THCA, or tetrahydrocannabinolic acid, is making waves in the cannabis industry for many reasons, with the main one being that this natural acidic compound found in hemp and marijuana plants is inactive in its raw form, but converts to good ol' fashioned THC when heated up.
THCA also has a plethora of effects and benefits that have made it the center of attention since its inception into the mainstream cannabis market, but some doubts remain about this new stoner superstar.
The answer to this question is simpler than you think, but before we get into technicalities and chemical reactions that make THCA edibles different from THCA smokables, let’s take a step back and learn a little more about THCA itself.
Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA) is an inactive raw compound found abundantly in unprocessed cannabis plants. THCA is the precursor to THC, meaning all the THC you've ever smoked, eaten, vaped, drank, or otherwise absorbed into your bloodstream, actually started out as THCA.
So, how the heck does that happen? How does THCA become THC?
In one word: decarboxylation. In more than one word, this process occurs when cannabis flower is heated up or dried out. When cannabis is heated, the decarboxylation process is triggered, causing the carboxyl group (-COOH) linked to the THCA molecule to break away.
With the loss of this carboxyl group via heat, THCA effectively becomes THC, transforming is previously inactive and non-psychoactive nature into the THC we all know and love, effects, highs, and all.
But apart from being able to perform the coolest magic trick in nature, THCA also boasts several potentially beneficial properties that have piqued interest within health and wellness communities, including:
Potential appetite loss and nausea relief
Potential to provide mild to moderate management of pain and discomforts
May aid in brain health
Now that you’re more familiar with THCA, its effects and benefits, and how the decarboxylation process works, let’s jump into the good stuff. Why don't THCA gummies work the same way as THCA vapes or flower?
THCA gummies are a popular form of cannabis-infused edibles that contain THCA-rich extracts or concentrates derived from raw cannabis. These gummies are meticulously crafted to provide a convenient and palatable way of consuming THCA.
The Creation Process
The manufacturing process typically involves the extraction of THCA-rich cannabis extracts, which are then incorporated into gummy formulations. Unlike smoking, vaping, or other forms of heat exposure, THCA gummies are not subjected to heat during the manufacturing process.
Why Gummies Don't Hit Like Smokables
Because the THCA in THCA gummies is not exposed to heat at any point in the manufacturing, and therefore remains in its raw, non-psychoactive form due to the absence of decarboxylation, THCA gummies won't get you high.
That said, users may experience the medicinal attributes associated with THCA, such as potential anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective, or antiemetic effects, without the typical high associated with THC consumption.
A lot of THCA gummies, however, are blended with other cannabinoids, such as delta 8 or delta 9. If your gummies contain cannabinoid blends containing other, psychoactive cannabinoids, then you will catch a buzz from them, just not from the THCA.
Can THCA Edibles Be Psychoactive?
Although the typical gummy manufacturing process doesn't make room for decarboxylation, homemade THCA edibles can still be psychoactive. Say you buy some fragrant, high-quality THCA flower and decide to bake it into brownies or take your own shot at making home-made edibles.
You can decarboxylate your THCA flower and put them in your edibles, making your edibles psychoactive. If you want some more info on that, check out our article on how to make cannabutter.
THCA vapes are inhalable products that deliver concentrated THCA through vaporization. These products typically involve the extraction of THCA-rich concentrates from raw cannabis flowers or plants.
The Creation Process
The manufacturing process for THCA vapes involves carefully extracting and purifying THCA, which is then formulated into vape cartridges or oils suitable for vaporization using specialized devices like vape pens or vaporizers.
Why Vapes Cause A Buzz
Vaping is a process that involves heating the THCA extract to a specific temperature, typically around 315°F (157°C) or higher, within a vape device.
This controlled heat exposure triggers decarboxylation, converting THCA into its psychoactive counterpart, THC. As the THCA-rich material is vaporized and inhaled, the heat-induced decarboxylation transforms THCA molecules into THC molecules, resulting in the activation of the psychoactive properties.
The conversion of THCA to THC through vaping allows for the rapid onset of euphoria, altered perception, and other psychotropic effects commonly associated with THC consumption.
Inhaled THC reaches the bloodstream quickly through the lungs, providing users with a faster and more intense psychoactive experience compared to non-heated THCA consumption methods.
Legality and Accessibility
User interest in THCA is growing rapidly, but the legality of these products can be a bit of a puzzle depending on where you are. Different regions have different rules, making it essential for consumers to grasp the legal lay of the land.
At the federal level, the passage of the Farm Bill in 2018 decriminalized hemp-derived products containing less than 0.3% delta-9-THC. This legislation distinguished hemp from marijuana, paving the way for the legal production and sale of hemp-derived THCA products.
This means that technically speaking, even though THCA does convert to THC upon heating, THCA and THC are two different cannabinoids, with the former not having a legal limit of 0.3% or less. This makes THCA derived from hemp federally legal, even when THC is not.
Don't you love loopholes?
State-by-State Variability: Cannabis Legalization and Regulation
While federal law sets a foundation, individual states retain significant autonomy in regulating cannabis products. As of now, many states have legalized medical and/or recreational cannabis, allowing for the legal sale and consumption of THCA products.
However, the specifics can differ widely from one state to another.
