Most people today understand that tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the active ingredient in marijuana that gives it psychoactive properties, but not everyone realizes that THC has several different forms. Being that THC is still illegal in the state of NC, it is important for one to realize the legal loophole in which someone can benefit from the cannabis plant. 

Delta 9 THC is the most common form of THC found in the cannabis plant, so it has the honor of being called simply “THC.”

We have put together a comprehensive guide on delta 9 THC, covering everything from its chemical structure and potential benefits to side effects and legality.

Below you’ll also find dosing recommendations, legal information, and a comparison between THC and other common cannabinoids.


Delta 9 THC is the main primary psychoactive compound in cannabis plants. Its most important role in the plant is to protect it from the sun’s harsh rays as well as insect invasion. Modern cannabis plants contain high levels of THC purely because of human intervention.

Raphael Mechoulam first studied THC in 1964. He was the first scientist to extract THC from cannabis and discovered that the molecule could cross the blood-brain barrier. He was also the first to realize that THC was responsible for the psychoactive effects of smoking marijuana, opening the door for further study of the body’s interaction with cannabinoids.

People usually refer to delta 9 THC as just THC, dropping the delta 9 specifier. Other forms of THC, like delta 8 THC and delta 10 THC, always are discussed using their full name to avoid confusion.

Chemically, delta 9 THC gets its name from the location of a carbon double-bond. Isomers of delta 9 THC, like delta 8 and delta 10 THC, have this double bond in a different location (the eighth and tenth positions, respectively).

This seemingly small difference leads to noticeably different pharmacological effects.


Delta 9 THC is 100% natural. It’s an organic compound found in wild cannabis plants without any need for human intervention.

Some confusion surrounding THC’s natural status stems from the process used to make delta 9 THC products. Manufacturers extract THC from cannabis plants to make a concentrated extract with much higher levels of THC than you would find in nature.

There are also methods used to synthesize THC, but this is less common because of how easy it is to extract it naturally.


Delta 9 THC is produced naturally in cannabis plants. Several cannabinoids, including delta 9 THC, start as cannabigerolic acid (CBGA). CBGA gets converted to tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA), which, in turn, undergoes decarboxylation to form THC as the plant ages.

Because this process takes time, young cannabis plants have lower concentrations of THC than older ones.

Manufacturers extract delta 9 THC from cannabis plants to create a pure, concentrated form for use in products. One of the most effective and accessible THC extraction methods is called supercritical CO2 extraction.

This technique combines cannabis plant matter with CO2 that’s been placed under very high pressure and low temperature. This causes CO2 to change into a halfway state where it’s both a liquid and a gas at the same time. This phase is referred to as “supercritical.”

Supercritical CO2 has the same properties as chemical solvents but is much safer. Instead of having to remove the solvent after the extraction, the pressure is released, and it simply turns back into a gas.

Another way to make delta 9 THC is to convert it from cannabidiol (CBD) through a process called isomerization.

The process involves dissolving CBD in a strong acid solution. This method is popular because it is cheap but requires chemistry expertise to avoid accidentally contaminating the final product. There’s a lot of room for error with this method.

Is Hemp Delta-9 THC and Is It Legal in North Carolina?

According to the 2018 US Farm Bill: "hemp" means the plant Cannabis sativa L. and any part of that plant, including the seeds thereof and all derivatives, extracts, cannabinoids, isomers, acids, salts, and salts of isomers, whether growing or not, with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis.’