What is delta-9 THC? Uses, effects, & more

Learn all about delta-9 THC, from benefits to safety and legality.
What is delta-9 THC? Uses, effects, & more
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In the cannabis frontier, many people are searching for clarification on terms and compounds. Delta-9 THC is the latest in the spotlight, and the familiar name raises questions about safety, legality, and more.

Maybe you’ve seen delta-9 products on store shelves or featured on CBD websites, or you might have heard of delta-8 and are thinking: what's with all of these different types of THC? 

With all things cannabis, education is everything, so let’s get to the bottom of the delta-9 and what this term really means. In this article, we’ll look at the origin of delta-9 THC, how it affects the body, and how to consume these products safely. 

But first, what is THC?

THC is the primary cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant, with the most direct psychoactive effects on the mind and body. When we talk about a “high” or “buzz” from marijuana use, we’re usually talking about THC and its reactions in the endocannabinoid system.*

Specifically, THC interacts with the CB1 receptors in the brain, which change how we perceive sensory inputs like sight, sound, taste, and more. Modulating the CB1 receptors also alters our cognition and memory processes, which is why some THC experiences can feel psychedelic.*

There isn’t just one type of THC, however, and cannabis entrepreneurs have isolated various versions of the compound to achieve certain effects in the products they create. 

As we explore more about delta-9 and its capabilities, keep in mind that THC products vary widely, and they must be consumed with care to stay safe as we navigate legal gray areas. 

What is delta-9 THC?

Delta-9 is one type of THC in the cannabis plant. It is the key compound responsible for producing psychoactive effects, and can be derived from organic material in a number of ways. 

Firstly, it can be extracted from THC in hemp plants, creating a potent version of the compound which can then be consumed via vaping, edibles, or other infused products like topical gels or creams. It can also be found in naturally occurring cannabis cannabis flower; think the original THC that has been around for centuries.  

Another way to obtain delta-9 THC is through the isomerization method, whereby CBD-rich hemp is converted into delta-9 through chemical modification. This is where we start to see how legal loopholes may form in cannabis policy, since CBD products under 0.3% THC concentration are technically legal on a federal level.*

For many users, delta-9 THC offers a workaround for cannabis consumption while still getting the primary effects of THC, even in non-conventional methods. 


How does delta-9 THC differ from other forms?

At first glance, there aren’t major differences between delta-9 THC products and other forms of THC found in the cannabis plant, such as delta-8 THC. Chemically, delta-9 is found in nearly every strain of cannabis and looks similar to variations like delta-8 tetrahydrocannabinol and delta-10 tetrahydrocannabinol.

However, delta-9 differs from these other cannabinoids in a few key ways. Most notably, delta-9 is known for its potency and efficacy, meaning it produces more acute and perceptible effects compared to its THC family members.*

This means that consuming delta-9 will result in noticeable changes to your physiology and perception, whereas delta-8 or other variants may not be as significant. Depending on what you want from your cannabis experience, this can be a good or bad thing.

When stacked up to CBD, delta-9 is in its own category altogether. The THC and CBD comparison is the main split in the cannabis discussion, and these two compounds are on opposite ends of the spectrum.

This doesn’t mean that delta-9 is best consumed on its own, however. Findings on the entourage effect suggest that delta-9 may be most effective when taken in conjunction with other cannabinoids like CBD, other forms of THC, and the many terpenes and flavonoids found in cannabis plant material.*

How does delta-9 THC affect the body?

The effects of delta-9 THC are not out of the ordinary regarding THC in general, and users can expect the typical array of changes in a fairly short period of time due to the rapid metabolic uptake of the compound.*

Within an hour or two of consuming a delta-9 gummy or capsule, the user will begin to feel the effects of THC. This may be characterized by a change in perception, general feelings of well-being, or even some reduced physical symptoms of tension or discomfort.*

On the flip side, too much delta-9 may produce some negative side effects, such as heightened feelings of nervousness or increased blood pressure. Some delta-9 users also report paranoia from too much of the substance in a short timeframe, so remember that less is more when starting out.

Also, keep in mind that every delta-9 product is produced somewhat differently, and not all brands are fully transparent with their methods of development or ingredient quality. 

