Delta 9 THC: Ultimate Guide to the World’s Most Popular Psychoactive Drug

Dan Simms Last Updated: October 15, 2021

Marijuana is the most commonly used illegal drug, with a reported 3.8% of the world’s population noted to be consistent users.

Weed is only gaining popularity as it becomes decriminalized and legalized for medical and recreational use throughout the United States.

In this complete guide, you’ll learn what delta 9 THC is, the effects of THC, what weed feels like for users, dosing guidelines, legality, and much more.

What Is Delta 9 THC?

Delta 9 THC, more commonly referred to as “THC,” is the primary psychoactive component found in weed. It’s the compound that delivers a “high” when consuming marijuana.

THC is a natural substance that is produced by cannabis plants, in high volumes up to around 30% in marijuana varieties and in minimal quantities in hemp plants.

THC users report that the substance provides feelings of euphoria, sparked creativity, increased focus, and a distorted perception of time, among other effects which will be discussed later.

In the past few decades, the potential medical benefits of THC consumption have been researched extensively. While it remains primarily a recreational drug, countless patients across America use medical marijuana to treat pain, loss of appetite, glaucoma, epilepsy, nausea, cancer, and more [1].

Delta 9 THC: Specs & Technical Details

Active IngredientDelta 9 THC
Level of RiskLow
Other NamesWeed, Bud, Pot
Most Common Side EffectsRed eyes, paranoia, anxiety, increased appetite (“munchies”), increased heart rate
Duration of Effects2-10 hours, depending on delivery method
LegalityIllegal recreationally in most countries, legalized for medical use in many

Common Names for Marijuana

Experts estimate that the effects of cannabis were known to humans as far back as about 28 million years ago. In more recent history, marijuana containing delta 9 THC has been given countless nicknames and street names.

Common slang terms for marijuana:

  • Weed
  • Pot
  • Dope
  • Bud
  • Reefer
  • Grass
  • Hash
  • Hashish
  • Ganja
  • Mary Jane
  • Chronic
  • Cheeba
  • Puff the Magic Dragon

What Does Delta 9 THC Feel Like?

The THC “high” feels similar to being drunk, but with less “haziness” (mentally) and a stronger body load.

Mentally you don’t feel drunk, but your thoughts feel lighter and often drift away from you as you’re thinking about something. It can be hard to stay on task, but you feel more open to creative ideas. This is why so many artists and creatives love using THC.

You may feel some euphoria, especially in the first half of the experience.

Unwanted effects can happen too. Many people who take too much THC or don’t use it often may feel what’s referred to as “weed anxiety.” As you might have guessed, it’s the anxiety caused by THC, which is a bit of a different feeling than other types of anxiety.

A common cause for weed anxiety is caused by the feeling of being “off-centered” — as though you’re not as in control of your experience as you thought. This can cause a bit of existential anxiety and is normal when using most psychoactive substances… to varying degrees.

Does Delta 9 THC Feel the Same for Everyone?

Consuming delta 9 THC can vary significantly from person to person. THC interacts with our endocannabinoid system, binding to CB1 and CB2 receptors. Different individuals will have varying numbers of receptors, some of which can bind more successfully with THC molecules. Ultimately, a person’s genetics plays a significant role in how THC affects them.

The strain of marijuana consumed can also play a part in your experience with delta 9 THC. Some strains have high THC levels, making them more potent. Others have CBD included, which has been shown to reduce the psychoactive effects of THC. Terpenes and other compounds in marijuana strains can also play a part in how you experience THC.

Finally, the delivery method can have an effect on how THC affects you. Smoking or vaping will generally produce a less intense high than consuming edibles, while dabs and concentrates can deliver the most potent effects.

How THC Feels According to Dose

The effects of THC can vary quite a bit depending on the dose.

Generally speaking, lower doses are more mellow and adaptogenic. They’re calming and even a little bit sedating.

Higher doses shift and become much more stimulating and psychoactive.

Starting at a threshold dose of around 5 mg, THC becomes increasingly more psychoactive. Most users feel a clear “high” by 10 mg, and 20 mg or more can be quite overwhelming if you’re not used to it.

High and heavy doses are reserved for people with a lot of experience with THC and have a strong understanding of how their body reacts to THC.

Microdose

(1-2.5 milligrams)

A microdose refers to a dose of any substance that’s below the threshold. For THC, the threshold is around 5 mg.