Some states have legalized recreational marijuana, while other states remain strictly hemp-friendly in accordance with the federal Farm Bill. Out of the 50 US states, only three have outlawed hemp-derived THCA:
THCA Market Trends and Availability: What People Want
The availability and trends for THCA gummies and vapes are shaped by what consumers like, the rules in place, and how the industry is changing. In places where both are legal, companies tend to offer a variety of flavors, doses, and types to cater to different preferences.
Gummies are popular for their easy and discreet use, appealing to those who want an alternative to smoking. On the flip side, THCA vapes attract people who prefer a quick onset of effects and a more personalized experience.
The market responds to these preferences by providing plenty of options in each category.
In a nutshell, whether THCA gummies or vapes are legal and how they're sold depends on the rules in each area. As the cannabis industry keeps evolving, staying in the know about the law and market trends is crucial for anyone looking to dive into the world of THCA products.
Health and Safety Considerations
Whether you want to eat, vape, or smoke THCA, it's vital to start with low doses and gradually increase to assess personal tolerance. Users should opt for products from reputable brands that undergo rigorous testing to ensure quality and purity.
Consulting healthcare professionals before using THCA products is also recommended, particularly for individuals with existing health conditions or those on medications. This professional guidance can help individuals navigate potential interactions and tailor usage to their specific needs, promoting safe and responsible consumption.
User Experiences and Testimonials
Users experimenting with THCA gummies often report a slower onset of effects compared to other cannabis products. Many find these gummies convenient for discreet consumption, appreciating their potential therapeutic benefits without the intense high.
Conversely, individuals opting for THCA vapes report a more rapid onset of effects, which includes a quicker elevation of mood and potential therapeutic benefits, as well as bold psychoactive effects.
Preferences between THCA gummies and vapes often stem from users' expectations, lifestyle, and desired outcomes.
Those seeking subtle and longer-lasting effects while avoiding a noticeable high tend to favor gummies for their convenience and discreet consumption. Meanwhile, individuals prioritizing psychoactive experiences or a faster onset of effects might lean towards vaping THCA due to its quicker action.
Overall, user preferences vary widely based on individual needs and experiences. Some prefer the slower onset and gradual relief of gummies, while others prioritize the rapid effects and customization offered by vaping.
These preferences underscore the diverse ways individuals seek to integrate THCA into their wellness routines, considering factors like convenience, desired effects, and potential health considerations.
Here’s a clearer breakdown:
No decarboxylation; no conversion to THC
Decarboxylation occurs, converting THCA to THC
Slower onset due to digestion and metabolism
Rapid onset as THC enters the bloodstream quickly
Duration of Effects
Longer-lasting due to slower absorption
Relatively shorter duration due to rapid onset
Intensity of Effects
No psychoactive effects, non-euphoric
Intense psychoactive effects, euphoric
Mild therapeutic effects, potential anti-inflammatory, anti-nausea, and pain-management properties
Limited therapeutic effects due to rapid conversion to THC
Subtle and steady relief, discreet, convenient
Immediate and potent psychoactive experience, intense high
THCA: Frequently Asked Questions
Exploring the diverse world of THCA opens up a myriad of questions. From the subtle yet distinct differences between THCA gummies and vapes to their effects on the mind and body, understanding these nuances is pivotal for informed consumption.
What is THCA, and how does it differ from THC?
THCA (Tetrahydrocannabinolic Acid) is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid found in raw cannabis. It differs from THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) in that it doesn't induce the typical "high" associated with THC until it's decarboxylated, converting THCA into THC.
Do THCA gummies produce a high?
THCA gummies, due to the lack of decarboxylation, do not usually produce a psychoactive effect similar to THC. The effects are often more subtle and slower to onset compared to THC-infused edibles.
What are the advantages of using THCA gummies over other forms?
THCA gummies offer discreet consumption and longer-lasting effects for individuals seeking therapeutic benefits without a high. They can be a preferred choice for those sensitive to THC's psychoactive effects.
How do THCA vapes differ from gummies in terms of effects?
THCA vapes deliver a more rapid onset of effects due to the immediate conversion of THCA into THC through the vaping process. Additionally, vaping activates the process of decarboxylation, turning THCA into THC and resulting in psychoactive effects.
Are there any potential health risks associated with consuming THCA gummies or vapes?
While research on THCA is ongoing, there are minimal known health risks specifically attributed to THCA consumption. However, it's essential to consider the potential impacts of additives in vape products and the respiratory implications of vaping.
Can THCA gummies or vapes show up on a drug test?
Yes. Although drug tests typically target THC rather than THCA, certain tests detect THC metabolites resulting from the conversion of THCA. As with any cannabis-related product, it's best to not consume THCA if you've got a drug test coming up.
Deciding Between THCA Gummies and Vapes: A Personalized Approach
So, there you have it - the lowdown on THCA and its transformation into the THC we all know. Just a little heat, and voila! But it's not just about the magic of turning inactive THCA into the buzz-worthy THC; there's more to this cannabinoid.
THCA brings potential benefits, from curbing appetite to maybe easing pain and looking out for your brain health. Whether you want to enjoy THCA in its raw, non-psychoactive form via THCA gummies or wild out with decarboxylated THCA in the form of vapes or other inhalable products, you’ll have a good time either way.
Remember, THCA is a versatile compound, and how you use it depends on your preferences.