Delta-8 has come a long way in the past few years. It’s risen to prominence faster than any cannabinoid before it, including CBD — and today both these hemp-derived cannabinoids are vying for the spotlight.
So, what are the differences between delta-8 THC and CBD? Keep reading to learn more, because in this article we’ll cover it all.
- Delta-8 vs. CBD: the similarities
- Difference 1: binding affinity
- Difference 2: mental effects
- Difference 3: drug testing
- Difference 4: drug testing
- The benefits of combining D-8 and CBD
Delta-8 THC vs. CBD: the similarities
Before looking at D-8 and CBD’s many differences, however, we should briefly address their similarities.
First thing’s first: delta-8 THC and CBD come from the very same plant. In fact, they’re just two out of the hundreds and hundreds of cannabinoids produced by hemp:
- CBG | cannabigerol
- CBGa | cannabigerolic acid
- CBD | cannabidiol
- CBDa | cannabidiolic acid
- CBDv | cannabidivarin
- CBC | cannabichromene
- CBT | cannabicitran
- CBN | cannabinol
Hemp also contains plenty of other good stuff, including scent molecules called terpenes:
Long story short, delta-8 THC and CBD have one big thing in common: they both have the hemp plant to thank for their existence! This commonality aside, let’s take a look at four major differences.
Difference 1: binding affinity
But delta-8 THC begins to separate itself from CBD as soon as it’s consumed. While CBD mostly stays out of your brain, delta-8 permeates type-1 cannabinoid receptors located throughout the hippocampus and other areas. In other words, expect delta-8 THC to feel very uplifting.
But delta-8’s ability to also bind to type-2 cannabinoid receptors means it offers a different type of upliftment than ‘regular’ THC does. Most users find it powerful yet refined. You can take delta-8, feel great, and still go on with your daily routine. 
Difference 2: mental effects
Can delta-8 THC get you high?
It sure can! Even the smallest doses of delta-8 are at least a little uplifting — and large doses can be extremely uplifting.
But don’t let the possibility of getting high deter you from trying delta-8. “People report [delta-8] as being less anxiety-provoking, less sedating, and a little more clear-headed than [normal] THC,” attests cannabis expert Dr. Peter Grinspoon. Delta-8 may very well provide the best of both worlds: it’s uplifting, but not intoxicating...sedating, but not incapacitating...high-vibed, but not anxiety-prone. 
Contrast that with CBD, which only has mild mental effects, and it quickly becomes clear what sets D-8 apart. No dose of CBD is capable of making you high — even if you’re sensitive to cannabinoids. 
Difference 3: drug testing
Delta-8 and CBD are also worlds apart when it comes to drug testing.
While both compounds are federally legal, delta-8 can show on drug tests as an illegal substance. The average ‘point of care’ drug test simply can’t distinguish between legal delta-8 and illegal delta-9!
Making matters slightly worse, delta-8 might be more prone to false positive drug test results than any other legal cannabinoids. It’s highly cross-reactive, meaning it can react with test antibodies and throw off test results. A 2020 study found that delta-8 THC was more prone to cross-reactions than CBD, CBN, CBC, and CBG. Until more accurate urinalysis tests are adopted, you may want to disclose your delta-8 use to your employer. 
The issue of CBD and drug testing is much more straightforward. CBD rarely causes false positives since its intake causes your body to produce an entirely different set of metabolites than delta-8 does.
Difference 3: legality
Delta-8 and CBD also vary when it comes to their legal status. While both cannabinoids are federally legal as long as they’re sourced from hemp, some states have taken steps towards banning delta-8 THC.
The law enforcement in these states argues that delta-8’s legality makes enforcing ‘normal’ THC laws next to impossible. As you might expect, many of the states that’ve banned D-8 aren’t exactly cannabis-friendly. Here’s a list of them:
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- New York
And five other states may soon follow suit and ban delta-8 THC themselves:
Thankfully CBD’s legal status is much more straightforward. It’s legal in all 50 states, with a select few exceptions when it comes to CBD-infused edibles.
The benefits of combining delta-8 and THC
So far we’ve covered delta-8’s potential health benefits, CBD’s potential health benefits, and several other topics.
But things get even better when delta-8 THC and CBD are combined. Leading researchers suspect that this combo could make hemp’s entourage effect even better.
What’s the entourage effect? Well, this effect describes the manner in which hemp’s many active ingredients work together to become stronger than the sum of their parts. And hemp does have an impressive collection of active ingredients:
It’s got cannabinoids like CBD, CBDa, THC, CBG, CBN, delta-8 THC, and others….
It’s got terpenes like pinene, limonene, eugenol, beta-caryophyllene, and more…
And it’s even got special flavones like cannflavin A and cannflavin B…
While most people already experience the entourage effect just fine via full spectrum CBD, adding delta-8 THC into the mix could make things even better. Don’t forget that both CB1 and CB2 receptors can be activated by delta-8 — and these receptors might become more sensitive to CBD in the process.
Summing things up
Delta-8 THC and CBD are not the same things. They’re both cannabinoids, and they both hail from the hemp plant, but that’s about where the similarities end.
Now that you know the major differences between these two cannabinoids, feel free to combine them in whatever ways you see fit. Many of our customers prefer taking full spectrum CBD as a daily baseline, then infusing in some delta-8 THC for those special occasions. Whatever combination you choose, we think you’ll enjoy it!
- An efficient new cannabinoid antiemetic in pediatric oncology. (1995). Drug Library. http://www.druglibrary.net/olsen/HEMP/IHA/iha02210.html
- How Some THC Is Legal — For Now. (2020). Rolling Stone. https://www.rollingstone.com/culture/culture-features/delta-8-thc-legal-weed-explained-1113859/
- Norris, R. (2020, December 9). So Long, CBD—Delta-8 Is the Latest THC Substitute That’ll Help You Zen Out. HelloGiggles. https://hellogiggles.com/lifestyle/health-fitness/what-is-delta-8-thc/
- Kroner, G. M., Johnson-Davis, K. L., Doyle, K., & McMillin, G. A. (2020, March 24). Cannabinol (CBN) Cross-Reacts with Two Urine Immunoassays Designed to Detect Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) Metabolite. OUP Academic. https://academic.oup.com/jalm/article/5/3/569/5811388?login=true