What Is THCa? The Details on THCa vs THC

Most cannabis users are familiar with THC; it’s the stuff that gets you ‘high’ in cannabis. But THCa has been a popular cannabinoid lately, popular in vapes, edibles, and more. So what’s the difference between THCa and THC? Mainly, it’s that THCa is non-psychoactive, while THC is mostly responsible for cannabis’ psychoactive properties. However, there is much more to learn about THCa vs THC to understand these cannabinoids fully. We’re getting into all of the details below.

THCa vs THC: Key Takeaways

  • Cannabis produces many cannabinoids apart from CBD and THC; THCa is one cannabinoid found in fresh cannabis leaves.
  • THCa is an acidic, non-psychoactive component of fresh, unheated cannabis, while THC is the psychoactive element produced from heating or aging cannabis.
  • THCa has its own benefits that can be utilized by juicing or consuming raw cannabis, or it can be converted to THC through heat such as smoking or vaping.
  • The medical evidence on THCa is in its early stages, but it looks very promising for several conditions from seizure disorders, to IBS, inflammation, and more.

What Is THCa?

THCa is one of over 100 cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. Its full name is tetrahydrocannabinolic acid, and it is the acidic version of THC. THCa is not psychoactive, as THC is. This means that ingesting THCa in its original form is not intoxicating. Structurally, it has an additional molecular carboxyl ring. This extra ring prevents THCa from binding to receptors in the brain that cause you to feel high.

THCa is found in fresh, raw cannabis leaves. As the plant matures and ages, the THCa converts to THC. Alternately, THCa is converted to THC by heat, e.g. lighters, heated dab nails, or ovens. In order to ingest THCa on its own, you would have to ingest the raw, fresh leaves in some way without heating.


The big difference between THCa and THC is intoxication. THCa is not at all intoxicating, whereas THC gives the ‘high’ that many of us know and love. However, when THCa is heated, it transforms into THC, and is therefore intoxicating. Heating the THCa through smoking, dabbing, or cooking changes it at a molecular level. This conversion alters the molecular structure of THCA by removing a carboxyl ring, allowing it to attach to CB1 receptors in the body.

Effects-wise, there is some overlap between THCa vs THC. Both can treat nausea, though THCa exhibits a better affinity for treating inflammation. On the other hand, while THCa and THC can both be effective for sleep, many find THCa less effective due to the absence of psychoactive properties. And, while THC is not recommended for those with seizure disorders, THCa is showing great promise for these conditions.

Are Higher Levels of THCa or THC Better?

Whether you’re in a legal state or not, it’s important to pay attention to what’s on your labels. As discussed above, THCa, when heated, turns into THC. Therefore, the levels of THCa in a product can have a lot to do with the resulting high. In legal states, you may think going after a product with a higher THC level would be the way to go. However, applying heat to THC directly may burn away some of the cannabinoid content and leave you wanting more.

Now, this doesn’t apply when looking for edibles; you likely won’t heat those again to a level to trigger decarboxylation (activation by heat). But for products to smoke, vape, or dab, THCa levels represent the full potency potential of the product, as it will convert to THC when you heat it.

THCa’s Effects & Benefits

Consuming raw cannabis will not get you high. However, it’s not without its benefits. Consumption of raw cannabis for THCa, through juicing or taking a THCa-based tincture, has many of the benefits of THC without the intoxication. Studies show that THCa consumption has potential neuroprotective qualities that could aid in slowing and preventing neurodegenerative diseases. Additionally, THCa, like CBD, shows promise for the treatment of seizure disorders.

How To Use THCa

Many of us, smokers and patients alike, are already using THCa regularly. Though, primarily as a conduit to reap the benefits of THC through decarboxylation. However, more people and brands are taking an interest in THCa on its own and the benefits of raw cannabis.

The consumption of raw cannabis has many potential benefits. However, not everyone is fond of literally just eating it. Many prefer to incorporate raw, fresh cannabis into a juicing routine. There are also several brands beginning to make THCa tinctures and topicals.

How To Activate THCa

As we’ve discussed, activating THCa is as easy as the flick of a lighter. THCa simply needs to be decarbed, or heated, to activate and turn into THC. This can simply be done by rolling a j or packing a bowl and lighting up. Heating up a dab rig works just as well. And for our aspiring chefs, it only takes about 30-40 minutes in a 200-245ºF oven to decarb your flower. Anything over 300º will burn away cannabinoid content, as will cooking it for too long.

Does THCa Show Up on a Drug Test?

Yes, both THC and THCa will show up positive on a drug test.

Is THCa Legal?

THCa’s legality is a bit sticky. While it is not psychoactive or specifically outlawed, it is still considered part of the cannabis plant and will convert to THC when heated. There are many places where you can purchase THCa products directly over the counter with no medical card. However, this ultimately depends on local and state laws.

Even though THCa is not listed as a scheduled substance, possession of an illegal amount of THCA-rich products, such as weed or concentrates, is still subject to local and federal laws. So, if you’re caught with a pound of weed, officers will likely not take into account that raw cannabis isn’t inherently intoxicating.

Get THCa Today at Mr. Nice Guys’

Mr. Nice Guys sells THCa products in several varieties. Whether you’re looking for flower, edibles, or vapes, we’ve got you covered. Step into any of our Mr. Nice Guys locations 7 days a week to find the perfect THCa product for you.

And as always, Have a Nice Daze!


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