Does THCa Become THC When Heated?

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Knowing what all of the different cannabinoids are can be quite confusing, especially when it comes to the different forms of THC. One form of THC that you might not be familiar with is THCa. THCa is a cannabinoid that is found in most raw cannabis and hemp plants, and it is very closely related to THC, otherwise known as Delta-9 THC.

In fact, without THCa, you wouldn't have any Delta-9 THC, which is the good stuff that produces a psychoactive high. That said, for THCa to turn into Delta-9 THC, so it can have an intoxicating effect, it first has to undergo a specific process known as decarboxylation, which is when weed is heated up.

To answer your question, THCa becomes THC, or specifically Delta-9 THC, when heated. Today, we want to figure out what exactly THCa is, what makes THCa different from Delta-9 THC, and what this business of heating and decarboxylation is all about.

Key Takeaways

    Without THCa, you would not have Delta-9 THC. They are not the same things, but very closely related. Through the application of heat, otherwise known as the decarboxylation process, the former is converted into the latter, With the former being non-psychoactive and the latter being psychoactive. There are a few other major differences that you will learn about between these two cannabinoids. Keep in mind however that THCa and THCv are not the same things.

What is THCa?

THCa is Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid, and it is very closely related to Delta-9 THC. Technically speaking, Delta-9 THC starts out as THCa. This is because THCa is the acidic precursor to Delta-9 THC, or in other words, the acidic form of it. THCa is present in most cannabis and hemp plants, and this is what eventually turns into Delta-9 THC.

All cannabis plants start by producing one cannabinoid, known as the mother cannabinoid, which is CBGa. Then, due to various enzymes and growth processes, that CBGa turns into three other cannabinoids, THCa, CBDa, and CBCa, with THCa being the one we are interested in today.

Interesting to note is that raw cannabis flower generally does not contain much or any Delta-9 THC, but rather THCa. THCa itself is not psychoactive or intoxicating, which means that it does not produce any notable kind of high, not like Delta-9 THC. This is why consuming raw cannabis flower without heating it or decarboxylating it in any way will not get you high.

When you go to your local dispensary and look at the options they have, and it says that it has X amount of THC, it's technically the raw THCa content that this is referring to. The process of decarboxylation is required to turn the non-psychoactive THCa into the psychoactive Delta-9 THC. Simply put, without THCa, you don't have any Delta-9 THC.

What is THCA vs THC?

THC, or specifically Delta-9 THC, is simply the activated version of THCa. Through the process of applying a specific amount of heat for a certain amount of time, the THCa in raw cannabis flower converts into Delta-9 THC, which is psychoactive.

The raw version will not get you high, but the decarboxylated version will. As you will see below, besides the psychoactivity, there are also some other major differences between these two cannabinoids.

Comparing THCA vs. THC

Chemical Structure Precursor to THC, contains an extra carboxyl group Active form of THCA after decarboxylation
Psychoactive Properties Non-psychoactive in its raw form Psychoactive, responsible for the "high"
Occurrence in Cannabis Found in raw, unprocessed cannabis Produced when cannabis is heated or aged (decarboxylated)
Therapeutic Benefits Potential anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective, and anti-proliferative properties Pain relief, nausea reduction, appetite stimulation, and psychoactive effects
Legal Status Generally less regulated due to non-psychoactive nature Heavily regulated and illegal in many jurisdictions
Consumption Methods Consumed raw in juices, smoothies, or as a dietary supplement Smoked, vaped, or ingested in edibles
Decarboxylation Converts to THC when exposed to heat or UV light Already in active form, no decarboxylation needed
Research and Understanding Emerging research, less understood than THC Extensively studied, well-understood effects

Does THCa Turn Into THC When Heated?

Yes, THCa turns into THC when it is heated. It takes certain temperatures for specific amounts of time for this conversion process, otherwise known as decarboxylation, to occur. Technically speaking, decarboxylation is defined as a chemical reaction that eliminates a carboxyl group and liberates carbon dioxide.

The decarboxylation process alters the THCa molecule into Delta-9 THC. The THCa molecule retains one of the hydrogen atoms while losing one of the carboxyl groups.

The loss of one of these carboxyl groups is what leads to all of the other major differences, particularly the affinity of THCa and Delta-9 THC to bind with your cannabinoid receptors. The difference in molecular structure is what leads to the difference in psychoactive effects and benefits.

Does THCa Turn Into Delta-9 When You Smoke it?

Yes, smoking THCa, or in other words raw cannabis flower, converts the THCa into Delta-9 THC as you go. The lit part of your joint, pipe, or bong bowl, otherwise known as the cherry, burns in excess of 1000 degrees.

This is about four times as hot as is required to convert THCa into Delta-9 THC. It's certainly hot enough to cause the decarboxylation process to occur, and in fact so hot that some of the Delta-9 THC degrades before it even gets to your lungs.

