THC vs THCA: What You Need to Know

By now you’ve probably heard of THC. This cannabinoid has become the rock star of the cannabis world, prized by recreational and medicinal users alike for its mind-altering, euphoric, and therapeutic properties. But THC is just one of over 100 different cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. Another cannabinoid that has been garnering some buzz  recently is THCA–a close relative of THC, but not quite the same thing. What is THCA and why does this cannabinoid matter? Here’s what you need to know about THC vs THCA!

What Is THCA?

If you’ve ever shopped at a cannabis dispensary, you’ve probably noticed that almost every batch of cannabis flower, pack of pre-rolls, and tin of concentrates has a clearly marked THC percentage on its label. Because THC is such a crucial part of the cannabis experience and can have varying effects on people, state regulations require that  consumers know just how much of it each product contains.

However, you may be surprised to learn that, despite what their labels say, many of these products don’t actually contain any THC at all. How is that possible? They actually contain a cannabinoid called THCA. While you may think that the frosty trichomes on cannabis flower contain the THC responsible for cannabis’ effects, in reality THC doesn’t exist—at least not yet.


Just what is THCA and what is the difference between THC vs THCA? THCA, also known as tetrahydrocannabinolic acid, is considered to be the precursor cannabinoid to THC. An acidic precursor to be exact, hence the ‘A’ at the end of its name.

In its natural state, the cannabis plant produces acidic cannabinoids, so not just THCA but CBDA, and CBGA, for example. In order to become THC, it must be converted from THCA. This effectively means that without THCA there can be no THC.

To get THC from THCA, cannabis must go through a process called decarboxylation. This process effectively exposes THCA to heat, allowing it to break down into THC. One way to do this, when making edibles or tinctures at home for example, is by placing cannabis flower in an oven for a set amount of time and at a set temperature.. Another way is by applying heat to cannabis plant matter with a vaporizer or a lighter. In one case, THCA is slowly converted into THC over time in the oven. In the other, the conversion takes place instantly when the lighter’s flame hits the plant matter. THCA also breaks down into THC at ambient temperatures over time and with exposure to light.

Does THCA gets you high? The simple answer is no. The big difference between these two is that, unlike THC, THCA does not produce the same intoxicating effects. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that THCA does not offer its own benefits.

THCA Benefits

If THC does all the heavy lifting, what is THCA good for, really? Much of the current research investigating cannabinoid acids has been done in animals and more research will be needed to fully understand its impact, but initial research is uncovering some interesting avenues for THCA’s use. Some potential THCA benefits that have been suggested include  neuroprotective properties, anti-inflammatory properties, metabolic benefits and anticonvulsant benefits in certain seizure models.

The Difference Between THC and THCA: Wrapping Up

If you’re interested in trying THCA out for yourself, you could do so by eating cannabis flower or using buds to infuse a tea. But that isn’t your only option!

With growing consumer interest in THCA, you may be able to find this acidic cannabinoid specially-formulated extracts like edibles and tinctures. What is a high THCA percentage? The same as a high THC percentage, somewhere in the 20%–30% range.

Check out our online menus or come by any of our dispensary locations in Illinois, Massachusetts or Michigan to shop a wide selection of cannabis products including premium and high-THC flower. We look forward to seeing you!