Since the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, we’ve seen new hemp-derived cannabinoids rapidly expand the cannabis market. These hemp-derived cannabis products are often presented as alternatives to delta 9 THC.
Delta 9 is the dominant psychoactive cannabinoid in marijuana and produces a distinctly powerful high. It’s still federally illegal in the United States (classified as a Schedule I drug), despite changing attitudes and legalization in a number of states.
The lack of nationwide delta 9 accessibility has spurred the rise of commercial products made from federally legal hemp, including delta 8 products and now, delta 11 carts. Gummies containing delta 11 are few and far between, but they have recently gained traction as well.
It seems like new hemp cannabinoids are popping up every few months, and delta 11 THC is one of the most recent. However, delta 11 is not new; it’s been known to chemists for several decades. The modern cannabinoid boom has just brought it to consumers.
While scientific research on delta 8 THC and other trendy cannabinoids is limited, delta 11 is on another level. Almost no studies exist, and the substance is shrouded in mystery. Right now, user anecdotes encompass most of what we know about delta 11’s effects.
Delta-11-tetrahydrocannabinol (also known as delta 11 THC, Δ11-THC, or Δ9(11)-THC) is a minor cannabinoid. It’s an isomer of delta 9 THC: it shares the same chemical formula, but features a different arrangement of atoms.
THC’s structure makes it especially susceptible to variants. Simply rearrange the double bond in its carbon atom chain, and just like that, you have a new cannabinoid with unique properties and effects. This is why we see so many varieties of psychoactive THC, such as delta 8, delta 10, and delta 11.
If you’ve been keeping up with emerging cannabinoids and how they’re produced, delta 11 is a familiar tale. It occurs naturally in cannabis, but in trace quantities insufficient for commercial production. Delta 11 must instead be converted from cannabidiol (CBD) using chemical catalysts or heat.
Additionally, you’ll notice a trend when browsing articles by delta 11 sellers. The compound is often confused with 11-hydroxy-THC, a metabolite of THC. This is the substance delta 9 and other THC compounds are converted into after being processed by the liver. Delta 11 THC and 11-hydroxy-THC are not the same thing at all. Articles by vendors frequently cite a 1973 study on 11-hydroxy-THC, mistakenly thinking it is about delta 11 THC.
The available scientific literature on delta 11 THC is almost nonexistent. There is a 1990 study evaluating its metabolization in several species of lab animals. Unfortunately, there isn’t any research looking into delta 11’s effect on humans.
Little is known about delta 11 THC’s effects, aside from user anecdotes confirming its psychoactive properties. Much like marijuana-derived delta 9 THC, delta 11 binds to receptors in the endocannabinoid system and causes the user to become high. You’ll find the same mechanism at work in delta 8 THC, HHC, and every other cannabinoid.
The intensity of the delta 11 high is still up for debate. Several delta 11 sellers have claimed that the effects are three times as strong as delta 9, although there is no scientific evidence to support this conclusion. It likely stems from the research on the THC metabolite 11-hydroxy-THC described above.
At this time, it’s safe to assume that most THC variants will produce a milder high than traditional delta 9 THC; at least, this has been the case up until this point. THC-O (now considered illegal in the United States) is one of the rare exceptions to this rule. We have no reason to believe that delta 11 falls into the same category, but we’ll need to wait for additional research to be certain.
The usual rule of thumb applies with delta 11 THC: as with all THC variants, it should be avoided before a drug test. It’s better to play it safe and minimize your risk of a failed screening.
We don’t know exactly how delta 11 is metabolized or whether it will be detected by a urine, blood, or saliva test. From our understanding of variants like delta 8 THC, however, it’s very possible it will.
Drug panels, including pre-employment screenings, aren’t looking for THC’s raw form. Rather, they’re primarily designed to detect THC-COOH, a metabolite produced after THC is first converted into 11-hydroxy-THC by the liver.
It’s likely that delta 11 THC also converts into THC-COOH after it’s metabolized by the liver. This isn’t exclusive to delta 9 THC; research has already confirmed that delta 8 undergoes a similar metabolic process, for instance.
There’s also the risk that delta 11 vape carts and edibles will include trace amounts of delta 9 THC. Hemp products are legally required to contain less than 0.3% of THC’s delta 9 form, but small amounts of the substance may build up in the user’s body over time.
It can take several weeks for THC metabolites to be cleared from your system, so it’s essential to stop cannabis consumption as soon as you learn of an upcoming drug test. The earlier you cease use, the more likely you are to pass.
While its exact safety is unknown, this doesn’t appear to be a situation like that of THC-O, since delta 11 isn’t an acetate form of THC. There’s no evidence suggesting that delta 11 is any less safe than other hemp-derived variants of THC, but we just don’t know for sure.
Make sure to purchase delta 11 products from trusted retailers with transparent safety testing. If you can’t find testing results for a hemp product of any kind, don’t buy or consume it. Trustworthy brands will provide links to testing information on their websites. You can usually find this in the header, sidebar, or in the product description.
Delta 11 THC is a hemp product, making it federally legal under the Farm Bill.
Important restrictions do exist, however. Hemp products of any kind are required to contain less than 0.3% delta 9 THC. If the cannabis cart, edible, or tincture features more than this amount, it is considered a marijuana product under federal law.
Like other hemp-derived cannabinoids, it’s always possible that states will pass laws limiting or banning the production of delta 11 THC products, including vape carts. Other states—notably Oregon—have passed laws restricting the sale of all hemp-derived cannabinoids.
For perspective, delta 8 has undergone intense legal scrutiny since its appearance on the market. Although the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals determined that delta 8 THC is a legal hemp product under the Farm Bill, several states have passed laws restricting its production or distribution. It’s entirely possible that delta 11 will meet a similar fate in the future.
Even if marijuana is legal in your state, there’s no guarantee that a particular hemp-derived cannabinoid is permitted—delta 11 included.