As you can therefore rightfully assume, using the right temperature to decarboxylate raw cannabis flower makes a pretty big difference in terms of the final Delta-9 THC level.

If you have too little heat, the decarboxylation process won't occur efficiently, but with too much heat, some of the converted Delta-9 THC will be lost. This is why you cannot decarboxylate weed at far too high temperatures, or else you'll just kill the THC, so let's move on and discuss what the optimal temperature for this process is.

What Temperature Does THCa Turn into THC?

The minimum temperature required to cause the decarboxylation conversion process to occur is 230 degrees Fahrenheit, or roughly 110 degrees Celsius. The optimal temperature for decarboxylation is somewhere around 240 degrees Fahrenheit.

What’s the Difference Between THC and THCa?

Let's summarize what all of the major differences between THCa and Delta-9 THC are.

Legal Status

Perhaps one of the biggest differences between these two cannabinoids has to do with their legal status. According to the 2018 Farm Bill, any cannabinoid product, in order to qualify as being legal, has to be derived from the hemp plant, and may not contain over 0.3% Delta- 9 THC.

Essentially, this means that cannabis flower that contains Delta-9 THC is therefore not legal, and any cannabinoid product, such as a tincture or edible, must not contain more than 3 milligrams of THC per gram of product. Besides this minute quantity, Delta-9 THC is therefore not legal at a federal level.

However, this law, technically speaking, does not apply to THCa, as Delta-9 THC is generally the only thing that this law concerns.

Therefore, cannabinoid products may contain THCa, even though it converts into Delta-9 THC through the process of decarboxylation. As long as the THCa is derived from the hemp plant and does not contain more than 0.3% Delta-9 THC, it is considered legal at a federal level. THCa enjoys a much more relaxed legal status than Delta-9 THC.

Chemical Structure

Although we aren't going to get too deep into the chemistry of it, know that THCa and Delta-9 THC have molecules of different shapes and sizes. First, the THCa molecule contains an additional carboxyl group, and it's also much larger than Delta-9 THC molecules.

Through the decarboxylation process, as the name implies, one of those carboxyl groups is removed from the molecule, and the molecule itself becomes much smaller. Due to the size and structure of the THCa molecule, it does not have a great affinity to bind with CB1 receptors, which leads to the other differences that we'll discuss further below.

However, once the decarboxylation process occurs and that carboxyl chain is removed, the Delta-9 THC molecule can then bind with your CB1 receptors, which is perhaps one of the most important takeaways here.


In terms of what you feel, the main difference here is that THCa is generally not psychoactive or intoxicating. Due to the molecular structure, it does not have an affinity to bind with your CB1 receptors and therefore does not produce any psychoactive effects. It does not get high. However, Delta-9 THC does bind with your CB1 receptors and therefore has intoxicating and psychoactive effects. Delta-9 THC gets you high.


The benefits of these two cannabinoids are also thought to be somewhat different. First, THCa is thought to help with pain, inflammation, and arthritis, and may even act as a neuroprotectant.

Delta-9 THC on the other hand, has the potential to help with all of these issues, but is also thought to act as a hunger stimulant, an antiemetic agent, and a sleep aid, and may also have benefits in terms of anxiety and depression.

It would appear that the active version, Delta-9 THC, due to its affinity to bind with CB1 receptors much more efficiently, would lead to an increased amount of potential health benefits both for the mind and body.

Is THCa the Same as Delta-9?

Although the two are very closely related, because without THCa you would not have Delta-9 THC, they are not the same things.

Where to Buy Delta-9 Products Online

If you would like to learn more about some great high THCa hemp strains, check out this list. However, we here at Botany Farms have some excellent legal Delta-9 THC products worth checking out. Some of our best-sellers include these Blue Raspberry Delta-9 THC Gummies, These Mixed Flavor Delta-9 THC Gummies, and these Nano Delta-9 Pink Lemonade Microdose Gummies.

Final Thoughts

If you are looking for a variety of potential physical and mental health benefits, but you don't want to get high, then THCa in its raw form is something worth checking out.

However, if you want to reap the full set of potential benefits from cannabis and hemp, then it is Delta-9 THC that you should check out. Not only does it have potential benefits, but it also gets you high, which is probably what many are looking for.

THCA Frequently Asked Questions

Let's just quickly answer some of your most frequently asked questions about THCa.

Is THCa Psychoactive?

No, THCa is not psychoactive, it will not get you high.

Is THCa Stronger Than Delta-9?

THCa is not psychoactive, whereas Delta-9 THC is. If we are talking about their strength or potency in terms of getting you high, Delta-9 THC is the much stronger one.

What is Considered a High THCa Percentage?

Anything above 15% is generally considered a high THCa percentage.

Does THCa Make You Feel High?

No, THCa does not make you feel high.

Is THCa Illegal?

Strictly speaking, according to the 2018 Farm Bill, THCa should be totally legal at the federal level.

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