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One is pot, the other is not, but the effects are similar: Delta 8 vs. Delta 9

Delta 8 is the legal version of pot. 2 Wants To Know investigates how similar the two drugs are.

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Getting high in Greensboro is a big business. There are at least 10 stores in the city dedicated to selling Delta 8, including Hemp House on West Market.

Owner Waleed Isa is also a realtor. This is his side gig because:

“Delta 8 is very popular and it's still growing in popularity,” he said.

Isa said Delta 8 helped him recover from coronavirus.

“I was miserable for a straight two weeks," he said. "Nausea and all that sort of thing. Whenever the fever started going away, the nausea really wasn't and I was having a very tough time eating or drinking anything.”

In 12 days, he lost 20 pounds.

“It was very scary," Isa said. "A dark time for me for sure.”

Delta 8 gave him the munchies.

“I was very thankful for that because a big part of my life is food," Isa said. "I'm a type of person that really enjoys eating. I don't enjoy a lot of things. I don't, like, I don't drink. I don't go out and party or anything. You know, I love food.”

A variety of foods and snacks can be made using Delta 8.

In North Carolina, Delta 8 THC is legal. Delta 9 THC, the traditional version of pot, is not. That’s because in 2018, the Farm Bill, signed by former President Donald Trump, changed the list of schedule 1 illegal drugs by removing hemp plants with less than 0.3% THC. Delta 8 comes from hemp plants so it’s legal. Delta 9 comes from a marijuana plant, so it’s illegal.

Since then, 14 states have made Delta 8 illegal. North Carolina lawmakers discussed it, but could never come to an agreement.

“In North Carolina, we just don’t have any guidance, statutory or case law wise," said UNC School of Government’s Phil Dixon. "As things, in absence of more specific guidance, it appears to me this stuff is legal under federal law.”

Credit: Ben Briscoe -WFMY News 2
What is the difference between Delta 8 THC and Delta 9 THC.

To see how Delta 8 and Delta 9 compare, we found someone who lives in Colorado where both drugs are legal.

“Think of them as cousins,” Stephan Bernard said.

He has tried both versions after being in the cannabis industry for 15 years. He’s such a believer in Delta 8, he runs a Facebook group called Delta 8 Life where you can track developments about Delta 8 from all across the country.

“I would say that the experience with Delta 8 is a little more sort of like a numbing kind of relaxing, more of a physical feeling than a mental feeling," Bernard said. "With Delta 9, it's much more cerebral. And, yeah, so that's, that's the main difference other than the potency. I also (think), Delta 9 is going to hit harder than Delta 8.

When asked how much harder, Bernard said about 25% to 50%, depending on the person. 

"I mean, you can walk around your house, you can cook, you can clean, you can go about your day," Bernard said. "I wouldn't, you know, advise motor vehicles or anything."

We asked if it can make a person feel sick.

"If you take too much, you know, it depends on how your body reacts to it," Bernard said. "Some people, it's just going to make them go to sleep. Some people are going to feel like they need to go to the emergency room."

We also asked if Delta 8 can be addictive.

“It's not going to have like a strong chemical dependence like most controlled substances,” Bernard said.

Below is a chemical comparison of Delta 8 and Delta 9.

Almost 20 years ago, Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist’s Allyn Howlett discovered the part of the brain that is triggered by cannabis. Ever since, she’s been researching the drug’s impact on the body to see how pharmaceutical companies can use it.

“Both Delta 9 THC and Delta 8 THC work at that same receptor. The only difference is that the Delta 9 is a little bit more potent," Howlett said. "That means you need to take less of that drug than you would take a Delta 8 to get exactly the same response.”

She said comparing Delta 8 to Delta 9 isn’t even like comparing apples and oranges. It’s more like a red apple and a green apple, which you can see when you look at the molecular structure of both.

"You would see a double bond going in one direction, and Delta 8 has the double bond going in another direction, but the rest of the molecule is absolutely identical,” Howlett said.

The only real difference is one is for sale legally in the Triad while the other could land you in jail.

The Food and Drug Administration has not approved Delta 8 products for safe use. While reports of side effects are pretty rare, some people have said they suffered hallucinations, vomiting, tremors, anxiety, dizziness, confusion and even passing out.

The National Poison Control Center said last year about 130 people were hospitalized in a critical care unit because of Delta 8. One child died. It’s important to always keep Delta 8 products out of reach of children and pets.

Also, Delta 8 will show up on drug tests, but there may be a legal loophole to keep you from getting fired.

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