THC-O and Delta-9 have a lot in common, but you're definitely right to wonder where the differences lie. After all, THC-O is thought to be roughly three times more potent, and the psychoactive effects of each are definitely different.
When getting down to the nitty gritty of THC-O vs Delta-9-THC, there are plenty of questions to answer. How do the effects differ? Which high is better? Is one safer than the other? And what about price and accessibility?
The truth between the two popular THC products is that much of it boils down to preference, but we'll also cover the facts you need to make a true comparison. Here's what you need to know about Delta-9-THC vs THC-O before you choose a lane:Table of Contents
We'll start with THC-O since it's the lesser known of the two. THC-O is a THC analog that's made through a unique process called isomerization.
Generally, this process begins with hemp material that is carefully harvested and processed to create a potent CBD extract. Then, through a series of processes, CBD is turned into Delta-8, and Delta-8 is turned to THC-O.
Structurally, however, there are only a few minute differences between the THC-O and the Delta-9-THC molecule. Thanks to their similarities, THC-O can interact with the endocannabinoid system in a very similar manner to traditional THC products.
The defining difference here is that THC-O is derived from hemp, not marijuana, which makes it much more accessible. Also, THC-O is thought to be about three times more potent than traditional THC, so you can expect a much more hard-hitting high.
Now, let's talk about the more common form of THC: Delta-9.
This is the chemical name for traditional forms of THC found in high-THC cannabis products. In other words, this is the good old THC that’s been around the block for centuries.
Typically, THC products bought at a state licensed dispensary will contain Delta-9-THC, although many different forms of THC are starting to appear on the shelves as well.
Unlike THC-O, Delta-9-THC is incredibly accessible within the cannabis plant and can be extracted directly. Many people see this as a more natural option, but it comes with caveat: high-THC cannabis is still federally prohibited, meaning it's much less accessible than THC-O and other hemp-derived THC products.
All in all, Delta-9 is old fashioned but reliable and provides the potent high that cannabis consumers know and love.
Its true that both THC-O and Delta-9 are psychoactive and both will induce a high. It’s also true that THC-O is inherently more potent, and many people use smaller doses to reap effects that are similar to what you may experience with traditional THC.
Still, the effects don’t just vary in intensity, they are also just different in nature. Here’s the gist:
While other hemp-derived THC’s (like Delta-8 and Delta-10) are thought to have milder effects than traditional THC, THC-O’s effects are much more potent. In general, the high is described as uplifting, not sedating, and may result in some pretty potent euphoria.
In fact, some people describe the high as borderline hallucinogenic, but it's unclear the dosage used to reach these effects. The effects may be described as “sativa-leaning” because THC-O generally offers an energy-charged head high and slightly less body-effect than other THC products.
You should still expect some of the same effects you'll get from traditional THC, like delayed coordination and reaction time, which means that it's unsafe to drive or operate machinery after taking THC-O products.
The Delta-9 high is the “standard” high that you may expect from cannabis. Typically, traditional THC offers a high that is slightly milder than THC-O, though it’s still incredibly potent in its own regard.
In many cases, the Delta-9 high will also have potent head and body effects that are a bit more “middle ground.” You’re more likely to find Delta-9 products designed to promote relaxation or support sleep, although certain THC-O products may do the same.
To sum up everything above, THC-O is more potent and heady while Delta-9 is slightly milder and a bit more balanced between head and body effects. As much as we’d love to just leave it at that, though, there’s a bit more to it–the strain, terpene profile, and entire cannabinoid profile actually determines the effects you’ll get from a particular THC product.
Although THC-O is known to be energizing and uplifting, certain products may combine THC-O with indica-dominant terpenes or even Delta-8 to provide effects that are more laid back and relaxing. The same is true for traditional THC products–the strain you choose will heavily impact the effects you experience.
In general, both THC-O and Delta-9 can be used in a similar fashion, with the exception of natural cannabis flower. Both THC-O and Delta-9 concentrate can be used in a similar manner to other THC extracts to create different dosing styles, which means there are many different types of products available for both cannabinoids, including:
THC edibles can come in many different forms, like traditional digestible edibles and sublingual style edibles.
