There are over 110 different known cannabinoids contained in the cannabis and hemp plants, so if there is a bit of confusion between some of them, that's totally understandable. For instance, there seems to be a bit of confusion about what THCA and Delta-9 THC are. Admittedly, these are likely two of the most closely related cannabinoids of all.
As you might be able to tell from the title of today's post, yes, THCA does convert into Delta-9 THC. This happens through a process known as decarboxylation, which we will explain in great detail further below. Interestingly, at the federal level, THCA enjoys a much more relaxed legal status than Delta-9 THC, even though the former turns into the latter.
Today, we tell you what THCA and Delta-9 THC are, what makes them similar, and what makes them different. We'll also look at their legal status as well as the process of decarboxylation. By the end of this article, you should know enough about these two very important cannabinoids.
- THCA and Delta-9 THC are two extremely closely related cannabinoids, and without the former, the latter would not exist.
- Does THCA turn into Delta-9? Yes, the process of decarboxylation is required to convert THCA into Delta-9 THC. THCA on its own should not yet be psychoactive, whereas the decarboxylated form, Delta-9 THC, is intoxicating and psychoactive.
- Does THCA turn into Delta-9 when smoked? Yes, there are various ways to decarboxylate THCA flower, including smoking, vaping, baking, and more.
- Click here to see what some of the best high THCA hemp strains are.
- THCA and THCV are not the same.
Let's first figure out what exactly THCA is.
What is THCA?
THCA is the acidic form of THC, or specifically, the acidic precursor to Delta-9 THC. When the cannabis plant first starts growing, what is known as the original cannabinoid or mother of all cannabinoids is created, which is CBA, otherwise known as cannabigerolic acid.
This mother cannabinoid then forms the three main precursor cannabinoids that we know of, which are THCA, CBDA, and CBCA, these are the precursors to Delta-9 THC, CBD, and CBC, respectively. For you to be able to reap the benefits of Delta-9 THC, plants must first contain THCA.
As you will see further below, THCA converts into Delta-9 THC through the process of decarboxylation. Therefore, although THCA itself is generally non-psychoactive and non-intoxicating, once this process of decarboxylation occurs, it turns into Delta-9 THC, which is psychoactive and intoxicating. THCA by itself may not be intoxicating, but it is thought to have some therapeutic benefits.
Furthermore, thanks to the 2018 Farm Bill and how it defines what makes various cannabinoids legal and illegal, THCA at this time enjoys federal legality. As long as it doesn't contain over 0.3% of Delta-9 THC, and as long as it comes from the hemp plant, THCA is perfectly legal to sell, possess, and consume, according to the federal government.
How Does THCA Work?
The human body contains various cannabinoid receptors, which are a part of the greater endocannabinoid system. The human body also contains other receptors, such as neurotransmitters, and many more.
Even though this is a precursor to Delta-9 THC, it has a weak affinity to bind with both CB1 receptors and CB2 receptors. For the record, CB1 receptors are located mainly in your central nervous system, whereas CB2 receptors are located mainly in your immune system. It is thought that THCA may bind a little bit better with CB2 receptors, which is why it has potential health benefits.
However, it is thought that it does not bind with the CB1 receptors, which is why it does not result in a psychoactive high. THCA may also bind with TRPM8 and TRPV4 receptors, although this does not really explain why THCA may have a variety of therapeutic benefits.
Delta-9 THC Basics
We then have Delta-9 THC, so let's quickly take a look at it.
What is Delta-9 THC?
Most people would say that Delta-9 THC is the most commonly occurring major cannabinoid found in cannabis plants. The reason why it is known as a major cannabinoid is because it usually occurs in great quantities. Some plants may contain up to 30% Delta-9 THC, or even more.
Delta-9 THC is one of the most intoxicating and psychoactive substances contained in the cannabis plant. This is generally what people look for when they want to get high, as well as for a variety of potential medical and therapeutic benefits, to a lesser degree.
Delta-9 THC produces a fairly strong high, which can be both cerebral and bodily. In other words, Delta-9 THC can make you feel high both in your head and in your body. Different types of cannabis, such as Sativa and Indica, tend to have slightly different effects, with Sativa being characterized more by a head high, whereas Indica is characterized more by a body high.
