Delta-9 THC: Explaining the Most Infamous Cannabinoid

delta 9 why it's legal in most states

Posted on January 20th, 2021

There are over 120 individual cannabinoids in the cannabis plant. One of these is responsible for the unique psychoactive feeling experienced by consuming marijuana. This active ingredient is called THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). There is more than one kind of THC, but delta-9 THC is the most common. It has been a controversial substance for over 60 years now. It is considered a Schedule I drug (meaning it is addictive and dangerous), as well as a potent, potentially medicinal, supplement with few unwanted side effects.

But which one is it? Is this compound a dangerous drug or a medicinal supplement? This article will cover everything you need to know about this highly misunderstood substance, how it works, its effects, how it differs from other cannabinoids, etc.

What is Delta-9 THC?

THC is an acronym for tetrahydrocannabinol, the primary psychoactive compound in cannabis that makes the user high.  Numerous researchers and chemists have studied cannabis and its compounds. Rafael Mechoulam (the Godfather of cannabis) is primarily responsible for putting delta-9 THC on the map. He did this with research that started in the early 1960s.

Tetrahydrocannabinol works by activating specific receptors in the brain. It also interacts with the endocannabinoid system and CNS controlling appetite, memory, coordination, visual and auditory perception. By interacting with these receptors, the cannabinoid affects all these processes. One of the results is the characteristic high that weed causes.

There are two types of tetrahydrocannabinol, delta-8 and delta-9 THC. When you come across the term THC, most people are talking about the delta-9 variation.

What Does Delta-9 THC Feel Like?

The psychoactive feeling from THC varies greatly from person to person. This dramatic alteration in experience is affected by factors like dose, tolerance, weight, age and the type of cannabis.

You may experience a feeling of wakefulness, hunger, increased motivation, euphoria, changes in visual & auditory perception, or giddiness. The highness can be calming and relaxing to some, but to others, it can trigger paranoia and anxiety.

The best way to make sure you have a positive experience is to avoid consuming too much marijuana and ensure you only use it in a place where you feel safe and comfortable. Even minor stress triggers can result in anxiety while under the influence of marijuana.

Most people nowadays consume THC to help relax the mind after a long day. It can also stimulate the creative thought process and even address specific medical conditions such as glaucoma, chronic nerve pain, and poor appetite.

Does CBD Make Your Eyes Red? - smoking cannabis is a surefire way to get red eyesDelta-9 THC and the ECS

To understand how THC works in the human body, you need to understand the endocannabinoid system (ECS). Dr. Lumir Hanus, Raphael Mechoulam and Willian Devane discovered it in the early 1990s. The ECS is part of the body of every mammal on earth. It is a complex network of cannabinoid receptors, enzymes, and lipids that play a vital role in the maintenance of internal regulatory balance. When your body achieves this balance, it is called homeostasis.

CB1 and CB2 receptors work throughout the body, facilitating two-way communication between the cells and nerves. This communication takes place when an adequate saturation of cannabinoids is available. When everything is working together properly, the ECS can trigger many benefits like pain relief.

When the ECS is deprived of cannabinoids like delta-9 THC, there are repercussions. Over the past several decades, cannabis has been removed from the public forcefully by the government. We have also seen an increase in a wide array of illnesses and diseases that were not as abundant. Cannabis has shown great promise in easing conditions like PTSD, fibromyalgia, Chrohn’s disease, cancer, chronic pain, and even Alzheimer’s disease.

Many researchers and scientists believe that a wide array of medical conditions today are exacerbated by cannabinoid deficiency. Seeing how the human body has natural receptors that are activated by cannabis, it seems like we were meant to use the plant.

Delta-8 vs Delta-9 THC

As mentioned earlier, these are the two types of THC. These compounds are completely identical, except for the location of a double bond in their chemical formulas. Delta-8 THC has a double bond in the 8th carbon chain. This bond exists in the 9th carbon on delta-9 THC. This small difference has been enough to change the laws and regulations for these compounds and also the effects.

