Does THCA Turn Into Delta-9 When Smoked?

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Table Of Contents

THCa and Delta-9 THC are cannabinoids found in great quantities in cannabis and hemp. As far as the high you get from cannabis and the potential benefits are concerned, these might just be two of the most important cannabinoids.

You probably know of Delta-9, which is just regular THC, but many people don’t know about THCa, which is funny, because, without THCa, there would no Delta-9 THC at all. You can’t have the former without the latter. This should give you a hint about the answer to our question of the day.

Indeed, THCa turns into Delta-9 THC through a process known as decarboxylation. And yes, this happens during smoking. Today, we determine what both THCa and Delta-9 THC are, their relationship, and how one turns into the other.

Key Takeaways

  • THCa and Delta-9 THC are likely to have the most important cannabinoids found in cannabis and hemp plants.
  • THCa, through a process known as decarboxylation, turns into Delta-9 THC, with the former being non-psychoactive and the latter being psychoactive.
  • The temperature at which decarboxylation occurs affects just how much of the THCa is converted into Delta-9 THC.

What Is THCa?

First, we have THCa (not to be confused with THCV), which is the acidic precursor or acidic version of THCa. When cannabis plants first start growing, what is known as the mother of all cannabinoids, the OG cannabinoid is created, which is CBGA or cannabigerolic acid.

Various cannabis and hemp strains have varying enzymes which convert the CBGA into one of three acidic precursors. The first is THCa, which turns into Delta-9 THC. The second acidic precursor is CBDa, which turns into CBD. The third is CBCa, the precursor to CBC.

Most cannabis plants contain varying levels of THCa, and in order for you to be able to benefit from THC, those plants must have THCa. Through the process of decarboxylation, which occurs when heat is applied, THCa turns into THC.

THCa itself may have a variety of potential therapeutic and medicinal benefits. It may have anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties, it may be antiemetic, neuroprotective, and more. Even without getting you high, there are potential benefits, although more research is still required on this front.

THCa is also not intoxicating or psychoactive on its own. This is like the inactive version of THC, and if consumed as is, will not get you high. Only through the decarboxylation process does THCa become psychoactive, because it turns into Delta-9 THC.

What Is Delta-9 THC?

Delta-9 THC is the most commonly occurring major cannabinoid found in cannabis plants. This is the main type of THC that most people look for when they are looking to get high. Funny enough, without THCa, as discussed above, Delta-9 THC would technically not exist.

The process of decarboxylation, which happens when heat is applied, is required to turn THCa into Delta-9 THC. Therefore, when you go to purchase any strain of cannabis at your local dispensary, and it says that it contains X amount of THC, it's technically referring to the THCa content, because it is still raw cannabis flower, and therefore hasn't gotten the chance to turn into Delta-9 THC.

Delta-9 THC may have a wide variety of benefits both for the mind and body. These potential benefits include but are not limited to, the ability to reduce pain and inflammation, the potential to act as a mood regulator and relieve symptoms related to anxiety, an antiemetic agent that prevents or reduces nausea, a hunger stimulator, a sedative agent, and more.

Delta-9 THC is also highly intoxicating and psychoactive. It makes you feel high, and it can produce both a body high and a cerebral high. Depending on the exact strain, this high can feel different. For instance, Sativa dominant strains pretend to produce more of a creative head high, whereas Indica dominant strains tend to produce more of a sedating body high.

Does THCa Turn into Delta-9 when Smoked?

Yes, THCa turns into Delta-9 THC when raw cannabis flower is smoked, as combustion or the process of burning the flower leads to the process of decarboxylation. Smoking THCa is not the only way to decarboxylate it, as the main component required to cause this process to occur is heat. Therefore, vaporizing THCa, cooking it, and baking it, will all activate it and turn it into the psychoactive THC.

What is the Decarboxylation Process?

Technically speaking, decarboxylation is the process of altering the chemical structure of cannabinoid compounds that are found in cannabis and hemp plants. When cannabis plants are first harvested, all of the cannabinoids that can be found within the trichomes contain what is known as an extra carboxyl ring or group, which is attached to the molecular chain.

Without getting too deep into the science of it, this effectively stops it from binding with some of the cannabinoid receptors in your body that are responsible for feeling high. This form of THC, specifically THCa, cannot bind with your CB1 receptors and therefore does not get you high.

However, when you decarboxylate the cannabis, which means that you apply a certain amount of heat to it, it transforms THCa into active Delta-9 THC. It does this by removing that extra carboxyl ring from the molecular chain, therefore allowing it to effectively bind with your CB1 receptors, and ultimately to get you high.

As mentioned above, decarboxylation requires heat, which can be achieved through smoking, vaping, cooking, and baking. On a side note, a small amount of decarboxylation also occurs during the curing process after cannabis has been dried, although not nearly enough to be effective. The main takeaway here is that heat turns THCa into Delta-9 THC.

Does Temperature Affect How THCa is Converted?

Yes, temperature affects the way in which THCa is converted into Delta-9 THC. It is not just heat that is required to cause this process to occur, but a certain amount of heat. Most people agree that the best way to decarboxylate cannabis is by using a low and slow method. The sweet spot to decarboxylate cannabis appears to be somewhere between 230 and 250 degrees Fahrenheit.

This allows THCa to convert into Delta-9 THC, while also keeping many of the other beneficial terpenes and cannabinoids intact. The big issue here is that if the temperature is too low, not much of the THCa will be converted into Delta-9 THC, and if the temperature is too high, it will cost the Delta-9 THC to degrade and effectively disappear.

