THCA has psychoactive potential. But first, it must drop the “A” and transform into standard THC.
THCA is the acidic precursor to THC that occurs in potent quantities in young and freshly harvested hemp and cannabis plants. It’s non-psychoactive in raw form. But when heated, THCA breaks down into THC, getting people high just like classic marijuana.
This blog explores THCA’s chemical profile, therapeutic benefits, legality, and mind-altering potential.
Raw, unheated THCA provides therapeutic benefits but does not exhibit psychoactive properties.
Applying heat to THCA by smoking or baking it gets people high by transforming the compound into standard THC.
THCa is federally legal if derived from hemp, and the end product contains less than 0.3% Delta 9 THC (standard THC).
What is THC A?
THC A, or tetrahydrocannabinolic acid, is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid found in raw cannabis and hemp plants. It’s molecularly similar to THC except for an extra carboxyl group, consisting of a carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen atom.
In simple terms, the carboxyl group can be considered a "tag" or "label" that affects how THCA interacts with other chemicals in the body to exhibit its effects.
THCA’s unique molecular structure gives it similar benefits to CBD.
THCA’s extra carboxyl group also gives the compound a distinct shape and weight that makes it non-psychoactive when consumed raw.
THCA vs THC: What’s the difference?
THCA is the acidic precursor to THC, meaning there would be no THC if the plant didn’t produce THCA first.
The key differences between THCA and THC are:
Chemical structure: THCA has a carboxyl group attached to its molecule, while THC does not. This chemical difference is responsible for the non-psychoactive properties of raw THCA and the psychoactive properties of THC.
Natural potency: THCA is naturally potent in raw plants and typically in much greater concentrations than THC.
Potential therapeutic effects: THCA and THC have potential therapeutic effects, but differ slightly in their specific properties. Raw THCA is more associated with anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective, and anti-nausea properties, while THC is commonly used for pain relief, anxiety reduction, and appetite stimulation.
Does THCa Get You High?
THC A will not get you high if you consume the plant raw or in cold-pressed extracts due to its extra carboxyl group.
However, if you apply heat, THCA breaks down and loses the carboxyl group through a process called decarboxylation (aka decarb). Heating smoking THCa transforms the compound into standard THC, which binds with neural receptors to enhance mood and alter cognitive and sensory perception.
In other words, smoking, vaping, or baking THCA will get you high, just like marijuana.
What is a High THCA Percentage?
THCA acts just like THC when people light it and smoke it. So a high THCA percentage mimics what people consider potent cannabis strains.
Hemp and cannabis flower that contain 5-10% THCA exhibit mild to moderate psychoactive properties. 15% or higher THCA potency yields moderate to strong effects. 30% or higher is considered extremely intense.
Vapes are typically 2-3 times as potent as flower. Thus, a high THCA percentage in vapes falls around 50% or higher, like in QWIN’s Puffy 3G THCA disposable vapes.
How Do You Decarb THC A?
“Decarb” or decarboxylation can occur through smoking, vaping, or cooking high THCA flower.
THCA Legal Status
THCA does not appear on the DEA’s Controlled Substances list like THC, so it is not federally banned.
Additionally, The USDA's 2018 Farm Bill made THCA legal as long as it comes from hemp and the final product contains less than 0.3% Delta-9 THC by dry weight.
To ensure compliance, the Farm Bill required hemp companies to test their products for potency by third-party labs. As long as THCA products meet these requirements, they are legal to sell and consume.
It's important to note that some states may have stricter regulations than those outlined by the Farm Bill. Check out our THCA legality guide for more information on state-by-state laws.
THCA has a distinct chemical structure, with an extra carboxyl group that gives it powerful therapeutic potential, including anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective, and anti-nausea properties. THCA is not psychoactive on its own and does not get people high. But with the help of heat, THCA can be converted into THC and exhibit marijuana's mind-altering trademark effects.
THCA is federally legal when derived from hemp, and the final product contains less than 0.3% Delta-9 THC by dry weight. The key to understanding THCA's potency lies in decarboxylation, a process that can occur through smoking, vaping, or cooking THCA flower. A high THCA percentage in hemp or cannabis flower can yield mild to strong effects, while vapes can contain much stronger cannabinoid levels.