How is hemp-derived delta-9 THC made?

Published on July 10, 2024 · Last updated July 12, 2024

Hemp-derived delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is gaining traction in the cannabis market by offering a legal pathway to access THC’s benefits where cannabis is restricted by federal, state, and local laws. This article delves into the specialized production process of extracting delta-9 THC from hemp through to the final product while ensuring compliance with legal thresholds.

Extraction techniques

Producing delta-9 THC from hemp begins with selecting high-quality and compliant hemp plants that contain 0.3% or less delta-9 THC by dry weight. The extraction methods are crucial in maintaining legality while efficiently extracting the desired cannabinoids for products like edibles, vape pens, and tinctures:

  1. CO2 Extraction:Supercritical carbon dioxide extraction is the preferred method for extracting THC from hemp due to its precision and ability to maintain the integrity of delicate terpenes and cannabinoids. CO2 extraction allows for the selective targeting of delta-9 THC, ensuring the final product does not exceed legal THC limits.
  2. Ethanol extraction: Widely used for its efficiency and scalability, ethanol extraction must be carefully managed when used for hemp to ensure that the final extract is free of unwanted chlorophyll and plant materials while maintaining the delta-9 THC to the desired potency.

Refinement and isolation

Post-extraction, the raw hemp extract contains a full spectrum of cannabinoids and other plant compounds. Refining this extract to isolate and concentrate delta-9 THC involves several critical steps:

  • Winterization: This process removes fats and waxes from the crude extract, clarifying the concentrate and preparing it for further purification.
  • Distillation: Short-path distillation can further purify the extract, separating delta-9 THC from other cannabinoids and impurities. This step is vital to achieve the high purity required for legal hemp-derived THC products.

Product formulation

With the pure delta-9 THC isolated, the compound is then formulated into various product types. This stage must adhere strictly to legal requirements, ensuring that all products contain less than 0.3% THC on a dry weight basis:

  • Tinctures and oils: Sublingual tinctures or cannabinoid-rich oils to add to edibles use carrier oils to dilute Delta-9 THC to a suitable, compliant potency.
  • Edibles: Isolated delta-9 THC is infused into gummies, chocolates, or beverages, maintaining consistent dosing and compliance with THC content limits.
  • Topicals: In creams and balms, delta-9 THC is combined with other hemp extracts and essential oils, offering targeted relief without systemic effects.

Quality control and compliance

Throughout the production process, rigorous testing is conducted to ensure that each product is compliant with federal laws regarding THC content; however, regulations do not require testing of hemp-derived delta-9 products for pathogens, molds, heavy metals, or other toxins. Third-party lab testing is crucial to verify the concentration of THC, ensuring safety, efficacy, and legal compliance of hemp-derived products.


The process of making hemp-derived delta-9 THC is intricate and highly regulated. From the careful extraction of THC from low-THC hemp to the meticulous formulation of final products, each step is designed to comply with legal standards while providing consumers with effective and safe THC products. As regulations evolve, so too will the techniques for producing these unique hemp-derived compounds, continually improving in safety and efficiency.