It is interesting to note that when you buy cannabis and it says that it contains 30% Delta-9 THC, for instance, this is technically false. The reason is that THCA turns into Delta-9 THC. Before decarboxylation, these plants technically don't contain any Delta-9 THC at all. Therefore, cannabis plants need to have THCA in order to produce Delta-9 THC.
How does Delta-9 THC Work?
Delta-9 THC works by binding with both the CB1 cannabinoid receptors located in your central nervous system and the CB2 receptors located mainly in your immune system. When you ingest or inhale Delta-9 THC, it then interacts with both the CB1 and CB2 receptors that are part of your endocannabinoid system.
It is generally thought that the interaction with the CB1 receptors is responsible for the psychoactive and intoxicating effects, whereas the CB2 receptors are responsible more for the possible therapeutic and medical benefits. One of the main takeaways here is that due to the way in which Delta-9 THC interacts with your endocannabinoid system, specifically with the CB1 receptors, it is very intoxicating.
Is THCA the same as Delta-9?
THCA and Delta-9 THC, although they are very closely related because the former turns into the latter, are technically not the same thing. It is this small technical difference that allows THCA to be federally legal whereas Delta-9 THC is technically federally illegal.
What is the Difference Between THCA and Delta-9 THC?
There are quite a few major differences between THCA and Delta-9 THC worth noting, so let's take a quick look at the biggest ones.
Without getting too deep into the science of it, these two cannabinoids do have different chemical structures. The main takeaway here is that THCA contains an extra carboxyl ring in its molecular chain, which effectively stops it from binding with your CB1 receptors.
However, through the process of decarboxylation, this chemical structure is altered ever so slightly, removing that extra carboxyl ring in the process. This is what is thought to allow Delta-9 THC to bind with your CB1 receptors—the removal of that carboxyl ring.
The Effects and Psychoactivity
The next big difference between these two cannabinoids is that THCA is generally considered non-intoxicating and non-psychoactive. It should not get you high, change your state of mind, or impair your motor skills or cognitive abilities. Delta-9 THC is the exact opposite.
Delta-9 THC has the affinity to bind with your CB1 receptors and therefore produces an intoxicating and psychoactive effect. Delta-9 THC may produce both a head high and a body high; it can impair your motor skills and your cognitive abilities. Many people like THCA for its potential benefits and because it does not get them high in the process.
The potential benefits of these two cannabinoids are also a bit different. Some of the potential benefits of THCA are that it is thought to be anti-inflammatory and analgesic, it may be able to inhibit carcinoma growth, it may have antispasmodic effects, it may be antiemetic, and it may feature neuroprotective properties.
On the other hand, the benefits of Delta-9 THC appear to be a bit more well-researched and widespread. Delta-9 THC has the potential to act as an analgesic, an anti-inflammatory, an antiemetic, a hunger stimulant, a mood regulator, and a sedative.
The next difference is that THCA, according to the official definition as set out by the 2018 Farm Bill, as long as it is derived from the hemp plant and does not contain more than 0.3% Delta-9 THC by dry weight concentration, should be considered legal.
THCA is also legal in the majority of states. However, thanks to that same 2018 Farm Bill, Delta-9 THC is not considered illegal if derived from federally-compliant hemp.
Does THCA Convert into Delta-9 THC?
Yes, THCA converts into Delta-9 THC, and this happens through the process of decarboxylation. Let's move on and take a closer look at exactly what decarboxylation is.
What is Decarboxylation?
Decarboxylation is a process where heat is applied to raw cannabis, in this case, THCA flower or THCA extract, to convert the THCA into Delta-9 THC. Without decarboxylation, the inactive, non-psychoactive THCA would never convert into Delta-9 THC and would not get you high. Let's move on and take a look at exactly how this process works.
How does Decarboxylation Work?
When the cannabis plants are harvested, all of the cannabinoids found in those trichomes contain an extra carboxyl ring or carboxyl group, which is attached to their molecular chains. Those extra carboxyl rings stop these cannabinoids from effectively binding with your cannabinoid receptors and, in the case of THCA, specifically with your CB1 receptors.
To remove that carboxyl ring from the molecule, a certain amount of heat is applied for a specific amount of time. Without getting too deep into the science of it, the heat changes the molecular structure and removes that carboxyl ring from the equation, hence the name decarboxylation.
