What Is TAC In Weed? The Difference Between TAC vs THC

Okay, good news / bad news.

First, the bad: If you’re already up to your eyeballs in weed acronyms—THC, CBD, CBG, CBN and all the others—we’ve got one more for you. But the good news is that TAC is one of the most exciting concepts to hit the cannabis world in years, and we’re excited to share it with you today.

What is TAC in weed? “TAC” stands for “total active cannabinoids,” and it’s a great way to understand not just THC or CBD contents but the whole ecosystem of compounds present in any given strain of cannabis. The idea is that by understanding TAC, weed lovers can better predict the effects of what they’re smoking, vaping, or otherwise ingesting.

So, with all that said, let’s dive into the topic of total active cannabinoids. In today’s post we’ll share:

  • What are cannabinoids?
  • How many cannabinoids are there in cannabis?
  • What does TAC mean?
  • What does the “active” mean in total active cannabinoids?
  • What’s the entourage effect?
  • How can I find the TAC on cannabis products?

That’s a lot to chew on! Let’s get started with a refresher on the cannabinoids.

Let’s Talk the “C” in TAC: Cannabinoids

We promise we’ll go easy on the science, but if there’s one concept about weed you need to understand, it’s the cannabinoids. A large family of natural compounds, cannabinoids include THC and CBD, the two most studied and medically active ones, but as we’ll see, they’re hardly the end of the story.


Let’s start with THC, short for tetrahydrocannabinol (don’t worry, you’ll literally never have to say that word your entire life, we promise). It’s the most abundant cannabinoid and the one that tends to get the most attention, for good reason. The psychoactive “high” that cannabis is famous (and infamous) for? That’s mostly due to THC, as are a number of intriguing medical benefits, like helping manage chronic pain to taming insomnia, and more.


The so-called “second cannabinoid” is CBD, short for cannabidiol. It’s not considered intoxicating, though many people find it imparts a pleasing buzz, kind of like a less aggro version of caffeine. But it’s in its range of medical effects that CBD truly shines. In addition to potentially improving sleep and reducing anxiety, CBD has demonstrated pain-fighting effects completely separate from those of THC. Early research indicates that CBD could even help support clearer, healthier skin!

Acidic Cannabinoids

That’s a great introduction for now, but before we move on, we’re going to throw you a little curveball. Cannabinoids—including THC and CBD—have an acidic form, which is a chemical precursor to the cannabinoid that isn’t yet active, meaning it won’t have any effect if you ingest it. THC’s precursor is “THCA,” while CBD’s is “CBDA.” Keep those names in your back pocket; we’ll get back to them in just a moment, we promise!

What Does TAC Mean? Beyond THC and CBD

THC and CBD are hardly the end of the story. At present, research has uncovered over 100 cannabinoids in the cannabis plant (in addition to hundreds of terpenes and other compounds). Some of the major players you may have already heard of include:

At the highest level, the idea of total active cannabinoids encompasses the full spectrum of cannabinoids present in a product.

Why TAC Is Important: The Endocannabinoid System

No matter which cannabinoids we’re talking about, there’s one thing that links them all together, and that’s the endocannabinoid system (ECS). It’s a truly remarkable regulatory network that helps us (and all mammals, and other creatures, too) regulate many essential biological functions, including:

  • Appetite and metabolism
  • Immune response
  • Memory
  • Proper sleep function
  • Communication between cells

Believe it or not, given how important these processes are, our knowledge of the ECS system is still relatively new. We’ve only known about the ECS for about thirty years, which means that many doctors working in the field today don’t even know of its existence!

That’s one of the major reasons we make it our, well…mission to share authoritative cannabis research with you. Because the sooner doctors understand that cannabis medicine is a valid support for our wellness and health, the sooner everyone can take advantage of this gentle and sustainable plant-based solution.

