THC-O Vs Delta 9: Discover The Difference

From CBD to HHC, it’s impossible to deny that hemp-derived cannabinoids are having an unprecedented surge in popularity 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, but two cannabinoids have been getting a special amount of attention.

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 completely different reasons.

But how are these cannabinoids different? In what ways are they alike? Which one is better?

At Diamond CBD, we’re here to help you navigate the sometimes-complicated nuances of hemp-derived cannabinoids. Read more to find out who the winner is when comparing THCO vs. delta 9!

THC-O Vs Delta 9: Discover The Difference

THCO vs. Delta 9: What You Need to Know

Before we begin comparing THCO and delta 9, we must first explore each compound individually for a better understanding of them both.

What Is THCO?

THCO, also known as tetrahydrocannabinol acetate (THC-O acetate), is hemp-derived cannabinoid that does not occur naturally in the cannabis plant. This potent cannabinoid is known for its immense strength, which 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. In fact, these compounds don’t really share a chemical structure with THC, whereas THCO is simply one of its stronger analogs.

THCO’s extraction process is very similar to that of naturally occurring hemp-derived cannabinoids; as a matter of fact, 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, converting it into delta 8, and lastly refining it into THCO.

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

  1. All-American industrial hemp is cultivated from farms.

  2. CBD is extracted from hemp.

  3. CBD extract is converted into delta 8 THC.

  4. 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 actually just refined from organic, naturally occurring compounds found in the hemp plant!

Potential Risks & Benefits

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 a large enough dose of THCO may cause a psychedelic experience for its users, including visual and auditory hallucinations.

Some of the potential benefits commonly associated with THCO include:

  • Pain relief

  • Relaxation

  • Appetite stimulation

  • Extremely strong high

  • Psychedelic effects

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

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

  • Anxiety

  • Paranoia

  • Insomnia

  • Nausea

  • Dry mouth

  • Red eyes

THCO Questions Answered in Under 2 Minutes

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 main 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 exactly 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.

Potential Risks & Benefits

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 THCO Compare to Delta 9?

So, now that we’ve got the basics out of the way, it’s time for the real comparison: THCO vs. delta 9.

Although THCO is just a stronger analog of THC and therefore strikingly similar, they do have some differences observable in their chemical structures, extraction methods, potency, and more.

That said, THC and THCO are both available in an array of methods, including edibles, vapes, and oils.

When it comes to comparing cannabinoids, a chart is always the easiest way to explain things.

Cannabinoid Cognitive Change  Potency Benefits Side Effects
THCO  Yes Strong

Pain relief


Appetite stimulation

Extremely strong high

Psychedelic effects





Dry mouth

Red eyes

Delta 9 Yes Moderate to strong

Insomnia relief

Anxiety relief

Appetite stimulation

Pain management

Moderate/strong high




Mental fog

Red eyes

Dry mouth


Scientific Differences

Although we know that THCO wins the potency round of the THCO vs. delta 9 fight, there’s a lot more to discover about the differences between these two cannabinoids. 

The chemical differences between these two compounds begin with each compound’s production process. Delta 9 is naturally occurring, while THCO is a synthetic hemp derivative that can only be produced in a lab by using acetic anhydride.

Both, delta 9 and THCO are extracted from hemp, which makes them both federally legal under the 2018 Farm Bill. A main difference between them, however, is that THCO is legal at any milligram dosage, while delta 9 must be derived from hemp, not marijuana, to be considered federally legal. This means that delta 9 THC must contain less than 0.3% THC to be considered legal.

While extracting delta 9 from hemp is easy, THC-O’s extraction process has a few more steps, thus making it more complex. 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—an especially important reason to only source your THCO from reputable brands.

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

The conversation regarding THCO vs. delta 9 must be continued when it comes to the difference in experience between the two cannabinoids. While delta 9 offers relaxing feelings of euphoria accompanied with 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.

THC-O Vs Delta 9: Discover The Difference

Legality of Both Cannabinoids

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

This means that 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. At this time, hemp-derived delta 9 products are legal in 42 states plus Puerto Rico and Washington, DC.

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.


Both Show Up on Drug Tests!

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

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. As far as research goes, we’re aware of more than 80 different metabolites that form from ingesting THC. 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.

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.