Remember the days when weed was the only tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)-containing cannabinoid? All you had to do was roll a joint, light it up, and a few short puffs later you were blissfully drifting through a dreamy high. As the marijuana trend progressed, edible baked goods emerged, featuring funny brownies, cookies, and even gummies.

The uses of marijuana, ranging from both medicinal and recreational—offer relief from chronic pain, anxiety, depression, and much more. Over the past few decades, modern science has evolved to allow for the discovery of other psychoactive cannabinoids, four of which will be discussed in today’s article.

These four cannabinoids are steadily growing in popularity and are available in a wide range of products. It might seem confusing to know which cannabinoid does what, which one is best suited for your needs, and the subtle differences that make each cannabinoid unique.

If you’re looking for a detailed explanation of Delta-9 THCDelta-8 THCTHC-O, and HHC, you’ve come to the right place! Since marijuana is undoubtedly the most familiar of the four, today’s article will begin with what Delta-9 THC is and the other three cannabinoids will follow. Let’s begin! 

Delta-9 THC: What Is It? 

Delta-9 THC is the cannabinoid found in marijuana that is responsible for getting the user high. It is the oldest of all cannabinoids and is derived naturally from both the cannabis and hemp plant. When derived from cannabis, Delta-9 THC produces a powerful high that often leaves the user overwhelmed and can even increase paranoia and anxiety. Yet when Delta-9 THC is harvested from hemp, it contains 0.3%THC or less and thus contains no psychoactive effects. 

Over the years, marijuana has faced a tumultuous existence as it has been called the gateway drug on one end of the spectrum and a godsend on the other. Weed used to be viewed in an extremely negative light but recently became acknowledged for its powerful healing properties. 

Many states are fighting for both medicinal and recreational use to become legal, and many states have enjoyed a skyrocketing success rate when it comes to all things weed-related. Delta-9 THC is directly responsible for marijuana’s euphoria and powerful high due to its interaction with your body’s natural endocannabinoid system (ECS) and its ability to activate your brain’s CB1 receptors.

Moreover, in December of 2018, former President Donald Trump signed the Farm Bill into law and this legalizes hemp and its derivatives, which is the strains of the plant that contains less than .3% of the Delta-9 THC.

Yet the overly powerful high was a turn-off for many and scientists began searching for a psychoactive alternative that was able to deliver the same psychoactive effects, just in a subdued form. That subdued form was dubbed Delta-8 THC and a brand new world of psychoactive cannabinoids was born. 

Delta-8 THC: How Does It Differ from Weed? 

In order to understand what Delta-8 THC is, you’ll need to know a bit of the scientific background. Delta-8 THC is nearly identical to Delta-9 THC until you compare the chemical structure. Both cannabinoids have double bonds on the chemical carbon chain, Delta-9 THC has double bonds on the 9th chain, whereas Delta-8 THC has double bonds on the 8th chain.

Now you can see where both cannabinoids get their names from! Delta-8 THC naturally occurs in both the hemp and marijuana plant, but in extremely small quantities. With the help of highly advanced extraction methods and isomerization techniques, scientists are able to convert ordinary CBD into the coveted Delta-8 THC.

Now here’s where it gets a bit tricky. Since Delta-8 THC requires these advanced extraction and conversion methods, many lawmakers consider Delta-8 THC to be a controlled substance since it technically does not naturally exist in large quantities

Delta-8 THC and the Farm Bill

All Delta-8 THC products are required to have a THC content of 0.3% or less in order to be federally legal and compliant with the 2018 Farm Bill. In addition to this, hemp and hemp derivatives were legalized for having little to zero psychoactive effects. More than a dozen major hemp and cannabis organizations, including the U.S. Hemp Roundtable, Americans for Safe Access, and the Hemp Industries Association, have endorsed the bill.

Delta-8 THC exploded in popularity after the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill due to its 0.3% or less THC content. The effects of Delta-8 THC are very similar to marijuana but are not quite as overwhelming.

Despite manufacturers providing lab testing to confirm this THC content, many states have outright banned the cannabinoid. Delta-8 THC is currently legal in 37 states, so be sure to check your state laws before attempting to purchase or consume any product containing this cannabinoid. 

Delta-8 THC reaches a certain point and consistently remains there, leaving the user clear-headed and in control. Rather than increasing the user’s paranoia or anxiety levels, Delta-8 THC offers a smoother, more subdued high than Delta-9 THC.

