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THCA Powdercover copy

Cannabinoid Profile: What is THCa?

The public focus on cannabinoids often falls to well-known compounds like THC, CBD, and, more recently, Delta-9 THC. However, Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCa) is yet another interesting cannabinoid that remains largely under-explored and under-researched. Found in the raw cannabis plant, THCa is non-psychoactive and offers unique properties that could benefit users seeking therapeutic effects without the high associated with THC.

 

The molecular structure of THCa showing the bonds.
THCa and THC share a similar structure.

What is THCa?

THCa stands for Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid, the non-psychoactive precursor to tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the primary psychoactive component of cannabis. In its raw form, it’s abundant in fresh cannabis leaves and flowers. In fact, THCa is the most abundant cannabinoid, accounting for anywhere between 10 and 30% of the total mass.

THCa requires heat (or light) to transform into psychoactive THC, a process known as decarboxylation. Complete thermal decarboxylation occurs when it is heated to around 250ºF (120ºC) for around 30 minutes.

Learn more about decarboxylation and cooking with cannabis.

How is THCa Made?

THCa is synthesized in the cannabis plant’s trichomes, which are nearly microscopic structures responsible for producing the vast majority of the cannabinoids found in cannabis. The sticky resin produced in trichomes is rich in THCa and serves as a defense mechanism against pests and UV rays.

The synthesis involves a precursor compound called cannabigerolic acid (CBGa), which is converted into THCa by the enzyme THCa synthase. This process is vital for the cannabis plant’s development and plays a crucial role in the diversity of cannabinoids produced. Knowing how THCa is formed helps in breeding strains to enhance its concentration for medical use.

 

THCa powder being placed on a bowl.

The Benefits of THCa

Research on THCa is still in its early stages, but preliminary studies and anecdotal evidence suggest some promising therapeutic benefits. THCa has a slightly different molecular structure than THC which changes the way it interacts in the human body.

THCa may have the following benefits:

  • Appetite stimulation
  • Pain Relief
  • Anti-inflammation
  • Reducing chronic pain and muscle spasms
  • Relaxation
  • Insomnia
  • Anti-epileptic

Additionally, its neuroprotective qualities could offer hope for neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. Furthermore, THCa shows potential for anti-proliferative effects, which could be utilized in cancer treatment strategies.

Legal Status

The legal status of this cannabinoid varies by jurisdiction. In regions where cannabis is legal, THCa is typically legal as well, provided it is derived from licensed plants.

However, because it can be found in the hemp plant and can convert to THC, a legal loophole has come up in the last few years. A loophole created by the 2018 Farm Bill makes it technically legal for any hemp derived cannabinoid to be sold and possessed in the U.S. Now more than ever it is essential for consumers to understand local cannabis laws. This understanding helps in navigating the legal landscape of cannabis use and ensures compliance with local laws and regulations.

Learn more about the 2018 Farm Bill.

THCa vs. THC

Although THCa is the precursor that converts to THC, the two compounds have distinctly different chemical properties and effects. THCa has a carboxylic acid group that THC lacks. The larger chemical structure makes it incapable of binding to cannabinoid receptors in the body.

THC is known for its many psychoactive and non-psychoactive effects – including euphoria, relaxation, pain relief, stress relief, and more. THCa offers non-intoxicating benefits, such as reducing inflammation and pain without altering mental state. This difference is particularly important for medical users who may want to avoid the high while gaining the therapeutic effects of cannabis.

RECV infused joint

THCa Products

Extracting pure THCa from cannabis flower requires expertise and careful techniques to prevent decarboxylation. Extraction specialist use methods such as cold extraction to preserve the compound in its acidic form.

The availability of products is growing, however, with more companies offering THCa flower, THCa-infused joints, and even pure isolates. If you are looking for these products, you should only shop from reputable sources that provide third-party lab results to verify the content and purity.

What does a baseball-sized THCa diamond look like?

 

Revolution Cannabis pure THCa Powder in the container.

Future Research & Development

Despite its potential, regulatory hurdles and the complexity of cannabis legislation limit research opportunities. These challenges have been a major hinderance to the development of standardized products and restrict studies.

However, there is some good news. The DEA recently accepted a recommendation by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. This will open up more avenues to advancing research that will unlock its full therapeutic potential.

Final Thoughts

THCa represents a relatively uncharted territory in cannabinoid research with medical and recreational promise. With ongoing research and a better regulatory framework, it could become a cornerstone in the future of medical cannabis. The complexity of all cannabinoids drives home the need for continued education and research in the cannabis industry.

