Where is delta-9 THC legal?

Learn about the legal considerations pertaining to delta-9 THC.

Where is delta-9 THC legal?
minute read

Medically Reviewed byDr. Caley Scott, ND

It wasn’t long ago that cannabis products were controlled substances, with harsh penalties attached to possession and consumption. Thankfully, public perception of compounds like CBD and THC have shifted significantly in recent decades, leading to a new legal framework and a burgeoning industry for cannabis.

There’s no doubt that freedom and innovation have ushered in a golden age of cannabis, but where exactly do we stand in the legal landscape? Delta-9 THC is the compound receiving the majority of attention — for better or worse — so let’s start here.

This article will explore the current legal situation surrounding delta-9 THC and give you the need-to-know info on where things are headed next. You want to enjoy your favorite cannabis products safely and within the boundaries of the law, after all! Let’s begin.

What is delta-9 THC?

Delta-9 THC is the primary psychoactive cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant. It is the substance responsible for producing sensations of intoxication when we smoke cannabis or ingest certain hemp extracts.

Because delta-9 is the most widely studied and talked-about compound in the plant, it’s often referred to simply as “THC.” Only recently have we begun to discuss distinct analogs or “isomers” of THC, which are differentiated by the arrangement of carbon bonds in the molecules. 

Now that delta-8 and delta-10 THC products have emerged with their own set of benefits and use cases, we give delta-9 THC its own name and legal domain.

In other words, delta-9 has always been the main event in the cannabis conversation; we’re now just beginning to talk about it as a distinct compound.

How does delta-9 THC make you feel?

As the main psychoactive component of cannabis, delta-9 THC produces the distinctive feeling of being high, complete with altered perception of time, space, and patterns of thinking. 

This is because delta-9 interacts primarily with CB1 receptors in the endocannabinoid system, which are concentrated most heavily in the brain. When delta-9 molecules bind with these receptors, they create sensations of relaxation, relief from tension, and may even support appetite.*

Where is delta-9 THC legal?

It was the intoxicating effects of delta-9 that made cannabis an illegal substance a hundred years ago. Now, we’ve entered a new era of cannabis acceptance and industrial hemp products thanks to the Agriculture Improvement Act (Farm Bill) of 2018

This took place on top of a decades-long effort to make recreational cannabis legal in certain individual states, the majority of which have succeeded. 

The most significant outcome of the Farm Bill was the federal legalization of hemp plants (cannabis plants with small amounts of THC) containing no more than 0.3% delta-9 THC by dry weight volume. This has opened the door for consumers to experience the cannabinoids in the hemp plant and its therapeutic properties. With that said, regulations regarding whether or not these products can have detectable amounts of delta-9 THC changes frequently, so it’s best to check with your specific state to stay up-to-date on what is legal. 

Generally speaking, any state that has already legalized recreational cannabis is typically also on board with delta-9 THC in its isolated form. However, there can be exceptions, so it’s always a good idea to check your state’s regulations. 

Federal vs. state regulations

Much of the legal battle over delta-9 is rooted in federal vs. state regulations. Because the Farm Bill made so many hemp extracts legal, many states with stricter laws are second-guessing products containing delta-9 THC, especially those with large volumes of the compound contained in a single package.

For instance, a brownie may be sold with the allowed amount of delta-9 THC content per serving, but manufacturers could use a loophole whereby the brownie contains multiple servings in a single unit. This results in delta-9 THC products, specifically edibles, that have considerable psychoactive effects.* 

Where is delta-9 THC illegal?

It should come as no surprise that Congress and the Federal Government may be looking into ways to close these loopholes, while some state laws have already taken such steps. Knowing that the legal status of delta-9 THC could change at any time, consumers must proceed with caution as they examine labels and look to get the highest quality products for safe use.

So, which states have taken a hard stance on delta-9 and made it illegal altogether? The truth is, laws change quickly, and so does the list — for this reason, it’s best to do your research and stay up to date with your state’s current regulations. Be sure to navigate these laws carefully and avoid any issues that may surround delta-9 THC where you live. 


How is delta-9 THC’s legality changing?

It’s hard to predict exactly how the delta-9 legal saga will progress next, but we expect some changes to take place as the cannabis industry becomes more prominent across the country. 

Discussions are already underway that may make alterations to the 2018 Farm Bill that legalized smaller amounts of delta-9 in response to the unintended consequences we’ve outlined here. On a state level, governments are drawing a hard line so as to not make delta-9 more accessible. 

New Hampshire, for example, just established a total ban on delta-9 products and other synthetic derivatives of cannabis. This goes to show that states aren’t afraid to take the necessary steps to enforce new laws where they see fit. 

Meanwhile, historically hemp-friendly states will likely not have any issues with delta-9 THC moving forward. Still, many states remain on the fence and could move to make delta-9 a controlled substance once again. 

What are some past regulations around delta-9 THC?

For close to 100 years, delta-9 THC policy went hand in hand with cannabis itself. That was mostly due to the lack of distinction between delta-9 and isomers like delta-8 and delta-10, which have only recently made waves in science and industry.*

Although many states made progress with recreational cannabis legalization, new concerns about synthetic cannabinoids have sparked a new discussion about safety, transparency, and quality control. These factors did not apply in a world where hemp and cannabis were in clearly separate categories. 

To summarize, cannabis innovations have opened up new opportunities and wellness possibilities, but at the same time, the legal repercussions may be considerable. 

Can you travel with delta-9 THC?

Traveling with delta-9 THC should only be done once you’ve established exactly where you’re going and the legality of the compound in that region. Don’t bring delta-9 products with you if you plan to travel freely without a clear destination or schedule in mind.

Of course, if you’re moving between two states where delta-9 is firmly legal, there should be no issues taking your favorite gummies or tinctures along with you. Just be sure to secure your cannabis products in a dedicated container and be smart about your usage no matter where your journey takes you. 

Does delta-9 THC have age limits?

In the states where delta-9 is confirmed to be legal, it can be obtained by individuals with valid identification age 21 or older. Delta-9 THC is similar to alcohol in this regard, and it will not be sold to anyone under 21, even in states with forward-thinking hemp policies

The same policies apply to giving delta-9 to individuals under the age of 21. There could be major legal consequences for supplying delta-9 products to minors — or even if delta-9 accidentally ends up in their possession.

Are there any other purchase restrictions?

Some states find themselves in a middle ground with delta-9 for medical usage, which typically requires a prescription and a specific medical license. Regulations and protocols will vary from state to state, so be sure to take the proper legal pathways to obtain medicinal delta-9 if this applies to you. 

The bottom line

Delta-9 has always been the calling card of cannabis, so it may seem odd to revisit the legal aspects of the compound now that so many states have moved forward with legalization. However, the 2018 Farm Bill complicated things by making delta-9 legal in small amounts — now states are pushing back, and we might see changes develop more quickly than before.

In the meantime, you can get top-quality (and completely legal) hemp products delivered to your door with Sunmed. We empower modern wellness with premium, plant-based hemp products, plus mushrooms, supergreens, and more. 



Marijuana Legal Timeline | PBS

The Illegalization of Marijuana: A Brief History | Origins EDU

Legalization, Decriminalization & Medicinal Use of Cannabis: A Scientific and Public Health Perspective | NIH

What is the Farm Bill? | NSAC

Actions of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol in cannabis | NIH