Getting back to the topic of cannabinoids: As we get a handle on the entire spectrum of cannabinoids and what they do, we’re actually getting closer to the whole point of this article, which is to talk about the TAC—remember, that’s the “total active cannabinoids”—present in a given cannabis product, and why it’s such a powerful way to think about why you might want to try certain strains while leaving others on the shelf.

What Are “Active” Cannabinoids?

By now, you’ve probably picked up on the major distinction between TAC vs THC, how the first one is the total cannabinoids present in a strain, while the second is merely a single cannabinoid (even if it’s the most prominent one in the cannabis ecosystem). Now it’s time to drill a little deeper: What are “active” cannabinoids, and what does a TAC number really tell us?

Remember when we talked about the acidic precursors to cannabinoids, such as THCA and CBDA? An “active” cannabinoid means one that’s been converted from its acidic form to one that can be absorbed by the endocannabinoid system, and it happens through a process called “decarboxylation.”

Decarboxylation: Dialing Up the Heat

Decarboxylation is a tongue-twister of a word, but it’s simpler than it sounds. Decarboxylation is initiated by heat—like the heat you apply smoking or vaping flower, or the process of making cannabis concentrates, tinctures, and other products. “Active” cannabinoids are decarboxylated ones.

What TAC Tells Us

Instead of a simple THC and CBD percentage and possibly a ratio—which is what you’ll currently see on most product labels—a TAC listing can be more nuanced and useful. We say “can be” because while some labels simply a TAC as a single figure, meaning “this product contains a cumulative total of active cannabinoids per gram (or other unit of measure),” others provide it as an itemized breakdown of all the active cannabinoids present. And when it comes to tailoring the kind of cannabis experience you want to have, that’s a mighty powerful tool.

Why? It all boils down to something called the entourage effect.

TAC and the Entourage Effect

Even from the first days of modern cannabis research in the 1960s, scientists suspected that different cannabinoids (and even terpenes) worked together to strengthen, moderate, or otherwise alter each other’s effects.

These days, a number of clinical studies support this theory. And while the exact workings of the entourage effect will likely take years to tease out, some things are already known.

For instance, some studies have found that CBD may counteract some of the potential side effects of THC, including anxiety and paranoia. And another study found that the presence of CBD and CBG exerted changes on THC’s native anti-cancer cell properties.

As we said, there’s much more to be learned about the entourage effect. But the takeaway is clear: As the interactions between cannabinoids come into better focus, knowing exactly which cannabinoids are present in a given product is a powerful tool in helping us tailor both the subjective experience—meaning, what the high feels like—as well as getting even better results from cannabis when we use it in medical settings.

Weed Labeling May Soon Change

Because each state’s cannabis labeling regulations are slightly different, for the time being it’s up to cannabis producers to provide detailed TAC content. We’re excited to see more of these detailed descriptions appearing on the cannabis products we sell, and we hope to see many more in the months and years to come.

And no matter what, it’s a reminder to always buy your cannabis from reputable licensed dispensaries such as ours. Why? Every single product we offer is rigorously tested for potency and cannabinoid content, in addition to being screened for any potential contaminants. It’s your guarantee of getting clean, potent, and fresh cannabis, each and every time.

Explore All the Cannabinoids at Your Local Mission Dispensary

As we’ve seen, TAC has the potential to help launch a new way of describing and quantifying the effects of cannabis products. As a measure of the total active cannabinoids in cannabis—not just their THC and CBD content—TAC labels can give us useful, real-world information on exactly which cannabinoids are present in weed, and that can, in turn, help us make more informed decisions about our cannabis experiences.

Now that you’ve got a handle on the difference between TAC vs THC, it just might be time to put your knowledge to the test! Begin by choosing the Mission dispensary closest to you, where you’ll find an incredible selection of every type of cannabis product you could imagine, from fresh-grown flower to potent concentrates like live resin and shatter to edibles, tinctures, topicals and beyond.

If you still have questions about TAC, just visit any of our locations and ask your friendly budtender for more information on TAC. We hope to see you soon!