Understanding THCA; its uses and benefits

The truth about THCa; its use, risks and benefits
The Cannaphile

The best dispensary flower and concentrates is THCa for a reason; it’s the exact same as bud and oil from legal state cannabis grows. Exactly the same… and yet, different.

I know. Confusing, right?

Don’t worry, though. At Apotheca, we like informed customers. It helps people make educated decisions when it comes to their self care. 

This guide will break down the basics (and a little bit more) with the truth about THCa. We’ll see how it involves delta-9 and the connection to the (in)famous THC.

Apotheca and the best THCa

Of course, we also think the truth helps people appreciate good products, like what’s carried at Apotheca. And, while this article isn’t a sales pitch, there will be lots of references to what we do. 

So, full disclosure, we offer goods both in our web store and storefronts in three states.

Dispensary grade

Good products pay the bills, but Apotheca’s mission includes more than money. We’re here to also offer great guidance with expert personal service, armed with trustworthy information. 

And THCa is a game changer, even though there’s nothing new about  this one love, except for one thing. THCa has been Federally legal since 2018.

This incredible compound offers us a chance to make connections of all kinds, including you! So welcome to these words and feel free to comment. 

One love in common

We offer a trustworthy look at something we all love- delta-9 THC. Because, when it comes to chemistry, both THC and THCa involve delta-9.

Delta-9 is the ultimate outcome of THCa and the euphoric high all potheads know and love. And, the chemistry behind delta-9 is the same that gives us potent edibles.

So, we will refer to the premium products we carry in this article when appropriate. But, there’s a lot to cover for the cannabis lover…

…especially when it comes to the best THCa flower, edibles, concentrates, vapes, carts and more!

How THCa becomes delta-9

Wait, wait, wait. We are jumping the gun! First, we have to talk about what THCa is, right? I mean, we’ve all heard of regular THC. For years, it’s all we knew.

Turns out, the full name is ∆9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or delta-9 THC (D9, for short). Science knew this compound was key in the marijuana high, so feared by prohibitionists.

But science was stunted because of those prohibitive practices. All the proclamations about marijuana craze and its evil culture were finally shown for their truths; all bullshit.

But how THCa becomes D9 takes a deeper dive.

Understanding THCa

Inside every cannabis plant, there are more than 100 known compounds, called phytocannabinoids (‘phyto,’ meaning plant). The number is still growing.

Most of these compounds are found in very small, trace amounts. These minor cannabinoids include delta-8 THC, delta-11 THC and cannabinol (CBN).

However, there are eight major cannabinoids produced in the cannabis sativa plant.

CBDa (Cannabidiolic acid)

CBCa (Cannabichromenenic acid)

CBGa (Cannabigerolic acid)

THCa (Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinolic acid)

CBCVa (Cannabichromevarinic acid)

CBDVa (Cannabidivarinic acid)

CBGVa (Cannabigerovarinic acid)

THCVa (Tetrahydrocanabivarinic acid)


Notably, the cannabis plant doesn’t make THC or CBD. Instead, the chemical structure of many cannabinoids include an ‘A,’ meaning a molecule with an acid functional group.

Without getting too technical, the plant produces compounds in their acid state. So, CBD starts as CBDa and THC starts as THCa. 

Well, technically, they both start as cannabigerol (CBG), aka ‘The Mother of All Cannabinoids,’ but that’s a whole other blog!

So, how do we get the more popularly known THC, CBD, CBG, CBN (and others)? Well, in chemistry, it just takes a little heat to change the circumstances.


Cannabinoids are largely produced in the growing flower of the plant. These ‘colas’ are often sticky to the touch because of trichomes, which include cannabinoids, terpenes and more.

Now, over time, a cannabis plant is harvested at the peak of its maturity. Colas then go through a curing process that includes careful trimming and drying.

Dried cannabis flower retains cannabinoids in their raw, acid form. If you ate raw cannabis, there would be no psychotropic effects. That happens after the carboxyl chain is dropped.

THC chemistry

The simple act of heating cannabis between 222º and 240º F changes everything! This causes the acid group to drop off the molecule in a process called decarboxylation, or decarbing.

Decarbing is necessary to make the bud psychoactive. It’s also necessary to get the activated version of CBD, CBN, CBG and others. 

So, a pre roll joint filled with THCa flower (perfectly ground, of course) won’t get you high until you fire it up. The simple act of pulling heat through the joint activates the THC.