Delta-8 THC Products to Choose From

Delta-8 THC products are available in a delightful assortment of products and are often neatly categorized into two groups, such as inhalable and edible. The former is a popular choice for first-time users but can pose a bit of a problem due to its lengthy reaction time and prolonged effects. While the latter can kick in within five to 15 minutes but may induce fits of coughing and often require external hardware or some prior knowledge of smoking/vaping.

New types of Delta-8 THC products are being created every day, these include hard candies, beverage enhancers, and even dissolving oral strips are just a few examples of the innovation in the cannabinoid industry.

There are a variety of Delta-8 THC products to choose from, these include gummies, disposable vapes, tinctures, and softgels.

THC-O: The First Synthetic Cannabinoid

Tetrahydrocannabinol acetate (THC-O) is not a cannabinoid that is found naturally in the hemp plant. Rather, it is an analog that has been manufactured from THC, thus making it a synthetic cannabinoid.

Because there are no federal prohibitions, uncontrolled THC-O can be sold to anyone under the age of 21 in some states. Much like Delta-8 THC, THC-O is legal as long as it is derived from federally legal hemp and contains 0.3% THC as required by the 2018 Farm Bill.

THC-O is reported to be three times as strong as traditional marijuana and is wildly popular with cannabinoid users throughout the country. THC-O comes in many familiar products such as Delta-8 THC including vape cartridges, disposables, and edibles. Products from ERTH Hemp controls every aspect of our production, from seed multiplication to growth to extraction to the completed product on your shelves.

THC-O has a nearly identical chemical structure as Delta-9 THC. This unique synthetic cannabinoid is created by extracting CBD from hemp, converting the CBD to Delta-8 THC, and finally combining acetic anhydride, an organic solvent to create THC-O.

Since THC-O is an analog of THC rather than simply being a manufactured compound, it is vastly different from other infamous (and toxic) cannabinoids like K2 and Spice. THC-O works naturally with your body’s endocannabinoid system to create a smooth and gradual high. As with any THC cannabinoid, It is recommended to start off slowly with doses. The effects typically begin between 15-30 minutes and will progressively increase. 

HHC: The New Kid on the Block

Hexahydrocannabinol (HHC), is one of the newest cannabinoids on the market. There is much debate and controversy circling HHC regarding the legality, effects, and manufacturing process. Such confusion results in much misinformation on what this cannabinoid actually is.

HHC was synthesized by the same chemist who first isolated CBD, Roger Adams. HHC was synthesized by extracting Delta-9 THC from cannabis and utilizing hydrogen, other organic compounds, and a heavy metal catalyst. Since HHC is not technically considered a THC, it can pass through the glare of federal scrutiny—making it a protected cannabinoid.

HHC has been in existence for several years but has only recently begun to increase in popularity. It is considered the middle ground between Delta-8 THC and THC-O. HHC is found naturally in the cannabis plant but requires an advanced hydrogenation method in order to become usable.

Thus, HHC is not considered a synthetic cannabinoid. HHC comes in a wide range of products including inhalables and edibles. The effects of HHC are quite similar to traditional marijuana, offering a legal alternative for those who are unable to legally purchase and consume marijuana. 

As long as HHC is derived from federally legal hemp and contains less than 0.3% THC, it is considered legal under the 2018 Farm Bill.


The cannabinoid world is changing rapidly as scientists discover more ways to utilize the hemp plant. It can feel overwhelming with all of these cannabinoids floating around like alphabet soup, but hopefully, this article was able to shed some light on the four major cannabinoids currently in the industry.

This is by no means an exhaustive article but contains all of the necessary information to make an informed decision on which cannabinoid to choose. Understanding how Delta-9 THC works helps shed some light on how Delta-8 THC is different.

For those wanting a stronger high than Delta-8 THC and don’t mind the use of synthetics, THC-O is a viable choice. Lastly, HHC offers a middle ground between THC-O and Delta-8 THC. As always, it’s crucial to start small with your doses and allow your body to react naturally before increasing your dosage.

Patience is key, as some product forms will take longer to kick in than others. Whether it be Delta-9 THC, Delta-8 THC, THC-O, or HHC, you can rest assured that each of these cannabinoids will deliver a heady high, ready to transport you into a world of blissful euphoria. The only question that remains is—which cannabinoid will you choose?

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