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Hemp-Derived THC Products vs Marijuana-Derived THC Products

hemp-derived THC
Written by Alexandra Hicks

If you’ve been keeping up with market trends, you’ve likely noticed there has been a lot of talk about ‘hemp-derived THC products’, and you might be wondering what makes them unique and how they differ from marijuana-derived THC products. Short story, it’s just a legal technicality, but let’s dig a little deeper into why this loophole exists and what it means for consumers.  

Hemp-Derived vs Marijuana-Derived

Simply put, hemp-derived THC products are sourced from high-CBD industrial hemp plants, grown for its fiber, seeds, and extraction uses, whereas marijuana-derived THC products come from high-THC marijuana, like what you would find at dispensary. So why does it matter? On a molecular level, both THCs are exactly the same regardless of where they are extracted from. And logically, it makes more sense to extract from plants that already are THC-dominant, rather than using up a bunch of hemp plant matter for the low levels of extractable THC.

The reason it makes any difference at all is purely legal. As defined by the 2018 farm bill, the hemp variety of cannabis is legal so long as it contains a maximum of 0.3% THC on a dry weight basis. Anything more than that, and it’s considered marijuana, which is illegal. Therefore, any products created from marijuana-derived THC, are also illegal. By default, that same THC can be extracted from hemp and it’s legal.

The implications here are huge for the industry, as it provides a nice legal loophole through which businesses can sell THC products. This is important because statistics show that traditional THC-based cannabis products are still most popular, and consumers have access to a variety of legal THC products, both Delta 8 and Delta 9.

As far as cannabis products go, hemp-derived THC still reigns king. You’ll find all of it in our newsletter: The Cannadelics Sunday Edition. Subscribe for more articles like this one.

What is THC?

When we talk about tetrahydrocannabinols as a whole, we are referring to a specific chemical structure known as C21H30O2. This chemical structure is basically the umbrella under which numerous different-yet-very-similar compounds can be created. These molecules, known as isomers, have the same chemical formula but the arrangement of atoms within the molecule can vary – like how the words ‘live’ and “evil’ have the exact same letters, but once you switch up the configuration a bit, the words take on completely different meanings.

Take all the delta THC’s, for example. In Delta 9 THC – which is the most abundant psychoactive compound in cannabis – the ‘9’ represents where the double bond occurs, in this case, on the 9th atom in the carbon chain. When the double bond moves to the 8th atom, it becomes Delta 8 THC, which is an isomer of Delta 9. The same holds true for Delta 10 THC, which is an isomer of Delta 9 with the double bond located on the 10th atom in the chain.

The difference between Delta 8 and Delta 10 is that Delta 8 is a naturally occurring isomer formed via the oxidation of Delta 9 THC, whereas Delta 10 can only be created synthetically. And speaking of synthetics, let’s quickly discuss THC-O-Acetate. This compound is an analog of THC, meaning its chemical structure is similar to delta 9, but differs more than an isomer.

Then we have 11-hydroxy-THC, which has the chemical formula C21H30O3. Although it has ‘THC’ in the name, 11-hydroxy is not THC, nor is it an isomer or analog of THC. Rather, it is metabolite of THC and technically an endocannabinoid, created when our bodies digest any type of tetrahydrocannabinols. It has a very similar chemical structure to all THCs, but as you can see, there is one extra oxygen molecule making this a completely different compound, with similar, but reportedly much more powerful, effects.

THCP, on the other hand, is a special type of THC analog called a homolog. A homolog is a molecule belonging to a series of compounds that differ from each other by a repeating unit. In this scenario, the repeating unit is the alkyl side chain. Delta 9 THC has a 5-term alkyl side chain, which means that it contains 5 total carbon atoms. THCP has an elongated 7-term chain.

A Bit More About Hemp-Derived Delta 9 THC Products

We’ve grown pretty accustomed to delta 9 THC being federally illegal, while other similar compounds like delta 8 and delta 10 slip under the radar. Using the 0.3% cutoff and a bit of legal workaround, companies have found ways to sell delta 9 THC products that actually ARE legal everywhere in the US.

Let’s quickly revert back to the 2018 Farm Bill, which states that any naturally-derived cannabis compounds are legal, so long as they come from hemp. And the same applies at the end of the production line. The finished product – be it gummies, vape liquid, topicals, or anything else – needs to have less than 0.3 percent total Delta 9 THC.

Available Products

I personally have only tried the hemp-derived D9 THC gummies from Urb Effex, which are available in our newsletter. However, searching online I was able to find some vape carts that were described as containing “legal Delta 9 THC”, as well as gummies and edibles that had a combination of both Delta 8 and Delta 9 THCs.

As this trend continues to take root, we’ll see an increase of legal D9 products being sold online, in head shops and gas stations, and so on. Currently, Delta 9 THC remains the most popular cannabis compound on the market, and the only reason we don’t see more of it is simply because it has been prohibited for a long time (as opposed to CBD products that can be found ANYWHERE these days).

In addition to this recently discovered legal loophole, there are tons of Delta 8 THC products as well. Although D8 is not quite as potent as D9, it can still serve as a nice replacement when the occasion calls for it. As a matter of fact, some people prefer it because it provides a slight high without the intensity and anxiety that some people feel from D9.

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About the author

Alexandra Hicks

Managing editor at Cannadelics and U.S based journalist, helping spread the word about the many benefits of using cannabis and psychedelics.