THCa flower, dabs, vapes- which is best

Since THCa has no psychoactive effects until heated, you won’t see it in many edibles. That’s more for D9 THC, D8 THC and even CBD. All compounds activated already.

The products you smoke and vape are popular for THCa. That’s because in this raw state, they are still compliant with the Federal 2018 Farm Bill.

Once those raw cannabinoids hit the heat, though, they instantly decarb. Cannabinoids change to help us change. Who knew chemistry could be so fun?!

THCa power

In its raw form, THCa is being studied for many reasons. There’s promise for its anti-nausea, anti-seizure, anti-inflammatory and neuro-protective properties.

For those reasons, some people do consume raw weed. They add it to foods that are not cooked, to keep it raw and not psychoactive.

As a major cannabinoid, THCa’s true power is its ability to work with other cannabinoids in your body. They can enhance and offset one another, creating an ‘entourage effect.’

THCa in the body

Once THCa has been ingested or decarbed, how it enters the bloodstream depends on the method used. In its raw state, that means by eating, in topicals or tinctures.

But once it’s in the system, THCa in the body acts as something special. Without decarbing, there is no psychoactivity. It’s impossible. THCa is the wrong shape.

We know this because of how cannabinoids work and how mammal bodies work. There is a whole endo (inside) cannabinoid system (ECS) controlling it all.

Cannabinoid use

Nearly every cell in your body has special receptors made just for transporting cannabinoids. Called CB1 and CB2, cannabinoids latch on to one receptor or the other, depending on shape.

These receptors act like locks. One type moves cannabinoids to the nervous system (CB1) and the other to the immune system (CB2). 

And, cannabinoids have to be the right shape to fit the receptor, just like a key and lock. CBD doesn’t fit the CB1 receptor, thus a minimal effect on neurology but full force in the immune system.

Cannabinoid control

The body’s endocannabinoid system helps all major organs, including your skin, stay healthy. It uses chemicals it makes itself, as well as those made outside the body, to do this.

The ECS is sort of like a healthcare dispatch. It sends different compounds where needed to achieve homeostasis, or healthy balance.

We are still learning about cannabinoids. More than the 100+ cannabinoids have been identified. But, research about the effects of each as well as their entourage effects, will be ongoing.


Yes, THCa is non psychoactive and THC is very euphoric. But, these two compounds, while two sides of the same coin, have many distinctions. 

Firstly, THCa doesn’t affect the ECS except on the periphery. It cannot attach the way active cannabinoids can. However, ongoing studies show interesting results.

Potential therapeutic effects of THCa

Data shows THCa doesn’t provide pain relief like THC does. However, studies have shown

THC attaches to the CB1 cell receptors for the fast track to the nervous system. Results include heightened senses, time distortion, increased appetite and more. 

Medicinal effects of THC 

In addition to euphoria, THC also has potential medicinal effects for conditions like:

  • pain
  • nausea
  • reduced appetite
  • insomnia

Using THCa

Since THCa is a raw cannabinoid, smoking or vaping will decarb it to THC. Then it wouldn't be THCa. But cannabinoids can enter the body in many ways beyond the lungs.

The easiest way to consume THCa is by eating raw cannabis like any other dried herb. But, to avoid the taste and texture of raw cannabis, juicing or smoothies also preserve the raw state.

There are other methods to ingest THCa. Popular THCa products include tinctures for fast effects, topicals like balms and butters for skin care and supplements like capsules.

THCa legality

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The legal status of THCa is a bit of a mix. Federally legal with the signing of the 2018 Farm Bill, but prohibited by many states in the U.S.

Although it THCa by itself does not have euphoric effects, it easily turns psychoactive. More importantly, to the law, it is one of the chemical compounds found in cannabis. 

Over time, THCa degrades naturally to THC and eventually into cannabinol (CBN) which also has a few intoxicating effects.

Best THCa near me

Apotheca sells legal THCa products without requiring medical cards. This is due to the legal status of industrial cannabis, also called hemp. But, it’s the same plant no matter what it’s called.

To states where it’s legal, Apotheca sells the best THCa products! This includes jarred flower and concentrates for dabs, just as potent as those made in legal states. 

And, all Apotheca brand flower is trusted and tested by independent 3rd party laboratories. This ensures all product is compliant, while revealing high numbers to elevate your day.