The removal of that carboxyl ring then allows these cannabinoids to bind with your cannabinoid receptors, specifically the CB1 receptors, much more efficiently. It, therefore, allows these cannabinoids to produce a notable effect.
How does Temperature affect the Decarboxylation Process?
Temperature is an important part of the equation here. Generally speaking, the sweet spot for decarboxylation is somewhere between 230 degrees and 250 degrees Fahrenheit. This is very important because either too cold or too hot will greatly affect how this process works.
First, if the temperature is far too low, anywhere below 230 degrees, not much of the THC will be converted into Delta-9 THCA. A certain temperature is required for this decarboxylation process to start. Low temperatures result in a lack of decarboxylation.
Time matters as well. For the most part, it takes at least 30 minutes for this process to complete, particularly if you are doing it in the oven.
Interesting to note is that very high temperatures are also not good, particularly because Delta-9 THC starts to degrade or break down once it hits a certain temperature. A joint burns at over 1000 degrees Fahrenheit. Yes, at this temperature, Delta-9 THC starts to degrade.
If you were to attempt to decarboxylate your cannabis in a 1000-degree oven for 30 minutes, you would simply burn away all of the Delta-9 THC. However, luckily enough, when you smoke THCA flower, the majority of the Delta-9 THC that the THCA is converted into still makes it into your system.
Methods of Decarboxylation
Now that you know what decarboxylation is, let's take a quick look at some of the different methods out there.
When many people think of decarboxylation, they think of putting their cannabis in the oven. Yes, this is a common method. However, the simple process of smoking your hemp or cannabis flower decarboxylates it in the process.
The application of heat, which happens in the cherry or where the joint is lit, effectively decarboxylates the hemp or cannabis as you smoke it. Once again, some of that Delta-9 THC will be lost because the cherry is so hot, but the majority of it should still make it into your system.
Although smoking and vaporizing are two different things, the process of vaporizing still applies enough heat to the plant matter or to the concentrate to cause decarboxylation to occur.
Vaporizers use very hot coils to cause the cannabis oils to vaporize into an airborne vapor, and this is hot enough to decarboxylate any precursor cannabinoids.
Cooking with Edibles
Another simple way to decarboxylate hemp or cannabis is to cook it in with your edibles. This could take the form of baking, cooking actual food, or cooking anything in between.
As long as the temperature is high enough, but not too high, for a sustained period of time, it should allow the precursor cannabinoids to decarboxylate into active cannabinoids.
Home and Commercial Methods
There are also other commercial and home methods of decarboxylating hemp and cannabis. One of the most popular ones is to grind up hemp and cannabis into small buds, put them in single layers on a baking sheet, and then bake them at around 240 degrees Fahrenheit for anywhere between 20 and 40 minutes.
Where to Buy Delta-9 Products Online
If you are looking for some fantastic Delta-9 THC products that are legal, then right here at Botany Farms is the place to be. Some of our favorite products include our own Botany Farms Delta-9 THC Gummies, as well as these Nano Delta-9 THC Gummies.
THCA and Delta-9 THC have an interesting relationship. Keep in mind that even though Delta-9 THC is technically illegal if harvested from cannabis with higher than 0.3% THC concentrations, it is legal if harvested from federally-compliant hemp. This is exactly why we can recommend some of our own Botany Farms Delta-9 products above.
THCA: Frequently Asked Questions
Let's quickly answer some of your most frequently asked questions about THCA before we wrap things up for the day.
Can You Decarboxylate THCA Flower in the Microwave?
It is technically possible to decarboxylate the THCA flower in the microwave as long as you don't leave it in there for too long. Microwaving it on high for no more than 90 seconds should do the trick.
Can You Get High From Eating THCA Diamonds?
If the THCA diamonds are in no way decarboxylated, then no, they will most likely not get you high.
How Long does it take to Decarboxylate THCA?
Depending on the exact temperature used, it should take anywhere between 20 and 40 minutes to decarboxylate THCA in the oven, or if you are smoking or vaporizing, it happens instantly.
Does THCA Show up as Delta-9 THC on a Drug Test?
In all likelihood, the metabolite of THCA will show up on a drug test just like the metabolite of Delta-9 THC, which ends up being the same thing.
Is THCA Stronger than Delta-9?
Technically speaking, although one turns into the other, Delta-9 THC is stronger than THCA, simply because the former is psychoactive whereas the latter is not.