Thankfully for consumers and medical patients alike, the rescheduling of cannabis has been a huge step forward for cannabinoid science. The potential is now there to revolutionize treatment strategies and improve the quality of life for cannabis lovers and patients alike.

Sources:

Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid is a potent PPARγ agonist with neuroprotective activity

THCA Guide: Effects, Benefits, and Products

Decarboxylation Study of Acidic Cannabinoids

General Cannabis FAQ

Cannabis, often referred to as marijuana, is a plant that has been used for thousands of years for various purposes, including medicine, textiles, and recreation. The plant contains compounds known as cannabinoids, with delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) being the most well-known. THC is primarily responsible for the plant’s psychoactive effects, while CBD is recognized for its potential therapeutic benefits without causing a “high.”

Many countries and U.S. states have decriminalized or legalized the use of marijuana for medical use, recreational, or both. The legal status changes frequently as legislation evolves.

In the U.S., states vote to regulate marijuana use on an individual basis. While it remains illegal at the federal level, numerous states have legalized it for medicinal and/or recreational use.

The following states have legalized medical, recreational, or both:

  • Alaska – Medical
  • Arizona – Legal
  • Arkansas – Medical
  • California – Legal
  • Colorado – Legal
  • Connecticut – Legal
  • Delaware – Legal
  • District of Columbia – Legal
  • Florida – Medical
  • Hawaii – Medical (Possession decriminalized for small amounts)
  • Illinois – Legal
  • Louisiana – Medical (Possession decriminalized for small amounts)
  • Maine – Legal
  • Maryland – Legal
  • Massachusetts – Legal
  • Michigan – Legal
  • Minnesota – Legal
  • Mississippi – Medical (Possession decriminalized for small amounts)
  • Missouri – Legal
  • Montana – Legal
  • Nevada – Legal
  • New Hampshire – Medical (Possession decriminalized for small amounts)
  • New Jersey – Legal
  • New Mexico – Legal
  • New York – Legal
  • North Dakota – Medical (Possession decriminalized for small amounts)
  • Ohio – Medical (Possession decriminalized)
  • Oklahoma – Medical
  • Oregon – Legal
  • Pennsylvania – Medical
  • Rhode Island – Legal
  • South Dakota – Medical
  • Utah – Medical
  • Vermont – Legal
  • Virginia – Legal
  • Washington – Legal
  • West Virginia – Medical

 

Outside of the U.S., countries like The Netherlands, Canada, and, more recently, Thailand have legalized cannabis on a national level.

Always check local laws and regulations in your specific location.

In states where marijuana has been legalized, you can purchase products at licensed dispensaries. Revolution products are available at Enlightened, Revolution, and partner dispensaries in Illinois, Arkansas, Missouri, and Maryland. Find a dispensary near you.

Keep in mind that dispensaries may cater to medical patients, recreational consumers, or both, depending on local laws.

Always ensure that you are buying from a reputable and licensed establishment to guarantee product quality and safety.

The effects of cannabis vary widely depending on the strain, dosage, method of consumption, an individual’s endocannabinoid system, and more.

Some commonly reported effects include:

Psychoactive Effects: Euphoria, mood elevation, cerebral stimulation, stress relief, calming effects, and relaxation.

Physical Effects: Pain relief, body buzz, anti-inflammation, anti-nausea, energy boost or sedation, and appetite stimulation

*Medical Benefits: Cannabis is believed to have a range of therapeutic effects and alleviation of symptoms related to conditions like epilepsy, PTSD, and more.

*Marijuana is not approved by the FDA to treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

The primary difference lies in their intended use:

Medical Cannabis: Used as a treatment and alleviation of symptoms for specific health conditions. Medical strains might be cultivated and processed to have higher CBD content or other therapeutic compounds. Medical cannabis requires a physician who usually prescribes or recommends it as a treatment option.

Recreational Cannabis: Used without a medical justification but for personal enjoyment and fulfillment.

The process varies from state to state but typically involves the following steps:

Doctor’s Recommendation: Schedule an appointment with a physician who is authorized to recommend medical marijuana. Discuss your health conditions and reasons for seeking cannabis as a treatment.

Application: Once you have a doctor’s recommendation, you’ll usually need to apply for a medical marijuana card through a designated state or country agency.

Proof & Identification: Provide necessary identification and proof of residency as required by your jurisdiction.

Fee Payment: Most jurisdictions require a fee for the application and issuance of a medical marijuana card.

Card Issuance: Once approved, you will receive your medical marijuana card, allowing you to purchase cannabis at designated medical dispensaries.

If you’d like more detailed information, please read our state-specific medical card guide here.