, you can buy Delta-8-THC or CBD online and have them shipped to your door.

Remember that every state has different hemp laws, so you may want to read “Where is CBD legal?” or “Where is Delta-8-THC legal?” to learn more.

Dosing Methods

There’s not much difference in Delta-8-THC vs CBD’s dosing methods. Both hemp products can be found in a variety of forms, including tinctures, vaporizers, edibles, and more.

A delta-8-THC vaporizer, one of the most common dosing methods chosen for it's fast acting effects.

Tinctures and edibles are generally the most popular type of CBD products sold. Many Delta-8-THC consumers prefer vaporizers, though Delta-8 edibles are also highly popular.

Smoking hemp flower is another more natural way of consuming CBD, though it isn’t legal or accessible in all areas. Delta-8-THC is usually only found in hemp in small amounts, so Delta-8 flower isn’t nearly as common, though some seed geneticists are eagerly working on the issue.

Use

CBD is not frequently used for recreational purposes since it does not have psychoactive effects. The lack of psychoactive effects may make it more appropriate for daytime use than some other cannabis products, like medicinal THC.

Of course, calling CBD a “medicinal” product isn’t technically correct since CBD has not yet been fully approved by the FDA. (Although some pharmaceuticals based on CBD, like Epidiolex, have gained approval for treating rare forms of epilepsy.)

CBD use is more accurately described as “therapeutic,” and research points to a wide variety of potential benefits from daily CBD use. Many people are even using CBD alongside other medications under their doctor’s guidance to help manage more severe ailments.

Alternatively, Delta-8 is frequently chosen for recreational use as an alternative to Delta-9-THC, which is highly restricted in many areas. Using Delta-8-THC may employ uplifting, relaxing, and euphoric effects.

It’s important to note that Delta-9-THC, the common THC found in medical cannabis, is used for a variety of medicinal and recreational purposes in the U.S. It’s unclear if Delta-8 carries the exact same medicinal potential as Delta-9, and more research is needed to understand all of Delta-8’s potential benefits.

Still, Delta-8-THC is thought to have plenty of therapeutic potential (and because it’s more shelf stable than Delta-9, it may pose a range of benefits for pharmaceutical applications). However, it is not currently FDA approved as a treatment for any conditions.

CBD vs Delta-8-THC: Which Should You Choose?

If you’re debating the benefits of Delta-8-THC vs CBD for you, consider the following:

  • CBD is non-psychoactive and can be taken daily without any negative impact on cognition or your ability to complete daily tasks. Delta-8 will get you high, so it’s better used when you won’t be driving or operating heavy machinery.
  • CBD and THC are often taken together. Some research suggests that CBD can help reduce some of the negative effects associated with Delta-9-THC. Luckily, many people suggest that Delta-8-THC already comes without many of these side effects, like paranoia.
  • If you’re considering either CBD or Delta-8 to manage any health ailments, always consult your doctor first.

Resources

  1. “Farm Bill” https://www.usda.gov/farmbill
  2. “H.R.2 - Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018” https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/2/text
  3. “Taming THC: potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid-terpenoid entourage effects” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3165946/

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