Therefore, cannabis flower should not be too hot or too cold for this decarboxylation process to be as efficient as possible.

An interesting note is that for efficient decarboxylation to occur, temperatures of around 200 degrees Fahrenheit at the least are required, but it's worth noting that the tip of a joint burns in excess of 1000 degrees, which can lead to issues in conversion efficiency, which we are about to discuss below.

Efficiency of Smoking in Converting THCa to Delta-9 THC

While smoking should convert the majority of THCa into Delta-9 THC, this process is not 100% perfect. As mentioned above, temperature does play a role here. Furthermore, remember that we said a low and slow approach tends to be best.

One issue with smoking a joint is that some of the THCa may not be exposed to heat for long enough to effectively convert all of it into Delta-9 THC. Although more research is required on this front, it is assumed that anywhere between 10% and 40% of THCa is not converted into Delta-9 THC through smoking a joint.

It is thought that the decarboxylation process alone converts roughly 88% of THCa into Delta-9 THC (if done properly between 220 and 250 degrees), although smoking a joint may result in a slightly lower conversion rates due to external factors. Furthermore, remember that we said that the tip of a joint burns in excess of 1000 degrees, but for effective decarboxylation to occur, a maximum of 250 degrees is recommended.

The result here is that a good bit of that Delta-9 THC made be lost due to degradation. Excessive temperatures caused Delta-9 THC to degrade, therefore effectively causing it to disappear, ultimately resulting in it having no effect on you. Although it's hard to say exactly how much of the THCa is lost through this process, not all of it is converted into Delta-9 THC.

Does Smoking THCa Get You High?

THCa in its raw form is not psychoactive or intoxicated. It should not produce any kind of notable high. However, on that same note, smoking THCa does get you high, and it's thanks to that decarboxylation process.

The main takeaway here is that smoking THCa causes the decarboxylation process to occur, which effectively turns THCa into Delta-9 THC, which is a highly psychoactive and intoxicating compound. Therefore, technically speaking, smoking THCa does get you high.

What are the Effects of a THCa High?

If you consume raw THCa, it will not get you high. However, as we've discussed, smoking it converts it into Delta-9 THC which does get you high. If you smoke Delta-9 THC, you may notice both a cerebral high and a body high.

The cerebral high or head high may be characterized by feeling creative, giggly, talkative, social, mentally relaxed, calmer, happier, euphoric, and elated. It is worth noting that there is a difference between Indica strains and Sativa strains.

Sativa strains tend to make you feel more creative, giggly, talkative, and energetic. On the other hand, Indica strains, as far as the head high is concerned, tend to make you feel more relaxed, calmer, euphoric, slow, and sedated. Indica is much calmer in nature whereas Sativa tends to be a bit more stimulating.

This is why most people say that Sativa strains are associated with a stronger and more stimulating head high, whereas Indica strains result in more of a body high, which is also why Sativas are said to be daytime strains, whereas Indicas are best for nighttime use.

While Sativa strains do produce a bit of a body high, with Indica strains, you can expect to feel heavy, your limbs could feel tingly, your body should feel very relaxed, and you should also feel a bit of pain relief. Indica strains hit your body much harder than your head, and Sativa strains do the opposite.

Is THCa Stronger than Delta-9?

Seeing as THCa is not psychoactive or intoxicating, you can't really say that it is stronger than Delta-9 THC. In its raw and unconverted form, it has no psychoactive effects at all, which means that Delta-9 THC is technically much stronger. That said, this question is a bit misleading seeing as THCa converts into Delta-9 THC. Based on this, one could theoretically say that they are equally potent.

What is a High THCa Percentage?

Most people would consider a THCa percentage of 15% to be fairly high. Although, some modern cannabis strains that are bred particularly for their potency can contain up to 30% Delta-90 HC or more, once decarboxylated. Click here to see what some of the highest THCa hemp strains are.

Where to Buy Delta-9 Products Online

If you want some great Delta-9 THC products, look no further than right here at Botany Farms. We have some fantastic products to choose from, including these Delta-9 Blue Raspberry Gummies, these Delta-9 Mixed Flavor Gummies, and our own Botany Farms Nano Delta-9 Pink Lemonade Microdose Gummies.

Final Thoughts

Now that you know the science behind THCa and how it converts into Delta-9 THC, you can be a more knowledgeable and informed consumer of hemp and cannabis products. Sure, consuming cannabis is fun, but knowing the science behind it is pretty cool too.

THCa: Frequently Asked Questions

Let's quickly answer some frequently asked questions that most people have about THCa.

Is THCa the Same as Delta-9?

No, THCa and Delta-9 THC are not the same, but the former turns into the latter through a process known as decarboxylation.

What’s the Difference Between THCa and Delta-9 THC?

The major difference between these two is that Delta-9 THC is psychoactive and intoxicating whereas THCa is not.

Which is Better, THCa or Delta-9 THC?

THCa may be better for people who want to reach certain potential medical and therapeutic benefits of this cannabinoid without getting high, whereas Delta-9 THC is better if you want to get high and also reap the potential benefits it may have to offer.

Is THCa Illegal?

According to the 2018 Farm Bill, as long as it is hemp-derived and does not contain Delta-9 THC in quantities over 0.3%, it should be considered legal. This is of course a massive glucose HCH into Delta-9 THC.

Will THCa Fail a Drug Test?

Due to the way in which the human body metabolizes THCa, it will most likely cause you to fail a drug test.

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