When it comes to cannabinoid laws in the United States, the conversation can get complex pretty quickly. Some cannabinoids are considered legal, while others are illegal under federal law and can only be sold in states with legal, adult-use or medical cannabis programs.
One cannabinoid seeing a surge in popularity is THCa, but for states like North Carolina — which has yet to legalize cannabis in any form — consumers may find themselves wondering if they have the option to explore it lawfully.
If you’re one of those folks, or just curious to learn more about THCa, you’re in the right place!
- THCa is the acidic, non-psychoactive form of THC and can be found in hemp and cannabis plants.
- THCa becomes THC when it undergoes decarboxylation, or is exposed to heat.
- Cannabis is partially decriminalized in North Carolina, but it’s still illegal. However, hemp-derived THCa is not restricted in the state.
What is THCa?
THCa is the acidic form of THC, otherwise known as tetrahydrocannabinolic acid. By itself, THCa is non-psychoactive. However, when THC is exposed to heat, called decarboxylation (think smoking, vaping, dabbing, or cooking), it converts into the psychoactive cannabinoid we all know: THC.
That is the key difference between THC and THCa, but THCa still has a number of potential benefits. Research has found that both cannabinoids may help to treat nausea, and THCa may actually show more promise for reducing inflammation. Admittedly, our knowledge surrounding the possibilities THCa brings is still limited, and more research is needed.
Is THCa Legal in North Carolina?
Now, this is where things get a bit tricky. THCa is not explicitly listed on the state’s list of controlled substances, but that’s not to say possessing it can’t get you into trouble.
It is illegal to possess or use any form of cannabis in North Carolina. So, THCa derived specifically from cannabis should be considered unlawful. However, hemp-derived products are legal in North Carolina, and the state does not have any restrictions on the sale and purchase of hemp-derived THCa.
It’s worth noting that North Carolina has also partially decriminalized cannabis possession of a half ounce or less, though it still carries a maximum fine of $200. That said, cannabis possession and possession of THCa derived from cannabis is still against the law in North Carolina.
THCa Legality: Hemp vs. Cannabis
When it comes to the law, there is a clear distinction between cannabinoids from hemp and cannabis. The two plants are essentially the same plant, but the 2018 Farm Bill authorized the production of hemp and removed hemp, hemp seeds, and hemp-derived cannabinoids from the Drug Enforcement Administration’s schedule of Controlled Substances.
Hemp is defined as containing no more than 0.3% THC by dry weight, but once it passes that threshold, it’s defined as cannabis under the law. That means that THCa derived from hemp is not restricted, while THCa derived from cannabis is still illegal in states like North Carolina.
The best way to confirm the legitimacy of products containing THCa, and to ensure they are hemp-derived, is by double-checking third-party lab tests to prove its origins.
The Future of THCa in North Carolina
When it comes to THCa derived from cannabis in North Carolina, it’s unclear exactly if or when the state will usher in reform measures.
Adult-use cannabis is likely a ways off, as a medical cannabis bill fell flat earlier in 2023 for the rest of the year’s General Assembly session. But it looks like North Carolina residents overall are ready for a shift. A recent survey found that 73% of North Carolinians backed the policy, and another poll found that 57% of citizens believe that recreational cannabis should be legal.
Regarding hemp-derived cannabinoids, it doesn’t appear they’re going anywhere for the state, though a new bill would establish age restrictions on hemp-derived consumables, licensing requirements for manufacturers and distributors, and new testing requirements if passed.
Fortunately, there are a number of legal ways for folks to enjoy the benefits of cannabinoids legally, even if cannabis is not yet legal in their state. While legal cannabis may not happen in the immediate future for North Carolina, citizens can rest assured that THCa is not prohibited so long as it is derived from hemp!
Disclaimer: 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.
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