Microdosing THC isn’t common, but many proponents claim it offers all the same benefits THC is known for in psychoactive doses — just to a lesser degree.

It takes longer for microdoses to work, but because of the lower cost and lack of psychoactive effects, it’s a good option for achieving consistent, long-term support.

Common reasons for microdosing THC include:

  • Chronic pain
  • Chronic anxiety
  • Chronic depression
  • Arthritis
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Supportive oncology
  • Insomnia

Threshold Dose

(3-10 milligrams)

This is the minimum dose needed to produce noticeable psychoactive effects.

This dose will vary depending on the size, metabolism, and sensitivity of the user. Some people are more sensitive and feel the effects at 3 mg — others are less sensitive and need a dose closer to 10 mg before they feel anything.

Standard Dose

(15-30 milligrams)

This is considered a standard dose for new and infrequent users.

Intense euphoria, impairment of motor skills, memory impairment, and a strongly altered perception of time are common effects. Some users report minor visual hallucinations.

High Dose

(30-50 milligrams)

This is considered a standard dose for frequent or everyday users.

For reference, a single 1 gram joint contains roughly 150 mg of THC.

However, a lot of this is lost due to combustion. Experts suggest a single 1 gram joint delivers a dose of around 60–100 mg THC along with a gamut of other cannabinoids.

This is under ideal conditions as if smoked by way of puffing, but no passing.

Heavy Dose

(50-100 milligrams)

Considered a large dose, even for frequent users. Individuals usually report extreme euphoria, regular visual hallucinations, a perception of time moving very slowly, and intense pain relief. Doses this high are far more likely to cause paranoia, anxiety, rapid heart rate, and memory impairment.

How Long Do the Effects of THC Last?

The timeline of effects when consuming delta 9 THC vary depending on the user, the dose, the delivery method, and several other factors.

When smoking or vaping marijuana, most users report a rapid onset of a high, sometimes within seconds and usually within 1-2 minutes. The high from smoking lasts about 2 hours for most users.

Consuming edibles or gummies means the THC is absorbed into your bloodstream via your digestive tract. As such, the time to effects varies considerably based on your metabolism and how much you’ve eaten prior to dosing. Most users report a high within 45 minutes to an hour, while others feel nothing for 2-3 hours after consumption.

The high from edibles usually lasts much longer than from inhaling THC — between 6 and 10 hours for most users.

Tinctures are taken sublingually often deliver a moderate-high within 10-30 minutes and another wave of effects after an hour or two.

Delta 9 THC Tolerance

Regular users of THC will often find that the dose that once provided their desired effects no longer does so. This is a result of THC “tolerance,” which is similar in effect to alcohol tolerance.

Many people believe that the body naturally gets better at processing THC the more it’s used. However, research shows that the cause of THC tolerance is actually a reduction in the number of CB1 receptors in the endocannabinoid system [2], as well as a higher threshold for the system sending signals to the brain.

How to Avoid THC Tolerance

If you’re a regular THC user, avoiding THC tolerance is likely not possible while continuing to use the drug. However, many users have found that taking tolerance breaks — commonly called “T-breaks” — can, in effect, reset your endocannabinoid system.

A tolerance break is usually a period of at least several weeks where the user consumes no THC at all. By the end of the T-break, the number of CB1 receptors that receive THC should increase dramatically, making the effects of equal doses significantly more potent.

Other users report that switching to a high-CBD strain for several weeks can help reduce THC tolerance, but there is only anecdotal evidence to support this.

Is Delta 9 THC Legal?

In the recent past, the legality of delta 9 THC has been determined by the intended use. Weed for recreational use is illegal in most countries and most states throughout America. On the other hand, medical marijuana is more widely legal. This is especially true in America, where most states have a medical marijuana program.

Delta 9 THC remains illegal on a federal level in the United States and is classified as a Schedule I drug by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). However, individual states have decriminalized or entirely legalized delta 9 THC on a state level.

