The Complete Guide To Delta-9 THC

THC – three little letters, a whole lot of fame. Whether you want to relax, help your pain, or just have a good time, THC is likely one of the reasons why you’re trying cannabis. But knowing precisely what delta-9 THC is and how it works makes all the difference in your next sesh. Read on to learn everything you need to know about THC before heading to your local provisioning center.

Table of contents

What is delta-9 THC?

Delta-9 Tetrahydrocannabinol, called delta-9 THC for short, is the primary psychoactive compound in cannabis. It’s among more than 100 phytocannabinoids — or cannabinoids found in plants — we know about so far, but THC is by far the most famous and among the most researched.

THC was first identified by a team of researchers, including renowned cannabis expert Dr. Raphael Mechoulam in 1964, more than two decades after the discovery of Cannabinol (CBN) and Cannabidiol (CBD). And although it wasn’t the first phytocannabinoid to be discovered, it’s certainly among the most important. 

What are the effects of delta-9 THC?

THC is most well-known for its intoxicating properties, which cause the high you feel after a sesh (well, for the most part – there are plenty of products that won’t make you feel high). And while this high is a valid reason to try cannabis, THC offers several therapeutic effects, including:

  • Pain modulation: THC has been researched for its ability to modulate how your mind experiences pain. This is why medical marihuana patients report that cannabis helps them manage chronic pain, neuropathy, and other types of pain.
  • Stress regulation: In low amounts, THC has been observed to offer stress alleviating, relaxing effects. However, it’s worth noting that researchers found THC has the opposite effect when consumed in high amounts. That’s why it’s always a good idea to start with a small amount of cannabis, then gradually increase as you get to know your tolerance.
  • Mood regulation: THC, along with several other phytocannabinoids, may also regulate mood, sometimes resulting in feelings of happiness or euphoria. The mood regulation can go both ways, though, depending on dose and tolerance.
  • Appetite stimulation: One of the famous effects of cannabis is “the munchies,” or that feeling of insatiable hunger that sends you to the fridge or reaching to order takeout. THC is thought to be responsible for this appetite stimulation. We’re still learning how this process works, but one theory is that THC might influence the production of and effect of ghrelin, the hunger hormone.
  • Inflammation modulation: THC is thought to help regulate inflammation, which is one of the reasons why it’s been reported to be so great for pain relief.
  • Antioxidant: Researchers have found THC offers antioxidant properties that could provide neuroprotective benefits against degenerative diseases that affect cognition. More studies are needed, though.
  • Anti-nausea and vomiting: Among its most famous effects, THC is well-known and well-studied to be an anti-nausea and vomiting agent. In fact, it’s so effective, that synthetic versions of THC like dronabinol and nabilone are prescribed to cancer patients to help them reduce nausea and vomiting due to treatment.

Potential side effects of delta-9 THC

It’s important to know some of the side effects of THC so you can be best prepared if you experience them. Some of these side effects may be mitigated by other compounds found in cannabis, including other phytocannabinoids and terpenes. The most common side effects include:

  • Increased anxiety: Some evidence suggests that high amounts of THC can actually exacerbate feelings of anxiety. And while THC may cause feelings of euphoria, it’s also possible for it to induce feelings of dysphoria and worry. So if you have anxiety or you’re feeling anxious, you may want to reach for lower-dose cannabis products.
  • Increased heart rate: Consuming high THC products might increase your heart rate. While this is not unexpected when consuming cannabis, it’s important to keep in mind. It’s especially important to keep an eye on if you have anxiety, because an increased heart rate could make you more anxious.
  • Impaired motor function: After consuming a high THC product, you may experience slowed reaction times and reduced coordination — in some cases, you may not even be aware of these impairments. As a result, don’t drive or operate machinery after you’ve consumed any kind of cannabis product.

While the above are some of the typical effects of THC, it’s worth noting that cannabis in general is quite individualized. This means that your experience can be quite different from your friend’s, your co-worker’s, and your grandma’s. Your tolerance, body chemistry, your environment, and how you feel before a sesh all influence how you’re going to experience cannabis. That’s why we recommend starting with a low amount of THC and only gradually increasing over time to gauge your tolerance and better understand how cannabis products make you feel.

How does THC work?

You may be wondering how THC could possibly cause all the effects listed above. While researchers are still learning more, we do know that the endocannabinoid system (ECS) plays a big part.

A network of cannabinoid receptors and cannabinoids produced in your body (called endocannabinoids), the ECS affects a wide range of functions governed by the central nervous system and the immune system. THC is one of the many compounds that can interact with the ECS to influence these many functions in a variety of ways. THC is often referred to as an analog to anandamide, AKA the “bliss molecule,” which is an endogenous cannabinoid naturally produced in the body as part of the ECS.