Traditional edibles are chewed and swallowed, which means they need to be processed by digestion and may take over an hour to take effect. Sublingual edibles are meant to melt in your mouth and can take effect in 15 to 30 minutes. You can find both THC-O and Delta-9 edibles in many different potencies and forms.
Read our THC Edibles Buyer’s Guide to learn more.
Vaporizers are a popular dosing method for all cannabis and hemp products because they take effect almost instantly and make it easy to stack small doses until you reach your desired effects. This is the most common way that you’ll find THC-O sold in today’s market.
To learn more, read our THC Carts Buyer’s Guide.
Delta-9 flower, often called marijuana, naturally contains Delta-9-THC in potent quantities, and smoking cannabis is the most common way that Delta-9 is used.
THC-O flower is more rare, but that's not to say that it can't be done. THC-O flower is made similarly to Delta-8 flower, where Delta-8 distillate is sprayed onto CBD-rich hemp flower to create a dosing experience that is aromatic and has fast acting effects. Many people enjoy THC-dosed hemp flower, but it may be a while before THC-O flower is widespread across the market.
Dabs are a form of concentrate that are generally vaporized using a dab rig. Delta-9 concentrates are popular both for recreational and medicinal use. They require a special dab rig to consume and the high concentration usually results in a very potent high.
Because THC-O is difficult to produce, concentrates are not the most popular form of THC-O products. Still, if you do happen to find THC-O dabs, just know that the doses are incredibly concentrated. THC-O is already much more potent than traditional THC products, so you'll want to use your concentrate materials sparingly until you have a good understanding of your dosing threshold.
Because THC-O is more potent, smaller doses are usually used to achieve a moderate high. Often when people try Delta-9-THC for the first time, they take doses as low as 5 mg. For THC-O, a beginner dose may be half that–between 2 and 3 mg.
Experienced THC consumers may start with 5-10 mg of THC-O, but the dosing threshold for experienced Delta-9-THC consumers seeking highly potent effects is often between 25-40 mg.
The legality of these two THC’s is one of the most significant areas where they differ. As you may already know, Delta-9-THC is federally prohibited, although it is legal in some states when purchased by an adult from a state-licensed dispensary.
Technically, THC-O derived from hemp is federally legal, much unlike Delta-9. Actually, Delta-9 is the one cannabinoid that is banned by name in the 2018 Farm Bill text used to legalize hemp and it’s derivatives.
The Hemp Farming Act of 2018, or the bill that officially legalized hemp in the US, includes a clause in section 12619b that specifically addresses tetrahydrocannabinols in hemp. This portion of the bill suggests that any THC that can be naturally derived from legal hemp material, which includes hemp and all of its cannabinoids, isomers, salts, extracts, and other derivatives, is considered to be a legal hemp product, so long as it contains less than 0.3% Delta-9-THC.
In other words, THC-O is legal on a widespread basis, while Delta-9 is still federally prohibited. However, both are still subject to state laws. Although THC-O is not federally restricted, there are still some states that prohibit hemp-derived THC products.
THC-O and Delta-8-THC are generally lumped under the same hemp-derived THC laws, so you can read more about Delta-8 laws by state to learn about the THC-O laws in your state.
We mentioned that you can only get Delta-9 products in state licensed dispensaries in states where cannabis is legal. In some cases, it may only be legal for medicinal use, so you may need a qualifying condition and a medical card to access Delta-9. In many cases, Delta-9 products are also subject to a haughty state tax, sometimes upwards of 30%.
THC-O, on the other hand, is much more accessible. Because it is a federally legal hemp product, you can order it online and have it shipped right to your door. You need to check with state legislation first, but you can usually access hemp-derived THC from trustworthy manufacturers by shopping online, and you won’t need to pay any extra tax.
If you’re looking for high-quality hemp-derived THC products, we recommend checking out our Elev8 Collection. Our THC-O + Delta-8 Vape Pen is available in three different varieties suited to different preferences and news.
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