THCa and drug testing

Remember that raw THCa is not psychoactive. But, drug tests can also find more cannabinoids than psychoactive THC, so it’s likely that even legal cannabinoids can cause positives.

On the other hand, if you consume THCA through edibles, it is still possible for the cannabinoid to show on a drug test. However, that is less likely because most tests aren't sophisticated enough to detect minute quantities of THCA.

THCa, delta 8 & delta 9: same?

The major cannabinoid, delta 9 THC (D9), is the psychoactive powerhouse of cannabis. THCa has an acid group attached to the THC molecule, rendering it non psychoactive.

On the other hand, delta 8 (D8) is chemically similar to delta 9, but structurally different. That means euphoric effects that are different in potency, duration and more, depending on the user.

The effects of D8, D9 and THCa are all potential potent, but in different ways. One thig the share in common is the ability to enhance and offset one another in the entourage effect.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is THCa?

Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid is a non-psychoactive, major cannabinoid produced by the cannabis plant. Early studies indicate it may be helpful in managing symptoms of a diverse array of medical conditions including seizures and arthritis.

What are potential uses of THCa?

But aside from that, many researchers believe that THCa can also be used as a neuroprotectant. 

THCa shows promise in managing the symptoms of Alzheimer's, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson's disease.

And, early available data suggests that THCa may also help with some eating disorders. This includes improving appetite among patients with anorexia nervosa and cachexia.

How Do You Use THCa?

THCa is currently available in a variety of forms, depending on taste. There’s raw cannabis flower, topicals for skin care, fast-acting tinctures and even bath salts and capsules.

THCa can also be eaten as edibles in juices and smoothies. These methods do not heat the THCa, thus preventing its conversion into THC.

Does THCa have psychoactive properties?

Yes. While THCa is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid, it is the precursor to euphoric THC. THCa will not get you high until decarboxylated with heat. 

THCa does not bind with any cannabinoid receptors in your body. Instead, research suggests it affects the ECS from the periphery.

Remember the application of heat converts non psychoactive THCa to psychoactive THC.

Is THCa legal in the United States?

The Farm Bill of 2018 legalized all hemp-derived products containing less than 0.3% delta-9 THC. Manufacturers adhere to strict standards, ensuring compliance as well as testing all products for potency and purity.

THCa is not the same as delta-9 THC because they have different chemical structures. THCa is classified as a hemp-derived product that may be sold and used in the United States.

Currently, there are no specific laws that ban THCa. However, there are certain states that prohibit the sale of THCA products.

Be aware that laws change and can be amended. Before buying THCa, consult with the existing rules and regulations in your area.

Do THCa and other cannabis products expire?

Yes. Cannabis products, including THCa, have shelf lives. It depends on the type of product as well as any extraction methods and preparation processes used. Also, some cannabis products use other ingredients to enhance potency and prolong shelf life. Even cannabis buds that do not contain additional ingredients expire, no matter how well stored.

When cannabis products expire, they lose their potency and become unfit for human consumption. Some people use the eye and smell test to gauge the viability of cannabis products. But, the best option is to refer to product labels and ensure that you aren't leaving anything to chance.

Most products, including cannabis products, come with sell and use-by dates. You can use these dates as guidelines to know when you can consume the products you bought. Once these dates elapse, it is possible that the product may no longer be fresh or as potent. Additionally, expired products may become susceptible to the growth of harmful microorganisms.

Storing cannabis products right

With cannabis products, cannabinoids and terpenes may degrade. And when this happens, these products may be less potent and lose their aroma and flavor.

Exposure to heat and light and improper storage can also alter the quality of cannabis products. THCa, in particular, can lose its potency when exposed to heat.

Production methods can also influence the shelf life of cannabis products. Products like waxes, tinctures, infusions and shatter are made through different extraction processes that seek to preserve as many cannabinoids as possible. However, there are extraction methods that leave impurities like fats.es

Cannabis expiration dates

Without filtration, these impurities remain. Lipids, in particular, are harmful, especially when a cannabis product is used beyond the expiration date. Using expired cannabis products, especially when heat is applied to them, can leave you vulnerable to toxins. If your cannabis product is expired, err on the side of caution and discard it.

The one downside of eliminating impurities during the extraction and filtration processes is that cannabinoids and terpenes can degrade rapidly. 

The best THCa comes from reputable sources

Want to check out the best THCa online? Apotheca offers THCa in the form of flower and concentrates. Browse our curated offerings here.