THCA flower hemp and legality
- On 2023-01-04
THCA Flower – Is it legal and What to Know
Is hemp flower with high THCA legal? This is still a bit of grey area and may depend on the state…
What is the difference between THCA hemp flower and marijuana flower?
How is THCA related to delta 9 THC?
Will THCA flower get you high?
- High THCA hemp flower is very similar to marijuana flower, and will have similar effects.
- The hemp plant typically contains very little THCA, and elevated levels are typically illegal in most state run hemp programs.
- Most CBD flower will contain very small amounts of THCA, so check before smoking cannabis of this type if you get drug tested.
- What is THCA flower?
- Difference between high THCA hemp flower and marijuana
- Is THCA hemp flower illegal?
- Delta 9 THC vs THCA cannabis flower
- High THCA flower benefits
- What is considered a high THCA flower?
- Will THCA show up on a drug test?
What is THCA flower?
THCA (tetrahydrocannabinolic acid) is the most common cannabinoid in marijuana, and usually the second or third most common cannabinoid in hemp flower. It is the precursor to delta 9 THC, the cannabinoid responsible for the euphoric feeling when smoking weed. While the term “THCA flower” is not commonly used, it is accurate when referring to traditional illegal marijuana since it does not get converted to delta 9 THC until heated.
When buds mature on the cannabis plant, they produce over 100 different cannabinoids, although many are considered “minor cannabinoids” because they are low abundance. All cannabinoids in the cannabis flower are derived from two mother cannabinoids, CBGA (cannabigerolic acid) and CBGVA (cannabigerovarinic acid).
Most of the cannabinoids people are familiar with, e.g. THC and CBD, are derived from CBGA interacting with the two different THC and CBD synthases, to produce THCA and CBDA. The “varic” cannabinoids, such as CBDV, are produced from the same synthases, but derived from mother “varic” molecule CBGVA.
In fresh cannabis buds, almost all the cannabinoids are acidic compounds, containing a carboxylic acid, that only comes off when exposed to heat over time. This process called decarboxylation can be found naturally occurring at low rates when the cannabis flowers are dried, but most of it occurs during the extraction and purification process.
What’s the difference between high THCA hemp flower and marijuana?
Cannabis buds marketed as high THCA hemp flower, are almost identical to regular marijuana flowers. Most of the medical and recreational marijuana sold in states where it has legal status will have a THCA percentage in the range of 15-25%.
As you can imagine, anyone selling high THCA hemp flower will know that it will have very similar effects as medical or recreational marijuana since it gets converted to delta 9 THC when smoked.
Is THCA Hemp Flower illegal?
Is THCA flower legal? This is a grey area, and may depend on the state you are in. The federal law that came out of the 2018 federal farm bill stated that hemp flower must contain less than 0.3% DELTA 9 THC on a dry weight basis, but does not mention THCA. At the federal level, all hemp products, flower and oils, must contain 0.3% or less by weight of delta 9 THC.
The stipulation in the federal law is that each state must have a hemp program that oversees and tests hemp flower grown in that state. Depending on how the state tests THCA and delta 9 THC determines the limit of THCA hemp flower.
In the USDA 2021 Laboratory Testing Guidelines, they state:
“Tests shall measure the total THC concentration in a sample submitted to a laboratory for analysis. The laboratory will perform chemical analysis on the sample using postdecarboxylation or other similarly reliable methods where the total THC concentration level considers the potential to convert delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA) into THC.” -USDA Hemp Testing Guidelines 2021
However, this only applies to hemp flower during cultivation, and does not affect THCA levels down the line in hemp products. In theory, if you isolate the THCA from hemp flower, you could put it back into hemp products down the line. This is not an economical process, since you typically don’t see more than 2-3% THCA hemp flower.
Since many states use a gas chromatogram to test the THC in hemp plants, the THCA get decarboxylated into delta 9 THC during the analysis since it requires heat to vaporize the compounds. Thus, high THCA hemp flower would show up as above the legal definition and would have to be discarded since it is now considered controlled substances.
Delta 9 THC vs THCA in cannabis flower
THCA converts to delta 9 THC when smoked or exposed to prolonged heat in a process called decarboxylation. Since THCA is what is naturally produced by the cannabis plant in high percentages, the amount of delta 9 is typically quote low, but can reach 1-2% after harvesting and drying.
The genetic material of the cannabis plant is typically what is sought after by cultivators, as they try to interbreed different strains to reach a higher THCA flower, or for addition of other minor cannabinoids.
High THCA flower for symptom relief
Medical marijuana has been used clinically for a while, and one of the older prescription drugs, marinol, is a pure form of delta 9 THC, and used to treat appetite suppression and vomiting in chemotherapy patients.
Since medical marijuana has gained legal status in many states, it is prescribed for many medical conditions, such as:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
- Crohn’s disease
- Epilepsy and seizures
- Multiple sclerosis and muscle spasms
- Severe and chronic pain
- Severe nausea or vomiting caused by cancer treatment
Does THCA have therapeutic benefits or is it all delta 9?
Although THCA has been studied for its own health benefits, most of the medical prescriptions rely on the benefits of delta 9 THC. These range from anti inflammatory properties, pain relief from the psychoactive effects, and some neuroprotective properties.
What is considered high level THCA?
Working with hemp plants in our laboratory, we typically see very low levels of THCA in the flower, usually under 0.3% by dry weight. In our state, they use a gas chromatogram to test cannabinoid levels, and thus, if the farmer has more than 0.35% of THCA, it will be just on the limit. Since THCA loses weight when it get decarboxylated to delta 9 THC, the total delta 9 by weight will be lower.
For marijuana, a high THCA flower will is typically 20% and above.
For a hemp plant, anything above 0.3% to 0.4% will be considered a high THCA flower due to legal restrictions.
Will THCA appear on a drug test?
Yes. If you will be getting a drug test, we do recommend that you avoid THCA flower.
The main reason is that any THCA flower will have to be consumed using heat, which will convert the THCA to delta 9 THC, which will be picked up on all any drug test. Additionally, any high THCA content oil that will be used in a vape should also be avoided since the this acidic precursor will easily convert over.
Important to note, even if you smoke a labeled CBD flower, you should check the certificate of analysis to see if it contains THCA. While some CBD flower might not be advertised as a high THCA flower, it still could contain 1-3% of THCA if bought in a state that does not consider THCA to be controlled substances.
Caveat: If you have a purified oil that contains THCA, and you ingest it may or may not show up on a traditional drug test. THCA is metabolized in a similar fashion by the liver, producing THCA hydroxy, aldehyde, and glucuronide forms. Depending on the kind of urine test, there may be false positive results that overlap with delta 9 THC, and may require a mass spectrometer to determine the difference.