Legal Status of Delta 9 THC in the United States

State/D9 THC Legal StatusD8 THC Legal Status
Alabama🟡 Medical Only🟢 Unrestricted
Alaska🟢 Unrestricted🔴 Banned
Arizona🟢 Unrestricted🔴 Banned
Arkansas🟡 Medical Only 🔴 Banned
California🟢 Unrestricted🟢 Unrestricted
Colorado🟢 Unrestricted🔴 Banned
Connecticut🟢 Unrestricted🟢Legal But Restricted
Delaware      🟡 Medical Only🔴 Banned
Florida🟡 Medical OnlyUnrestricted
Georgia🟡 Medical OnlyUnrestricted
Guam🟢 Unrestricted🔴 Banned
Hawaii      🟡 Medical Only🔴 Banned
Idaho🔴 Banned🔴 Banned
Illinois🟢 Unrestricted🔴 Banned
Indiana🔴 Banned🟢 Unrestricted
Iowa🟡 Medical Only🔴 Banned
Kansas🔴 Banned🟢 Unrestricted
Kentucky  🔴 Banned🔴 Banned
Louisiana🟡 Medical Only🔴 Banned
Maine🟢 Unrestricted🟢 Unrestricted
Maryland🟡 Medical Only🔴 Banned
Massachusetts🟢 Unrestricted🔴 Banned
Michigan🟢 Unrestricted🔴 Banned
Minnesota🟡 Medical Only🟢 Unrestricted
Mississippi🟡 Medical Only🔴 Banned
Missouri🟡 Medical Only🟢 Unrestricted
Montana🟢 Unrestricted🔴 Banned
Nebraska🔴 Banned🟢 Unrestricted
Nevada🟢 Unrestricted🔴 Banned
New Hampshire🟡 Medical Only🟢 Unrestricted
New Jersey🟢 Unrestricted🟢 Unrestricted
New Mexico🟡 Medical Only🟢 Unrestricted
New York🟢 Unrestricted🔴 Banned
North Carolina🔴 Banned🔴 Banned
North Dakota🟡 Medical Only🔴 Banned
Ohio🟡 Medical Only🟢 Unrestricted
Oklahoma🟡 Medical Only🟢 Unrestricted
Oregon🟢 Unrestricted🔴 Banned
Pennsylvania🟡 Medical Only🟢 Unrestricted
Puerto Rico                 🟡 Medical Only🟢 Unrestricted
Rhode Island🟡 Medical Only🔴 Banned
South Carolina🔴 Banned🟢 Unrestricted
South Dakota🟢 Unrestricted🟢 Unrestricted
Tennessee🔴 Banned🟢 Unrestricted
Texas🔴 Banned🟢 Unrestricted
Utah🟡 Medical Only🔴 Banned
Vermont🟢 Unrestricted🔴 Banned
Virgin Islands🟡 Medical Only🔴 Banned
Virginia🟡 Medical Only🟢 Unrestricted
Washington🟢 Unrestricted🔴 Banned
Washington DC🟢 Unrestricted🟢 Unrestricted
West Virginia🟡 Medical Only🟢 Unrestricted
Wisconsin🔴 Banned🟢 Unrestricted
Wyoming🔴 Banned🟢 Unrestricted

