THC-O vs. Delta 9 & THC-O vs. Delta 8 - A Full Guide

From CBD to HHC, it’s impossible to deny that hemp-derived cannabinoids have an unprecedented popularity surge in today’s cannabis spheres. The passing of the 2018 Farm Bill opened the door for all of these new compounds to enter the markets and climb up the ranks in consumers’ eyes. Still, three cannabinoids have been getting an extraordinary amount of attention — THCO, delta 8, and delta 9. So let’s take a look at all three. We’ll put them in the ring together and let them fight it out. THCO vs. delta 8 and delta 9, here’s our full guide.

A cannabis classic, delta 9 poses an old-school buzz known and loved by most—if not all—stoners. Oppositely, THCO is a brand-new cannabinoid that has also made waves in the hemp market for entirely different reasons. Delta 8 is, for lack of a better term, a superstar. It’s all over the news due to its novelty on the market.

But how are these cannabinoids different? In what ways are they alike? Which one is better? We’re here to help you navigate the sometimes-complicated nuances of hemp-derived cannabinoids. Read more to find out who the winner is.

THC-O vs. Delta 9 & THC-O vs. Delta 8: What You Need to Know

Before we compare THCO vs. delta 8, and THCO vs. delta 9, we must first explore each compound individually to understand them all better.

What Is THCO?

THCO, also known as tetrahydrocannabinol acetate (THC-O acetate), is a hemp-derived cannabinoid that does not occur naturally in the cannabis plant. This potent cannabinoid is known for its immense strength, borders on hallucinogenic.

Although the term “synthetic cannabinoids” usually conjures up imagery of dangerous and impure non-classical cannabinoids, THCO products are very different—and much, much safer—than compounds like K2 or Spice. These compounds don’t share a chemical structure with THC, whereas THCO is simply one of its more potent analogs.

THCO’s extraction process is very similar to that of naturally occurring hemp-derived cannabinoids; THCO is delta 8 for a small amount of time before being converted into THCO! Typically, THC-O is synthesized by extracting CBD from hemp, transforming it into delta 8, and refining it into THCO.

Here’s a look at how the process usually goes:

  • All-American industrial hemp is cultivated from farms.
  • CBD is extracted from hemp.
  • CBD extract is converted into delta 8 THC.
  • Acetic anhydride is added to delta 8 to create THCO (thus the name THCO acetate)

Easy enough, right? So, even though THCO is technically considered a synthetic cannabinoid, it is just refined from organic, naturally occurring compounds found in the hemp plant!

What Are the Potential Risks & Benefits of THCO?

As a lab-created cannabinoid, THCO was made with power and potency in mind. Its strong psychotropic effects are lightyears stronger than most other cannabinoids, and anecdotal evidence suggests that a large enough dose of THCO may cause a psychedelic user experience, including visual and auditory hallucinations.

Some of the potential benefits commonly associated with THCO include the following:

  • Pain relief
  • Relaxation
  • Appetite stimulation
  • Extremely strong high
  • Psychedelic effects

Because THC-O is a classical cannabinoid, its chemical structure is closely related to organic THC. Its safety profile is very similar to delta 9, with no serious overdoses or cases of death associated with the compound.

That being said, chances of slight unpleasantries are present when consuming any cannabinoid, artificial or not. Some potentially negative side effects of THCO include:

  • Anxiety
  • Paranoia
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea
  • Dry mouth
  • Red eyes

What Is Delta 8?

The compound known as delta 8 THC is a close cousin to delta 9. Like its more famous relative, delta 8 is found in cannabis and hemp plants, though in very minute amounts. And, like delta 9 THC, delta 8 gives users a psychoactive high when consumed. The difference, however, is in their intensity. Studies show that delta 9 THC products are much more intense than delta 8. It’s one of delta 8’s defining traits — a mild, subtle high that doesn’t give users anxiety or paranoia. 

The other big difference between these two cannabinoids is their legality. Delta 9 THC is still banned at the federal level, while delta 8 is federally legal. Why? Because we live in a strange world.

It’s because of the Farm Bill, which Congress passed in 2018. Now that hemp and its derivatives are legal, users across the country can access delta 8 products, including edibles, vapes, oils, dabs, and more. As long as these products contain less than 0.3% delta 9 THC, they are fair game in the eyes of the law. Still, the federal protections haven’t stopped some states from enacting their restrictions. Over 20 states, including New York and California, have banned the use and sale of delta 8 THC.

What Are the Potential Risks & Benefits of Delta 8?