It’s critically important to prioritize quality and brand trust when using cannabis products of any kind—especially when dealing with delta-9 products that produce psychoactive effects. 

What can delta-9 THC be used for?

Delta-9 THC is used for a broad range of reasons, and it’s up to you to determine what desired effects you want from these types of products. 

As many headlines suggest, the recent boom in delta-9 products is due to interest from individuals seeking THC effects in areas of the country that are behind the curve on cannabis legislation. However, others take a more conscientious approach and look for therapeutic benefits from their delta-9 products.

Knowing this, let’s zoom in on some of the practical effects of delta-9 that go beyond getting a buzz, and see how these can bring balance to your life without the downsides you might want to avoid.

May support sleep 

Sleep is the cornerstone of a healthy lifestyle, as any sleep-deprived parent or busy professional can attest. Therefore, sleep support is an intriguing potential benefit of delta-9, and reason enough to try it for those craving some deep rest.

It’s no secret that anecdotal evidence shows the sleepy side of cannabis for many users, but the case for delta-9 is also developing from a scientific standpoint. The endocannabinoid system is closely linked to our sleep-wake cycle, and a smart cannabis regimen with delta-9 may help bring this system back into alignment.* 

You may not experience an immediate “knockout” effect from taking delta-9 for sleep, but with other good habits in place, you might find that falling and staying asleep comes more easily. Pair your THC with other cannabinoids like CBN and CBD for a greater chance of experiencing this. 

May ease feelings of discomfort

Life's challenges are never comfortable, but pure willpower can only take us so far in the face of discomfort. As a potent form of THC, delta-9 may help to ease these feelings of discomfort when they interfere with your ability to navigate things like work, relationships, or anything in between.*

Discomfort may take the form of nervous energy, negative thoughts, or irrational perceptions about ourselves or others. In some cases, discomfort can crop up in physical form, whether working on our feet or seated for long periods of time.

The role of delta-9 THC is increasingly well documented for easing these uncomfortable sensations, and could be a positive addition to your productive and positive routine.

May help soothe feelings of tension 

When tension hits the body, it can start a chain effect of nervous feelings and negative physical sensations that distract you from the task at hand. This can mean diminished performance at work or difficulties in the personal aspects of your life. 

With delta-9, you can target this tension with soothing effects on a physiological level, thanks to the action of the compound on the ECS receptors.* This can be beneficial for those who experience muscle tightness in the neck and shoulders, or tension resulting from a sedentary lifestyle or overworking.

Most importantly, the aim is to balance the soothing effects of delta-9 THC without becoming impaired to the point where you compromise cognition or motor skills. The key is to find a delta-9 product that also includes other researched cannabinoids that will work synergistically to keep you energized and alert.

Some products help your body and mind achieve this balance, but be ready to do your research and analyze lab reports and ingredients, especially with delta-9 THC.

Is delta-9 THC federally legal?

The laws around delta-9 is still somewhat fuzzy after the 2018 Farm Bill, but it is technically legal for sale and consumption on a federal level. This is the case as long as delta-9 products contain less than 0.3% THC by dry weight and meets other cannabis laws for production and distribution.

The loophole in the cannabis industry is related to the THC percentage rule. A brownie, for example, can weigh several ounces and still contain several milligrams of delta-9, even if the net concentration is less than 0.3% THC. 

This explains the popularity of these products nationwide and why users should always exercise caution when reading labels. More is not always better with THC or any cannabis product, for that matter. Quality and balanced ingredients will always give you a better and safer experience, so put these first.

The bottom line

Much of the confusion around delta-9 is justified, especially with legal questions coming into play. We’ve likely only seen the beginning of the delta-9 saga in the U.S., and it may not be long before some products are reformulated or taken off shelves.

In the meantime, there are certainly benefits to taking delta-9 in a smart and effective way, so don’t discount these products completely. Sunmed’s Beyond product line showcases the best of delta-9 with balanced formulations of CBD and other compounds, from full spectrum gummies to convenient water soluble drops.

Delta-9 THC definitely has its benefits, but be sure to use it the right way, and don’t settle for less in terms of ingredients and sourcing.


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