Legal Status of Delta 9 THC Worldwide

​​

State/CountryD9 THC Legal Status
Afghanistan🔴 Banned
Algeria🔴 Banned
Andorra🔴 Banned
Angola🔴 Banned
Argentina🔴 Banned
Australia🔴 Banned
Austria🔴 Banned
Azerbaijan🔴 Banned
Bangladesh🔴 Banned
Belgium🔴 Banned
Belize⚫️ Grey-Area
Benin🔴 Banned
Bhutan🔴 Banned
Bolivia🔴 Banned
Botswana🔴 Banned
Brazil🔴 Banned
Bulgaria🔴 Banned
Burkina Faso🔴 Banned
Burundi🔴 Banned
Cambodia⚫️ Grey-Area
Cameroon🔴 Banned
Canada🟢 Unrestricted
Cayman Islands (the)🔴 Banned
Chad🔴 Banned
Chile🟡 Medical Only
China🔴 Banned
Colombia⚫️ Grey-Area
Costa Rica⚫️ Grey-Area
Côte d’Ivoire🔴 Banned
Croatia🟡 Medical Only
Cyprus🔴 Banned
Czech Republic🟡 Medical Only
Democratic Republic of Congo🔴 Banned
Denmark🔴 Banned
Egypt🔴 Banned
El Salvador🔴 Banned
Equatorial Guinea🔴 Banned
Eritrea🔴 Banned
Estonia🔴 Banned
Eswatini (formerly Swaziland)🟡 Medical Only
Ethiopia🔴 Banned
Finland🔴 Banned
France🔴 Banned
Gabon🔴 Banned
Gambia🔴 Banned
Georgia🔴 Banned
Germany🔴 Banned
Ghana🟡 Medical Only
Greece🔴 Banned
Greenland🔴 Banned
Guatemala🔴 Banned
Guinea🔴 Banned
Guinea-Bissau🔴 Banned
Honduras🔴 Banned
Hong Kong🔴 Banned
Hungary🔴 Banned
Iceland🔴 Banned
India🔴 Banned
Indonesia🔴 Banned
Iran🔴 Banned
Iraq🔴 Banned
Ireland🔴 Banned
Israel⚫️ Grey-Area
Italy🔴 Banned
Japan🔴 Banned
Kazakhstan🔴 Banned
Kenya🔴 Banned
Kuwait🔴 Banned
Kyrgyzstan🔴 Banned
Laos🔴 Banned
Latvia🔴 Banned
Lebanon🔴 Banned
Lesotho🟡 Medical Only
Liberia🔴 Banned
Libya🔴 Banned
Lithuania🟡 Medical Only
Luxembourg⚫️ Grey-Area
Macedonia🟡 Medical Only
Madagascar🔴 Banned
Malawi🔴 Banned
Malaysia🔴 Banned
Mali🔴 Banned
Malta🟡 Medical Only
Mauritania🔴 Banned
Mexico⚫️ Grey-Area
Monaco🔴 Banned
Mongolia🔴 Banned
Morocco🔴 Banned
Mozambique🔴 Banned
Myanmar🔴 Banned
Namibia🔴 Banned
Nepal🔴 Banned
Netherlands⚫️ Grey-Area
New Caledonia🔴 Banned
New Zealand🔴 Banned
Nicaragua🔴 Banned
Niger🔴 Banned
Nigeria🔴 Banned
Norway🔴 Banned
Pakistan🔴 Banned
Paraguay🔴 Banned
Peru🟡 Medical Only
Philippines🔴 Banned
Poland🔴 Banned
Portugal🟡 Medical Only
Qatar🔴 Banned
Romania🔴 Banned
Russia🔴 Banned
Rwanda🔴 Banned
Saudi Arabia🔴 Banned
Senegal🔴 Banned
Sierra Leone🔴 Banned
Singapore🔴 Banned
Slovakia🔴 Banned
Slovenia⚫️ Grey-Area
Somalia🔴 Banned
South Korea🔴 Banned
Spain⚫️ Grey-Area
Sri Lanka🟡 Medical Only
Sudan🔴 Banned
Suriname🔴 Banned
Sweden🔴 Banned
Switzerland🔴 Banned
Syria🔴 Banned
Taiwan🔴 Banned
Tajikistan🔴 Banned
Tanzania🔴 Banned
Thailand🔴 Banned
The Bahamas🔴 Banned
The Central African Republic🔴 Banned
The Congo🔴 Banned
The United Arab Emirates🔴 Banned
Timor-Leste🔴 Banned
Togo🔴 Banned
Turkey🔴 Banned
Turkmenistan🔴 Banned
Uganda🔴 Banned
Ukraine🔴 Banned
United Kingdom🔴 Banned
United States🟡 Medical Only
Uruguay🟢 Unrestricted
Uzbekistan🔴 Banned
Venezuela🔴 Banned
Viet Nam🔴 Banned
Zambia🔴 Banned
Zimbabwe🔴 Banned

Is Delta 9 THC Safe?

There has been extensive research done on the safety of using delta 9 THC in a variety of forms, including inhalation and consumption via edibles. There are potential medical issues related to inhaling any substance, including THC.

With that aside, delta 9 THC is considered to be a generally safe psychoactive substance. People aren’t getting sick and dying from using delta 9 THC — and that says a lot because there are a lot of people that use a lot of THC.

Researchers still have not found the lethal dose of THC (LD50) [3]. You would need to consume more marijuana than you can physically take before you reach the toxic dose of THC.

However, the effects of a massive dose can be unpleasant psychologically and may trigger depersonalization in some users [4].

Additionally, THC may interact negatively with certain medications or specific underlying health issues. Always speak with your doctor about using THC if you’re prescribed any medication or have any underlying health diagnosis.

What Are The Side Effects of Delta 9 THC?

There are some side effects that users may experience when consuming THC. The most common physical and psychological THC side effects are listed below.

