THC is the primary psychoactive found in Cannabis plants, while THCA is a compound from which THC is formed (a precursor). It’s understandable for both compounds to be confused for the other because of their close relation.
The most striking difference between THC and THCA lies in their effects: THC gets you high while THCA can’t. If that’s the case, why are there THCA products sold if it doesn’t have any psychoactive effects?
That and questions about the contrasts between THCA vs. THC-rich products are what this article aims to help you understand.
THC vs. THCA Products: Main Differences
|Primary products infused on
|All types of cannabis product forms
|Concentrates, pre-rolls, vape
|Seeking recreational-type of high
|Wellness support, recreational
|How it works
|Binds with the human endocannabinoid receptors to elicit high-effects
|Needs heat to give off psychoactive effects
|Legal when derived from hemp
|Federally restricted with exemption when extracted from hemp
|Limited compared to THC
|Costs more because of demand
Below is an in-depth discussion of the differences between THCA vs. THC-rich cannabis products in the following aspects.
THC or Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol is primarily known for its psychoactive properties. Once a user consumes a THC-rich cannabis product, he experiences altered mood, increased appetite, euphoria, drowsiness, etc.
THCA, on the other hand, does not produce any of the effects resembling THC’s. However, when heated to an evaporation degree (between 120 to 225°C), THCA converts into THC. Only then can THCA’s effects be felt.
Products infused with
THC can be found across all forms of cannabis products: inhalation, edibles, tinctures, topicals, concentrates, flowers, etc.
For recreational THC-infused products, standard forms are inhalation, concentrates, and flowers. Popular choices for those seeking support for their lifestyle include edibles, tinctures, and topicals.
Recreational THCA products are in the form of inhalation products and concentrates.
Consumers seeking to benefit from the recreational effects of cannabis often turn to THC-rich products. Few seek the therapeutic advantages of THC because the allowed quantity is not enough to elicit beneficial effects.
THCA is best for those seeking to support their wellness lifestyle. However, it’s important to note that the compound isn’t a form of treatment for any ailments. Researchers are still exploring the vast potential of THCA.
Some of the investigated benefits include anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective effects.
How it works
Once consumed, most of the direct effect of THC is activated in the brain. THC stimulates the neurons of the brain’s reward system to release significant quantities of dopamine. It also attaches to the endocannabinoid system’s (ECS) receptors, which regulate several bodily processes like appetite.
THCA metabolizes in two different ways—in decarboxylated form (heated) and pure form (preserved).
When THCA is decarboxylated, the compound is turned into THC and goes through the same THC metabolism process. In pure form, THCA doesn’t interact with the human brain, similar to THC. However, its presence yields some benefits, such as neuroprotective effects.
The Food and Drug Administration does not explicitly ban THCA products. However, since THCA is an analog of THC, it may be illegal to possess in some states. For example, Alabama allows THCA, while Arkansas makes it illegal.
On the other hand, THC is illegal at the Federal level, making it illegal in all parts of the US. However, 42 states allow THC products provided that they have less than 0.3% delta 9 by dry weight.
|🌱Definition of THC
The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, which legalizes cannabis at the Federal level, defines THC as Delta 9 THC. So, colloquially, Delta 9 and THC are used interchangeably.
THCA is readily available in raw cannabis forms like pre-rolled joints or flowers. Recently, THCA started expanding as an isolated substance infused in products like capsules or tinctures.
Since it’s new, THCA in isolated form has less availability but is an abundant option for raw products.
Meanwhile, THC is easier to find in most states. It’s available online and in all dispensaries. It’s also available in all cannabis product forms.
Generally, THC-rich products are thought to be more expensive because of demand and the extra legal challenges. However, in reality, prices between the two can fluctuate depending on several factors: demand, product quality, company name, and source.
Now that you know their differences in different areas, it’s time to delve into the science of their nature.
What is THCA?
THCA, or tetrahydrocannabinolic acid, starts out as CBGA. Through old age or heat, THCA becomes Delta 9 THC.
Due to its chemical structure, THCA can’t easily bind to the human body’s ECS receptors (CB1 and CB2). This is often thought of as the reason for its non-psychoactive effects.
Although THCA is non-psychoactive, companies invest in THCA to be an added component, if not the main ingredient, of cannabis products. There are several reasons for this.
Aside from potential benefits, the spontaneous conversion of THCA to THC when heated makes the “high” experience mellow and natural. This is often experienced in THCA-rich pre-rolls and vape distillates.
Second, THCA is technically not Delta 9. So, it’s not bound by any legal restrictions, allowing companies more leeway regarding marketing. Lastly, THCA is well-researched for several beneficial properties.
What is THC?
THC, also known as Delta 9-THC, is the main psychoactive found in high levels (up to 30%) in some cannabis plants like marijuana. It’s responsible for the high often associated with the use of marijuana plants.
Upon crossing the blood-brain barrier, THC binds with the ECS’s CB1 receptors. Its strong affinity to CB1 makes it a powerful psychoactive substance.
When exposed to air, THC turns into cannabinol (CBN). Regular consumers say this chemical degradation has some impact on how they enjoy their cannabis. Some report it lessens the strength of their THC-rich flowers.
It’s important to note that the only accepted variety of cannabis fit for legal THC extraction is hemp. The low content level of THC at approximately 0.5% makes hemp a good option for extracting low-THC extract.
What’s the Better Pick?: THCA vs. THC
Without THCA, there would be no THC. However, THCA is non-psychoactive and needs to be degraded by heat to yield “high effects.” In contrast, THC doesn’t need an external force to elicit its psychoactive effects.
When it comes to usage, it’s difficult to pinpoint the winner as it will constantly change according to the user’s preference.
As a rule of thumb, the best compound satisfies what is needed currently. For example, if a user is sensitive to strong psychoactive strains, he should pick mellow and legal THCA-rich products. If the moment calls for a euphoric, strong experience, THC-rich products are the best option.
When it comes to breadth of research, THC is backed by several experiments exploring its effects and safety. THCA may have gained attention among researchers, but it’s understudied compared to THC.
Here’s a table summarizing who wins in the following categories:
|Breadth of research
THCA cannot yield psychoactive effects like THC. However, when heated, THCA degrades into a THC byproduct. Despite the legal hurdles, THC is a popular choice because of its strong potency.
Choosing between THCA and THC-rich products can be difficult but should always be based on your current preference. That’s why it’s vital to be well-informed to choose well.
THC, as the principal psychoactive ingredient among cannabis products, will always be a mainstay in the industry. Meanwhile, companies are bracing themselves for the future legal restrictions expected to be placed on THCA.
Is THCA as strong as THC?
THCA is less potent than THC because it doesn’t produce any psychoactive effects. However, once heated, THCA transforms into THC.
Can you test positive for THCA?
Urine-based drug tests can detect THCA as the liver breaks it down to a THC metabolite.
Is THCA legal?
Under present law, THCA extracted from hemp that contains no more than 0.3% delta-9 THC is federally legal.
What is considered a high THCA percentage?
25% and above is considered high THCA content. A good percentage range falls between 15-20%.