What is THCa?

on 2024-05-23

What is THCa?

Understanding THCa

In recent times, THCa has garnered significant attention due to a loophole in the farm bill, enabling many hemp companies to market traditional psychoactive cannabis as hemp products. This essay will explore THCa from scientific, medicinal, and legal perspectives, debunking the notion of THCa hemp flower.

Differences Between THCa and THC

THCa, or Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid, is the acidic form of THC naturally found in all cannabis varieties. Unlike THC, THCa is non-psychoactive and requires heating to convert into THC, which then produces psychoactive effects. This is why consuming raw cannabis doesn't result in a high; the THCa must be heated to become active. Delta 9 THC, on the other hand, is the primary psychoactive component in cannabis, working with terpenes and other cannabinoids to create the well-known high.

When users smoke cannabis, they use heat sources like lighters or vaporizers to transform THCa into THC through a process called decarboxylation. This process is essential for all forms of cannabis consumption, including edibles, to activate the psychoactive properties.

Effects of Consuming THCa

Ingesting pure THCa does not produce the psychoactive effects associated with THC. While research on THCa's effects is limited, it is believed to offer potential benefits such as alleviating physical discomfort and promoting healthy bodily functions. Despite the promising anecdotal evidence, THC remains more potent and effective on a milligram-per-milligram basis.

To experience THCa, one would need to consume raw cannabis buds where most THC exists in its acidic form. However, once the cannabis is heated, the THCa is converted to THC, removing its non-psychoactive properties.

Activating THCa into THC for Edibles

To make edibles, whether starting with cannabis flower or extracts like CO2, BHO, or rosin, heat is necessary to convert THCa into psychoactive THC. Using a fatty carrier oil such as coconut oil, butter, or another fatty oil, carefully heat the cannabis extract or plant matter, maintaining a temperature between 215-225 degrees Fahrenheit, not exceeding 230 degrees Fahrenheit.

Stir the mixture frequently to facilitate the conversion process, indicated by the release of CO2 in the form of tiny air bubbles. Continue heating until no more bubbles are produced, then filter out the plant matter, leaving fully activated cannabis-infused oil.

Legal Status of THCa Under the Farm Bill

THCa has surged in popularity due to a loophole in the 2018 farm bill, suggesting its legality in states without specific hemp regulations. The bill distinguished hemp from the Controlled Substance Act, legalizing "the plant Cannabis sativa L. and any part of that plant, including the seeds thereof and all derivatives, with a [THC] concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis."

While the bill's intent was to legalize non-psychoactive hemp compounds like CBD and CBG, it didn't account for THCa, a separate molecule from Delta 9 THC requiring distinct regulations. This loophole allowed the hemp industry to market psychoactive cannabis buds as "legal THCa hemp flower," causing a surge in the THCa market.

To clarify, no naturally occurring THCa hemp flower exists. Most "THCa flower" on the market is simply traditional psychoactive cannabis rebranded as hemp. Some products may involve hemp buds rolled in cannabis-derived THCa powder, but these are more cannabis products than hemp products. Distinguishing between cannabis hemp and cannabis indica or sativa varieties relies on THC levels, yet the THCa loophole complicates this distinction.

Changes in THCa Levels Over Time

The THCa loophole is effective only for a short period while the plant matter is fresh. THCa gradually converts to THC through time, heat, and exposure to oxygen. From the moment THCa flower is packaged, it begins converting, and even minimal exposure can raise THC levels above the legal 0.3% limit.

THCa is inherently unstable, naturally converting to THC over time. To slow this process, keep THCa flower away from light, store it airtight, and freeze the plant matter instead of keeping it at room temperature. However, these measures only delay the inevitable conversion to Delta 9 THC. If selling THCa flower, be aware of the risks, ideal shelf life, and conduct regular lab testing to ensure Delta 9 THC levels remain below 0.3%. Remember, lab tests older than a month may not accurately reflect current THC levels due to ongoing conversion.