  • Red eyes
  • The increased appetite (“munchies”)
  • Dizziness
  • Dry mouth (“cotton mouth”)
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Paranoia
  • Anxiety
  • Visual hallucinations
  • Changes to perception

The History of Marijuana & Delta 9 THC

Human consumption of delta 9 THC dates back as far as 500 BCE.

Modern medical uses for marijuana are documented around the world from around 1830 to the present day. Symptoms treated often include pain and nausea.

It wasn’t until around the 1900s that THC was used more as a recreational drug in the United States than a medicinal herb. Much of the weed at the time came from Mexico and was met with disapproval and fear. By 1925, more than half the states in the country outlawed the plant for recreational use.

THC saw even more scrutiny and disapproval during WWII, and the Boggs Act of 1952 declared mandatory sentences for marijuana possession and use.

America in the 1960s was experiencing the hippie counterculture, whose members embraced marijuana for recreational use. The drug’s prevalence increased, leading to the Controlled Substances Act, a piece of federal legislation banning THC, psychedelics, and many other drugs.

Restrictions and penalties for marijuana possession and use became stricter in 1986 when president Reagan passed the Anti-Drug Abuse Act. Despite federal efforts to limit THC use, by 1996, some states had decriminalized the drug, and many approved medical marijuana programs.

Although THC remains illegal on a federal level in America, most states now have a medical marijuana program, and many have decriminalized or legalized recreational marijuana entirely.

Delta 9 THC Frequently Asked Questions

1. Is Marijuana Addictive?

While marijuana has never produced a physiological dependence, some users can become addicted on a psychological level. Individuals may crave the relaxation, high, and euphoria it delivers. It’s possible to experience withdrawal symptoms if used regularly.

2. Is THC Safe?

THC is generally considered a safe substance to use. For most users, the experience is positive and leaves no lasting negative effects. However, there are some potential adverse side effects, including paranoia, anxiety, and depersonalization.

3. Is It Possible to Overdose on Delta 9 THC?

Research shows that there is no known lethal dose of THC for humans. The experiences associated with large quantities of THC can be unpleasant, but there are no reports of THC directly causing death.

4. What Are the Best Alternatives for Delta 9 THC?

If you’re looking for a psychoactive experience but find that delta 9 THC causes paranoia or anxiety, many users recommend delta 8 THC or delta 10 THC. Both of these cannabinoids are less potent and less likely to create negative experiences.

If you intend to use THC for medicinal purposes, cannabidiol (CBD) is a natural, non-psychoactive alternative also derived from cannabis plants. CBD has been shown to have a wide array of medical benefits [9], similar to THC.

Sources Used

  1. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. (2017). Therapeutic effects of cannabis and cannabinoids. In The health effects of cannabis and cannabinoids: The current state of evidence and recommendations for research. National Academies Press (US).
  2. Hirvonen, J., Goodwin, R. S., Li, C. T., Terry, G. E., Zoghbi, S. S., Morse, C., … & Innis, R. (2012). Reversible and regionally selective downregulation of brain cannabinoid CB 1 receptors in chronic daily cannabis smokers. Molecular psychiatry, 17(6), 642-649.
  3. Turner, A. R., Spurling, B. C., & Agrawal, S. (2021). Marijuana toxicity. StatPearls [Internet].
  4. Madden, S. P., & Einhorn, P. M. (2018). Cannabis-Induced Depersonalization-Derealization Disorder. American Journal of Psychiatry Residents’ Journal, 13(2), 3-6.
  5. Karst, A. (2018). Weighing the benefits and risks of medical marijuana use: a brief review. Pharmacy, 6(4), 128.
  6. Baltz, J. W., & Le, L. T. (2020). Serotonin syndrome versus cannabis toxicity in the emergency department. Clinical practice and cases in emergency medicine, 4(2), 171.
  7. Owolabi, J. O., Olatunji, S. Y., & Olanrewaju, A. J. (2017). Caffeine and cannabis effects on vital neurotransmitters and enzymes in the brain tissue of juvenile experimental rats. Annals of neurosciences, 24(2), 65-73.
  8. Bloomfield, M. A., Ashok, A. H., Volkow, N. D., & Howes, O. D. (2016). The effects of Δ 9-tetrahydrocannabinol on the dopamine system. Nature, 539(7629), 369-377.
  9. Corroon, J., & Phillips, J. A. (2018). A cross-sectional study of cannabidiol users. Cannabis and cannabinoid research, 3(1), 152-161.