Photo of a flowering cannabis plant.

THCa vs Delta 9: What's the Difference?

Posted by Sauce Warehouse on


In the evolving world of cannabis, consumers and researchers alike are looking deeper into the variety of unique cannabinoids. Among these, Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCa) and Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Delta-9 THC) have found their way into the spotlight. These chemical compounds stand out for their significant roles in the plant's effects on the human body and mind.

Image of a flowering cannabis plant.

With growing communities of curious minds across the internet, platforms like Reddit have become hotspots for discussing THCa. Here you will find no shortage of THCa Reddit posts as multitudes of Reddit users seek out more information. This article aims to demystify THCa and Delta-9 THC, evaluating their individual characteristics, legal status, effects, and much more.

What is THCa?

Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCa) is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid found primarily in raw and live cannabis. As the precursor to the well-known psychoactive compound THC, THCa sits at a pivotal point in cannabis chemistry.

Unlike THC, THCa does not produce a euphoric "high" when consumed in its raw form. Because of the molecular structure of THCa, it does not bind effectively with the CB1 receptors in the brain. This is the key interaction that leads to the psychoactive effects associated with THC.

Informational graphic featuring the Delta-9 THC and THCa molecular structures.

However, once heated, THCa converts into Delta-9 THC and becomes psychoactive. And, here's the real kicker, many argue that the 2018 Farm Bill essentially made THCa completely legal! The 2018 Farm Bill legalizing hemp sets a hard limit of 0.3% Delta-9 THC for all legal hemp, with zero mention of THCa. So, technically, those arguing that THCa is legal are sort of right and many lawyers agree.

THCa vs Delta-9 THC

Understanding the distinction between THCa and Delta-9 THC is essential for anyone that uses cannabis products. THCa is the acidic form of Delta-9 THC, containing an extra carboxyl group. When we apply heat to THCa, we eliminate this extra carboxyl group, a process we call decarboxylation. This THCa to THC conversion is what enables the psychoactive potential of cannabis when smoked, vaporized, or cooked.

Image of a hand holding a burning cannabis joint.

The psychoactive difference between THCa vs THC is significant. While THCa does not directly bind to the brain's CB1 receptors, THC does, resulting in a high. This difference plays a large role in how consumers and patients choose and use cannabis products.

Does THCa Get You High?

A common question among cannabis newcomers and veterans alike is whether THCa possesses any psychoactive properties. The short answer is no; THCa in its raw form does not produce a high. However, when heated, THCa undergoes decarboxylation to become THC, which is psychoactive.

Image of a woman exhaling cannabis smoke.

The intrigue surrounding THCa's effects has led to the development of vast legal cannabis market. High THCa products such as THCa flower and THCa concentrates cater to an endless variety of cannabis users. Consumers living states where cannabis is illegal can easily purchase THCa products and have them delivered to their door. And, for those living in legal states, ordering THCa online is much cheaper than buying at their local dispensary.

Continuing this discussion, let's get into the legal status of THCa. While this cannabinoid has become easily available online and in stores, many still question its legal status.

Is THCa Legal?

In the United States, the legality of THCa has become quite the controversy. The legal landscape surrounding hemp and cannabinoids like THCa is complex with laws constantly changing from state to state. THCa's legal status on a federal level, according to many hemp lawyers, is much less complex. Because the 2018 Farm Bill does not mention THCa, these lawyers argue hemp products containing THCa are perfectly legal.

Image of a wooden gavel.

However, many states have decided to amend their rules and regulations for hemp products, banning THCa outright. On the other hand, some states have kept their laws aligned with the 2018 Farm Bill. This has caused a cannabis civil war as hemp companies and hemp users alike fight over the legality of THCa.

Mass Confusion: Legal States vs Illegal States

In states where cannabis is legal, the sale of THCa is typically limited to medical and recreational dispensaries. Residents in these states who follow the state law for cannabis can usually possess THCa legally. Ordering THCa hemp online in these states may be frowned upon, but it isn't likely to result in legal trouble.

Image of a person using a laptop.

In illegal states, sales and possession of THCa are almost always going to be illegal in the eyes of the state. Yes, many lawyers argue the 2018 Farm Bill makes THCa legal to sell and use in all states, but good luck arguing this in court. Lawyers using this argument lose cases, and people do go to jail for using 'legal THCa' in illegal states.

Putting it Simply

THCa is classified similarly to regular THC in states where cannabis is illegal because of its psychoactive potential. However, in areas where medical or recreational cannabis is legal, authorities generally treat THCa as a legal cannabis product.

The confusion of THCa's legal status across the country highlights the need for clear and uniform regulatory guidelines. Until the federal government amends the 2018 Farm Bill exclusively stating THCa's legality, this confusion will certainly continue. Before buying THCa online or in stores, be sure to check up on your states local laws and regulations.

What Does THCa Do to the Brain?

While THC’s psychoactive effects are well known, THCa's interaction with the brain is a subject of growing interest. Unlike THC, which binds to CB1 receptors in the brain to produce psychoactive effects, THCa does not bind with these receptors. However, preliminary research suggests THCa may possess anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective, and anti-emetic properties, offering potential therapeutic benefits without the psychoactivity associated with THC. Of course, it is important to note that adding heat converts THCa into THC, losing these benefits.

Colorful illustration of human brain.

These findings have sparked interest in further research to fully understand how THCa interacts with the brain. Particularly of interest, THCa's possible role in treating conditions such as epilepsy, neurodegenerative diseases, and nausea. As research continues, the therapeutic potential of THCa as a non-psychoactive alternative to THC seems promising.

Does THCa Show Up On a Drug Test?

A common concern among cannabis users is whether THCa consumption will result in a positive drug test. Standard drug tests designed to detect cannabis use typically look for THC or its metabolites.

Image of a lab technician performing a urinalysis drug test.

Since THCa is a different compound, most standard drug screenings will not detect it. However, if you are using a product containing THCa and you are heating it, you are basically consuming THC. Smoking or vaporizing any THCa product will result in THC being present in your system and you will fail a drug test!

Eating THCa on the other hand is much less likely to result in a positive drug test. This is because the THCa is not encountering heat to trigger a conversion to THC at any point in the consumption process. Though, this method of consuming THCa is much less common, when's the last time you saw THCa gummies for sale?

Where Can I Buy THCa?

For those interested in exploring the potential benefits of THCa, finding reliable and legal sources is key. The availability of products, such as THCa flower and THCa concentrates is growing every day as demand soars. In areas where cannabis is legal, dispensaries and cannabis shops offer a range of THCa products. Consumers can search for "THCa near me" to find local retailers that carry these products.

Photo of a cannabis shop sign.

Online platforms also offer access to THCa products, with various websites specializing in hemp derived THCa. When looking to buy THCa online, it's important to verify the legality of these products in your area. Just as important, if not more important, is choosing a reputable vendor with third party lab results.

Photo of a person shopping online.

The online market can be super sketchy and many of these vendors could care less about your health. Check legality, check for reviews and lab results, and purchase with caution. If you have questions about buying THCa online, you can always get in touch with our team at Sauce Warehouse for guidance.


The discussion of THCa versus Delta-9 THC reveals a landscape rich in controversy and scientific interest. While THCa itself does not produce the psychoactive effects associated with THC, applying heat will transform THCa into THC. This conversion process known as decarboxylation converts non psychoactive THCa into psychoactive THC.

THCa is a controversial cannabinoid rising in popularity each day. THCa has long been available in dispensaries, but is now easily found for sale online thanks to the 2018 Farm Bill. With its arguable legal status, unique molecular structure, and therapeutic potential, it's sure to remain a hot topic.

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