Researchers have observed that THC works by binding to both types of receptors in the ECS, known as the CB1 and CB2 receptors. CB1 receptors are primarily clustered in the neocortex, hippocampus, basal ganglia, cerebellum and brainstem, and are most strongly associated with central nervous system functions. The CB2 receptors are predominantly located in the cells and tissues of the immune system, though some are also found in the central nervous system and are believed to relate to inflammation.

When binding to each type of cannabinoid receptor, THC acts as a partial agonist, which means it activates the receptors. This results in a wide range of effects we’ve discussed in this guide. Oftentimes, these reactions are dose dependent and even paradoxical at times.

In addition to interacting with the cannabinoid receptors, THC may also influence pain perception through interactions with the cannabinoid G protein-coupled receptors GPCR 55 and GPCR 18, as well as the opioid/serotonin receptor 5-HT

Types of THC products 

There’s a wide variety of product types out there that contain THC, each of which offers its own unique experience. Here’s a look at some types of cannabis products containing THC you might find at a provisioning center.

  • Cannabis flower: Whole cannabis flower is what you buy deli-style or pre-packaged at the dispensary. This dried and cured flower can be taken home, ground up, and put in a joint, rolled in a blunt, or packed in a glass piece like a bong. Flower can be placed in a vaporizer, too. You can also use the ground flower to make your own edibles and topicals at home, using your oven or a special device. Expect to feel the effects quickly and for them to last a shorter period of time.
  • Cannabis extracts: Concentrates like wax, budder, sauce, live resin, and much more fall under the concentrates category. Extracts come in many varieties and typically contain potent levels of THC. You need a dab rig or a special dabbing device to consume concentrates, or you can add certain ones to your flower for a more potent joint. Most extracts need to be heated, but one notable exception is Rick Simpson Oil. Like flower, expect to feel the effects quickly and for them to last a shorter period of time.
  • Vape cartridges: Vape cartridges offer an easy way to consume cannabis oil. Typically packaged in 0.5 gram or 1 gram containers, most vape cartridges feature a 510mm thread, which can be screwed onto a compatible battery. You’ll also find specialty vape carts that only fit certain devices, like Dart pods or STIIIZY pods. Vape cartridges are highly potent and the effects kick in just minutes after a puff. The duration of effects is generally short compared to some other product types like edibles.
  • Edibles: Cannabis edibles include candies, gummies, and baked goods which can be eaten. Edibles usually take a while to kick in, but once they do, the effects last for a few hours and can be quite potent. So, if you don’t feel that gummy you ate right away, give it an hour or so before you eat more to make sure the effects aren’t just delayed.
  • Beverages: Cannabis infused beverages are becoming highly popular, offering an easy way to enjoy cannabis in place of alcohol at a gathering. Most beverages contain a small amount of THC so you can sip on them over the course of an evening. Be sure to read the label before drinking, though, because there are some higher-dose options on the market.
  • Capsules: If you’re looking for a familiar way to consume, capsules offer an easy method that’s as easy as taking over the counter pain relievers. Simply swallow a capsule with water and these ingestible products will get to work in short order.
  • Tinctures and capsules: These products are more familiar from their medical applications, so they may be a good choice if you’re first trying out cannabis. Tinctures are placed under your tongue and held there for a bit before they’re swallowed. Capsules are swallowed just like any other kind of capsule. Tinctures can take effect quite quickly and last for a few hours because they’re biphasic – meaning, some absorbs through your mouth tissues and some is digested. Capsules perform just like edibles.
  • Topicals: Topicals containing THC won’t cause a high like the other product types on this list. Instead, they’re designed for localized relief, such as managing joint or muscle pain. Topicals are rubbed into the affected area and get to work right away, without impacting your ability to carry on with the rest of your day unintoxicated.
  • Transdermal patches: Transdermal patches release THC and other cannabinoids into the bloodstream through the skin over time. Unlike other topical products, transdermal products will cause a systemic effect resulting in a high. They can be affixed to the body for discreet, long-lasting effects.

What’s the right amount of THC for me?

How much THC you should try depends on your own tolerance and desired goals. Everyone is different and there is no one size fits all approach to consuming THC products. However, the following table offers a baseline guidance for how much THC you might need based on your intended outcomes.