Delta-8 THC has about half the intoxicating effects of delta-9 and is less likely to cause paranoia or anxiety. Also, this compound has managed to avoid most of the regulations surrounding tetrahydrocannabinol. Many manufacturers sell delta-8 THC extracts as a legal high. But some nations like the United States have implemented specific laws banning the sale and consumption of both types.

It’s also important to note that delta-8 THC forms as a result of delta-9 THC degradation. This makes it present in lower concentrations (less than 1%).  It is almost impossible to create hemp or marijuana strains that are naturally high in delta-8 THC.

Uses/Effects of Delta-9 THC

The intoxication is the most popular effect of delta-9 THC. It’s known to trigger a euphoric high that occupies both the body and mind. It alters your perception and can help relax the body.

But these are just a few of the effects THC causes. Depending on the strain, terpene profile, and the presence of other cannabinoids, other effects include:

-Appetite stimulation

-Pain alleviation

-Anxiety alleviation, including social anxiety

-Improved sleep quality

-Increased libido

-Easing side effects of epilepsy and multiple sclerosis


THC has been proven, time and again, to be a safe substance. There has never been a case of THC overdose, despite being one of the most popular psychoactive substances on the planet. The toxic dose of this compound is so high that the only way to reach it is through injecting several milliliters of tetrahydrocannabinol into your body. It is impossible to achieve a lethal dose by eating or smoking marijuana.

Even with its impressive safety profile, you need to be aware of some psychological dangers. There have been reports of the product aggravating pre-existing psychiatric conditions like psychosis and schizophrenia. It is generally unsafe to consume THC products if you or a family member has been diagnosed with one of these disorders.

Side Effects

As mentioned earlier, not all THC effects are desirable. It is common for users to experience side effects such as paranoia and anxiety, particularly the first couple of times.

Some cannabis products are more likely to cause anxiety and paranoia compared to others. Products with a high THC concentration, stimulating terpenes, and low CBD are more likely to cause anxiety. However, some cannabinoids tend to offset these effects including delta-8 THC, CBD and CBC.

Common negative side effects include:



-Rapid heart rate


-High or low blood pressure

Delta-9 THC Products

THC products come in  a wide array of forms including:


This is a general term for the smokable part of a female marijuana plant. Flower is the most popular cannabis product because of its versatility and availability. You can smoke it in a bong, pipe, or roll it into a blunt/joint.


These are substances whereby other cannabis components have been removed, including terpenes and cannabinoids. You will come across numerous cannabis concentrates in varying textures and formats, most of which have high THC concentration as their selling point.


These are extractions of only one cannabinoid, in this case THC. Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid or THCA is the most commonly available isolate form. However, it’s only intoxicating when you heat it (smoke).

Infused THC Products

Any recipe that calls for oil or butter can be infused with THC. Ingested cannabinoids undergo different processing compared to inhaled cannabis, which usually means that edibles are more intoxicating. That is because the compounds enter the bloodstream through the liver and stomach. It’s important to note that edibles have a delayed onset, usually between 30 and 90 minutes. This extends the high to 4 or even 8 hours, depending on the dose.

Full Spectrum Extracts

An increasingly common form of cannabis product is the full spectrum extract. These are most popular as tinctures. A carrier oil like MCT oil combined with all available compounds from the cannabis plant is a tincture. Tanasi is a company who specializes in full spectrum hemp extracts. Research shows the benefit is that each part of the cannabis plant works better with the rest of the plant than isolated. So Tanasi extracts everything they possibly can from hemp plants and combines it all with a carrier oil for oral consumption. This includes a small amount (0.3%) of THC.

Who Should Avoid THC Consumption?

Individuals with cardiac conditions and at risk for psychosis are generally advised to avoid THC, particularly in high doses. You shouldn’t use delta-9 THC if it is illegal where you live. For those under 18, it is important to seek advice from a reputable physician before using it. Most jurisdictions require a legal guardian to supervise the use of medical marijuana to individuals under the age of 18.


Delta-9 THC is the main psychoactive compound in the cannabis plant. It is also the ingredient that has sparked the most controversy for almost a century and the reason why marijuana is classified as a Schedule I drug.

Thanks to ongoing research, however, more and more people are realizing the many benefits that this natural compound has to offer. The potential for treating various conditions is certainly promising.


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