Everyone knows that delta 8 is federally legal and gets you mildly buzzed. But whether you use delta 8 vape oils, edibles, carts, or pens, are there any other benefits of this exciting new cannabinoid? You may be surprised to learn that, in addition to the legal high, delta 8 has some wellness benefits. A more well-rounded picture has evolved between the research studies performed on the compound and our many user reports, showing us a cannabinoid that can do much more than initially thought.

Of course, we should note that none of the delta 8 products for sale currently can cure or prevent any disease or illness. Any research is only in the preliminary stages, and much more is needed. The compound has potential but should not be used for medical purposes. However, according to the available information, delta 8 may be able to help with the following:

  • Stress 
  • Anxiety
  • Relaxation
  • Keeping Calm
  • Appetite Stimulation
  • Sleep
  • Nausea
  • Pain
  • Inflammation

The Food and Drug Administration has not approved any delta 8 products for any medical purposes. But keep your ear to the ground. Conversely, as with any cannabinoid, take too much, and you might experience some side effects. As delta 8 is a mild compound, the side effects are generally not too harsh. Recent studies show that users barely felt any side effects when using delta 8. And while the safety profile of this compound is strong, the following side effects may occur if it is taken in excess:

  • Confusion
  • Cotton Mouth
  • Red Eyes
  • Itchiness
  • Over-Tiredness
  • Forgetfulness
What Is Delta 9?

What Is Delta 9?

THC stands for delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol and is also known as delta 9 THC or delta 9. It is a cannabinoid in cannabis long recognized as the primary psychoactive compound in cannabis. Delta 9 is the compound that most people are familiar with; when they think of the effects of weed, this is the cannabinoid they’re referring to.

Delta 9 is abundant in the cannabis plant, so extracting it is usually cheap and easy from marijuana and hemp. That said, marijuana and hemp are not precisely identical. THC content is their most notorious difference. Hemp plants cannot, by law, contain more than 0.3% THC. Marijuana, on the other hand, is classified as any cannabis plant containing more than 0.3% THC.

Delta 9 products work by stimulating dopamine, a neurotransmitter responsible for feelings of pleasure and waves of euphoria—which explains those same feelings being associated with consuming weed.

What Are the Potential Risks & Benefits of Delta 9?

Perhaps the most widely known compound in cannabis, THC is full of positive properties and benefits that thousands of people love, including:

  • Insomnia relief
  • Anxiety relief
  • Appetite stimulation
  • Pain management
  • Moderate/strong high

With its positive effects noted, delta 9 was also found to have some unwanted effects, especially when unwittingly consumed in large amounts, which include:

  • Anxiety
  • Nausea
  • Paranoia
  • Mental fog 

How Does THC-O Compare to Delta 8 and Delta 9?

So, now that we’ve got the basics out of the way, it’s time for the real comparison: THCO vs. delta 8 and THC-O vs. delta 9. Let’s see which one comes out on top.

Although THCO is just a more potent analog of THC and therefore strikingly similar, and delta 8 is closely related to delta 9 in many ways, too, these cannabinoids do have some differences observable in their chemical structures, extraction methods, potency, and more. All three are available in various legal products, including edibles, vapes, dabs, and oils.

Here’s a quick reference chart to help you with a comparison of all three cannabinoids:

Effects

Delta 8

Delta 9

THC-O

Pain relief

Relaxation

 

Appetite stimulation

Extremely strong high

   

Psychedelic effects

   

Anxiety relief

 

Appetite stimulation

   

Moderate/strong high

 

 

Anxiety

 

Paranoia

 

Insomnia Relief

 

 

Nausea

 

Dry mouth

 

Red eyes

 

Mental fog

 

Mild High

   

Insomnia

   

The Scientific Differences Between Delta 8, Delta 9, & THCO

Although THCO wins the potency round of this fight, there’s much more to discover about the differences between these three cannabinoids. For example, their chemical differences begin with each compound’s production process. Delta 8 and delta 9 are naturally occurring, while THCO is a synthetic hemp derivative that can only be produced in a lab using acetic anhydride.

Delta 8, delta 9, and THCO are extracted from hemp, which makes them all federally legal under the 2018 Farm Bill. However, the main difference between them is that THCO is legal at any milligram dosage, as is delta 8. In contrast, delta 9 must be derived from hemp, not marijuana, and be considered federally legal. This means delta 9 THC must contain less than 0.3% THC to be considered legal.

Extracting Delta 8, Delta 9, and THCO

While extracting delta 9 from hemp is easy, the other two are a bit more complex. Delta 8 is only found in small amounts in the hemp plant. To have enough for commercial purposes, manufacturers use cannabigerolic acid (CBGA) to convert CBD into delta 8. It’s a similar process to one that occurs in nature.

