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Studies have shown that the levels of THC, the main psychoactive compound in pot, rose dramatically in the U.S. from 1995 to 2017

THC vs THCa: A Cannabinoid Field Guide

Cannabinoids | Source: RT International

It’s a jungle out there, and it’s only getting more complicated.

So, let us be your guide through the world of THC cannabinoids!

Marijuana. Cannabis. Weed. Ganja. Mary Jane. Pot. Kush. Doobie. Whatever you call it, this psychotropic compound is a staple in the modern world of medicine, recreation and spiritual enlightenment. 

The word marijuana comes from the Mexican slang term “mariguana” which means “Mary’s grass” or “Mary Jane’s herb” in English. So we can thank the Catholic Church for giving us this name, which is pretty ironic considering their stance on weed and those who regularly partake in the devils lettuce.

Marijuana refers to any part of the Cannabis sativa plant (including leaves and flowers) that has been harvested and dried as opposed to being smoked fresh from the plant. Marijuana comes in two main strains: indica and sativa. Indica strains tend to produce more relaxed effects than sativas do; however, there are exceptions depending on how much THC they contain (more THC = more relaxed high).

Whether you’re a casual weed user or an marijuana enthusiast, you’ve probably heard of THC!

But what about THCa?

THC vs THCa: A Cannabinoid Field Guide

First, a brief primer on what a cannabinoid is:

Cannabinoids are a class of psychotropic compounds found in the cannabis plant. 

Cannabinoids are a class of psychotropic compounds found in the cannabis plant.

There are over 100 different cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant—some that have been studied for their potential healing properties and others that haven’t been studied at all. The most famous one is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), but there are hundreds of others—some of which are even more potent than THC.

What’s the difference between THC and THCa? Well, let’s start with the basics. THC stands for tetrahydrocannabinol, which is a psychotropic compound found in cannabis plants. THCa stands for tetrahydrocannabinolic acid, which is a precursor to THC. So what does that mean?

THC is found in marijuana, whereas THCA is not. Instead, it’s produced naturally by the plant and stored in the leaves. It’s only after exposure to heat (such as when you smoke or vaporize marijuana) that THCA converts into THC.

THC and THCa are two different compounds found in marijuana plants. THC is the more well-known cannabis compound, but THCa is just as important to your health.

What is THC?

THC is short for Tetrahydrocannabinol, which is a psychotropic compound. It’s also one of the most well-known cannabinoids in cannabis, along with Cannabidiol (CBD), Cannabinol (CBN), and others. It’s responsible f or marijuana’s intoxicating effects. 

THC is short for Tetrahydrocannabinol, which is a psychotropic compound. It's also one of the most well-known cannabinoids in cannabis

THC is found in two types of cannabis: marijuana and hemp. Marijuana has been cultivated by humans since at least 8000 B.C., but it wasn’t until recently that scientists discovered the chemical structure of THC and other cannabinoids in the plant. Since then, we’ve learned that there are over 100 different cannabinoids produced by the plant, all with varying effects on the body and mind.

When you smoke marijuana (or eat it), THC enters your bloodstream and causes a series of reactions in your brain. These reactions make you feel high—happy, relaxed, and sometimes even hungry. And THC is typically categorized as either sativa or indica, depending on its effect on the body. Sativa strains are uplifting and energizing; they give you an energetic buzz that can last for hours. Indica strains are more relaxing; they make you feel mellow and sleepy.

You’ll find THC in all kinds of cannabis products: edibles like brownies or cookies, tinctures (liquid extracts), capsules, waxes and oils (sometimes called “dabs”), concentrates like shatter or wax that are made by extracting THC from dried buds using solvents such as butane gas or CO2 oil extractors, vaporizers, AND topicals like balms or salves made with hemp seed oil that absorb into the skin.

What is THCa?

You’re probably familiar with the term THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, but have you heard of THCa?

THCa, on the other hand, is not psychoactive. Instead, it’s a non-psychoactive cannabinoid that converts into THC when exposed to heat (like smoking). It’s a non-psychoactive precursor to THC that converts into THC when heated. The same thing happens if you eat raw cannabis—it will turn into THC as it breaks down in your digestive system. 

THCa is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid that can be converted into THC when exposed to heat (like smoking).

Unheated, fresh cannabis is super abundant in compounds called cannabinoid acids. Unlike the heated and cured herb, cannabinoid acids will not give you that euphoric feeling (unless you eat *copious* amounts of it). THCa provides a great deal of health benefits without any change in consciousness. It is also is one of the richest cannabinoid acids, often appearing up to 20 percent of the bud.

As the bud dries, THCa slowly converts into the psychoactive cannabinoid, THC. When the crystalline heats up, the conversion process speeds up. This known as decarboxylation, a fancy term for what happens to the plant material when it is smoked, cooked, or vaporized.

In other words: THCa doesn’t get you high (at least not directly), but it converts into THC when heated or smoked.

What is the difference between THCa and THC?

So let’s break it down easier, shall we?

THC is a psychotropic compound found in both sativa and indica strains of cannabis. It is the most well-known cannabinoid, and its effects can vary from strain to strain. THCa is the non-psychoactive precursor form of THC. You won’t get any high from THCa, but you might be able to tell when your bud is at its peak potency by looking out for THCa crystals.

The difference between THCa and THC is like that between milk and cheese: milk has all the potential to become cheese, but as long as it sits in its original form, it won’t do anything for you besides make your cereal tasty!

Now that you know the difference between THC and THCa, will that effect how you consume you cannabis? 

Come to The Happy Campers for all your latest cannabis news and findings.