When the 2018 Farm Bill made hemp legal, hemp-derived products surged across the market, opening up a whole new world of legalized CBD, THCa, and other cannabinoid-based remedies. However, hemp-based products must contain less than 0.3% delta-9 THC per dry weight to stay legal, as this basis is the official differentiator between cannabis and hemp. This distinction may lead some to wonder where THCa flower fits into the equation, and how exactly is it made?
THCa, the chemical precursor to THC, and can fall under a different legal status than delta-9 THC, which is essential to know when browsing for legal hemp products in your state. When products meet the 0.3% per dry weight limitation as federal law states, purchasing hemp-derived THCa flower is perfectly legal.
Read on to understand where THCa flower comes from, how it's made, and what to consider when looking into THCa flower as a potential purchase.
- THCa flower is cannabis or hemp-derived flower from strains specifically bred to produce high levels of THCa
- THCa is the chemical precursor to THC, the cannabinoid responsible for weed's intoxicating effects.
- THCa is legal nationwide as long as the product it's' in contains less than 0.3% total THC per dry weight.
What is THCa?
Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCa) is a non-intoxicating compound found in the cannabis plant. THCa by itself produces zero psychoactive effects, yet it is an essential part of the hemp plant in that it eventually becomes the desirable THC. Effectively, the amount of THCa in a flower contributes to the amount of THC it'll have when combusted.
THCa was discovered in 1995, but only recently has the scientific community started paying more attention to the cannabinoid on its own merits. A 2017 study explored potential medical applications for THCa, including its capacity to calm seizures and address chronic pain. While the evidence is still scarce, scientists are intrigued about the untapped potential of this essential cannabis compound.
When exposed to heat (either combusted or vaporized), THCa transforms into psychoactive THC. This process is called decarboxylation and can occur via:
- Prolonged room temperature exposure
- Heat exposure via smoking and vaping
- Sunlight/light exposure
Decarboxylation is why is why we need to heat flower to get high and don't experience intoxication by simply eating raw hemp.
How THCa Works
THCa is the chemical precursor to THC that loses the acid component - the "A" in its name - when exposed to heat. When the carbon dioxide is released from THCa, either in flower or in concentrate form, it transforms into the THC that interacts with the body's endocannabinoid system and yields the many euphoric effects for which cannabis is known.
What is THCa Flower?
THCa flower is in the same category as CBD or THC flower, meaning it is a hemp or cannabis flower with high THCa content. So long as the sum of the THC in the plant is less than 0.3% of dry weight (meaning THC and the THCa that is converted into THC), the flower is legal.
One can smoke or vape THCa flower to convert the cannabinoid into THC and enjoy the same smoked effects. Most often, cannabis and hemp flower have higher natural levels of THCa than THC, and some breeders even select to yield THCa flower specifically.
As such, there's not too much difference between THCa and THC flowers, as when they're smoked, you consume only THC.
How is THCa Flower Made?
THCa flower can be cultivated in various environmental settings, harnessing different genetics and watering, soil, or other growing techniques to optimize THCa content. Hemp farmers have discovered that they can produce higher concentrations of THCa in their plants by exposing them to cooler temperatures, which reduces the amount of THCa that gets converted to THC within the plants.
Some strains naturally have higher amounts of THCa, too, and consumers can purchase hemp flower with greater concentrations of the compound.
Another way to consume THCa-rich flower is to simply combine hemp flower with a THCa concentrate, such as THCa crystals. When combusted, all would again convert to THC and produce the psychoactive effects associated with cannabis.
Is THCa Flower Legal?
THCa naturally occurs in hemp, and as long as the total dry weight of a product is less than 0.3% THC, it's federally legal. However, THCa flower that produces higher concentrations of 0.3% THC when combusted is against the rules. These products are legal only in states with medical or recreational cannabis programs, though some states, such as Oregon, specifically restrict THCa flower despite having such a program.
It's essential to research the laws in your state to determine whether THCa flower is legal and available for purchase.
The Bottom Line
THCa flower is produced the same way other CBD or hemp flowers are cultivated, typically marketed as a smokable or vaping product. THCa strains follow legal guidelines and contain less than 0.3% THC.
However, it's made, whether with hydroponics or exposed to cold temperatures, THCa flower comes from hemp plants especially suited to create such formulations. THCa products can also be made as extracts, such as THCa diamonds, which can be added to regular hemp flower to produce a rich THCa experience.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is THCa natural or synthetic?
THCa occurs naturally in cannabis and is, in fact, one of the most prevalent compounds found in the cannabis or hemp plant. THCa flower is grown naturally, whereas THCa diamonds and concentrates are extracted from the plant itself into a concentrated form.
Does THCa produce a high?
THCa by itself is not psychoactive. However, when exposed to heat or light, THCa converts to THC, producing marijuana's well-known intoxication. THCa is federally legal when it is hemp-derived and as long as the product contains less than 0.3% THC per dry weight.
Disclaimer: None of what is published on evn-cbd.com is intended to be professional medical advice. Consult your health practitioner regarding any medical treatment or diagnosis.
This article was last updated in September 2023 and reflects federal and state legal information as of this date. Cannabis laws in the U.S. are continually shifting; therefore, the information in this article is subject to change. The information in this article does not constitute legal advice, and no entity at EVN-CBD is claiming to provide legal advice. Please visit your official state website for more information on your state’s cannabis laws and regulations.