Amount   Of THC Expected Effects Use Cases
1 – 2.5 mg Virtually no intoxication for most consumers. Slight therapeutic benefits including mild pain relief and stress alleviation. New or low tolerance consumers; microdosing; reducing anxiety; mild pain management.
2.5 – 5 mg Slight intoxication for most consumers. Increased therapeutic benefits for some. Microdosing for high tolerance consumers; pain management; anxiety relief.
5 mg Baseline dose for intoxication for many consumers. Enhanced therapeutic benefits. Minor risk of adverse side effects. Determining tolerance level; typical adult use consumption; pain management; anxiety relief; preventing nausea and vomiting; inducing appetite.
10+ mg Significant intoxication for most consumers. Enhance pain relief. Heightened risk of adverse side effects like anxiety, dysphoria and impairment. High tolerance consumers and medical patients; significant pain relief; preventing nausea and vomiting; inducing appetite.


Depending on the product type you choose, it may be easier or more difficult to measure amounts by milligrams. For example, an infused gummy that contains 10mg THC will be easy to divide into your desired dosage. When smoking ground cannabis flower, though, it will be harder to precisely measure the amount you’re consuming. The best method is always to start with a small amount, wait and see how it affects you, and only increase the amount slowly until you reach your desired effects.


How to select THC cannabis products

When buying cannabis products that contain THC, you’ll notice the label usually includes either the percentage of THC content by weight, the milligrams of THC, or both. Understanding how much THC is in the product and the overall percentage compared to other cannabinoids and terpenes is an important part of making the right choice for your consumption goals.

However, there’s a common misconception among many cannabis consumers that they just take more THC to feel higher. Sure, that might sound like a good plan, but we’re here to tell you: More THC doesn’t always equate to a more intense high.

Instead, take a look at everything in your cannabis product: The other cannabinoids, the terpenes — the works. There’s a theory called the entourage effect by researchers which suggest that all compounds in cannabis, including THC, work together. Even though a cannabis product might have high levels of THC, another cannabis product with a different blend of compounds may actually result in a more intoxicated feeling. And on the flipside, a product with higher amounts of THC but with elevated amounts of CBD could cause less of a high.

Additionally, as we’ve seen above, higher levels of THC have little to do with quality. Instead, your own personal goals should be your guide when it comes time to explore the dispensary menu. For example, if you’re looking for a cannabis product that’ll help you relax and alleviate stress, consider a product with lower levels of THC (as well as other stress alleviating compounds like CBD). For this use case, a high THC product may actually be the wrong choice, so be clear about your purposes when shopping for cannabis products.

Luckily, at Iconic Wellness dispensaries in Michigan, our friendly and knowledgeable budtenders are here to help guide you through your options. If you have a desired effect in mind or just have questions about what the best choice for you might be, stop in and discuss your needs with our staff.


Are there other types of THC besides delta-9 THC?

While delta-9 THC is by far the most common phytocannabinoid you’ll encounter, there are other types of THC you may come across. Some of the other types of THC you may encounter include:

  • THCA: Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA) is the acidic version of THC. In this form, it can’t get you high. It’s the form of THC that’s in your flower before it’s heated. It isn’t until THCA is heated — such as when cannabis is vaporized or smoked — that it converts to THC, a process known as decarboxylation. You may also recognize THCA from THCA diamonds, the crystals found in extracts like sauce.
  • Delta-8 THC: Delta-8 THC is a variety of THC usually extracted from hemp plants. It’s sometimes called “weed light” because it’s not as intense as delta-9 THC, but it still causes intoxication. Delta-8 is believed to offer similar benefits to delta-9, especially when it comes to relaxation and pain relief.
  • THCV: Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV) is a minor cannabinoid that you’ll find in significant levels in certain strains, like Durban Poison. Unlike THC, it’s actually believed to decrease appetite! THCV may also boost energy and reduce stress, possibly even mitigate anxiety prompted by consuming high levels of THC.
  • THC-O Acetate: THC-O Acetate, sometimes expressed as ATHC, is a synthetic form of THC developed by using the catalyst acetic anhydride (dehydrated vinegar). It produces a very potent high. It’s not derived from cannabis and is fully unregulated, so you won’t find this in a provisioning center. 

Each of these “types” of THC are unique phytocannabinoids in their own right. And while they may be similar to delta-9 THC in some ways, it’s important to regard them as individual compounds that have their own sets of properties. As research continues into phytocannabinoids, we’re likely to uncover more information about each that will further differentiate them from one another.

Understanding cannabis means getting to know delta 9 THC

It can be difficult to mention cannabis without discussing THC, as it’s such a prevalent phytocannabinoid in many cannabis products. And while it is indeed the primary compound responsible for producing the high cannabis is known for, it is also responsible for some of the plant’s foremost therapeutic benefits. If you’re interested in trying a cannabis product containing THC, stop by an Iconic Wellness provisioning center or explore the Iconic Wellness menu for Sturgis, Lowell, or Gaylord to see which products are available to take home.

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