If you remember our THCO section, you’ll recall that THCO is created using acetic anhydride after converting hemp-derived CBD into delta 8. Acetic anhydride is highly flammable and corrosive and should, therefore, only be handled in a highly controlled lab environment—a fundamental reason to only source your THCO from reputable brands.

Chemically, all three are pretty similar. THCO is just a stronger synthetic version of THC. That said, THCO and THC don’t have identical chemistry. THCO lacks some of delta 9’s organic elements.

The conversation regarding THCO vs. delta 9 must be continued regarding the difference in experience between the two cannabinoids. While delta 9 offers relaxing feelings of euphoria accompanied by a mind and body buzz, THCO has more potent effects, with some users even describing it as a psychedelic cannabinoid. Users have noted experiencing visuals similar to those produced by psilocybin—the active ingredient in mushrooms—and even call it a spiritual experience. Like with any substance, effects can vary from person to person.

The Legality of All Three Cannabinoids

The Legality of All Three Cannabinoids

The legality of cannabinoids is considered tricky by researchers. While marijuana is federally illegal, some states have taken steps toward decriminalization and legalization. Currently, 37 states allow cannabis for medical or recreational purposes.

Now, hemp-derived delta 9 products are legal in 42 states, Puerto Rico and Washington, DC. This means delta 9, sourced from marijuana, is not federally legal. Hemp-derived delta 9, however, is federally legal, but some states do regulate hemp-derived cannabinoids, so its legality depends on what state you are in.

THCO is always derived from hemp, so it’s always federally legal. Again, some states restrict the use of hemp-derived cannabinoids, so THCO is presently legal in 38 states across the United States. Delta 8 has also been banned in several states. To see which cannabinoid is legal, look at the table below.

State

Recreational Cannabis

Medicinal Cannabis

Delta 8 THC

THCO

Delta 9 (From Hemp)

Alabama

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Alaska

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

Arizona

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Arkansas

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

California

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Restricted

Colorado

Yes

Yes

No

No

Restricted

Connecticut

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

Delaware

No

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

District of Columbia

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Florida

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Georgia

No

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Hawaii

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Idaho

No

No

No

No

No

Illinois

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Indiana

No

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Iowa

No

No

No

Yes

Yes

Kansas

No

No

Yes

No

Yes

Kentucky

No

No

Yes

Yes

N/A

Louisiana

No

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

Maine

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Maryland

No

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

Massachusetts

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Michigan

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

Minnesota

No

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

Mississippi

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Missouri

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Montana

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

Nebraska

No

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Nevada

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

New Hampshire

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

New Jersey

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

New Mexico

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

New York

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

North Carolina

No

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

North Dakota

No

Yes

No

Yes

Restricted

Ohio

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Oklahoma

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Oregon

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

Pennsylvania

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

N/A

Rhode Island

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

South Carolina

No

No

No

No

Yes

South Dakota

No

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

Tennessee

No

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Texas

No

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Utah

No

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

Vermont

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

N/A

Virginia

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Washington

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Restricted

West Virginia

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Wisconsin

No

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Wyoming

No

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Will Delta 8, Delta 9, or THCO Test Positive on Drug Tests?

Because drug tests work by detecting THC metabolites, delta 9 derived from either plant, delta 8, and THCO will all trigger a positive result. Even in states where hemp-derived cannabinoids are legal, these compounds may be a source of trouble if your place of employment executes your drug test.

How Do These Drug Tests Work?

THC metabolites, or small molecules formed in the liver after it breaks down and metabolizes THC of any kind, are gradually discarded through feces and urine after THC has been ingested. The amount of time it takes for your body to flush out these molecules depends on several factors, such as the frequency with which you use cannabinoids, the potency of your products, the amount you take, your age and metabolism, and more. As far as research goes, we know more than 80 different metabolites from consuming THC.

If you know you’ve got a drug test coming up, it’s best to stay away from any psychoactive hemp-derived cannabinoid for a few weeks leading up to the test. If you’re caught off guard and know you’ve only consumed hemp-derived cannabinoids, you may be able to ask your employer for further tests that more accurately differentiate cannabinoid compounds.

Delta 8 vs. Delta 9 vs. THCO: The Takeaway

Delta 8, delta 9, and THCO are all exciting cannabinoids that many more people now have access to, thanks to the legalization of hemp. Deciding which is “the best'' when looking at THCO vs. delta 8 and THCO vs. delta 9 is a futile effort, as that is a personal decision. However, we can safely say that each one has plenty of benefits. Whichever one you choose, it’s sure to be perfect for you!