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What’s the Difference Between THCA and Delta-9?

What’s the Difference Between THCA and Delta-9?

The hemp world is in constant flux, with new compounds and new uses being discovered all the time. So, it’s no surprise that many people are confused when it comes to understanding the differences between all the cannabinoids that have come to fruition on the market—including THCA and Delta-9.

We’re here to help. Discover why you might want to choose one over the other in certain circumstances and dive deeper into other topics on these two cannabis compounds, including questions such as:

  • Is THCA the same as Delta-9 THC?
  • What are the differences between THCA and Delta-9?
  • Is THCA stronger than Delta-9?
  • What should I know about THCA and Delta-9 products?

By the end of this post, you’ll clear up any confusion you have on THCA vs Delta-9 and will be able to confidently shop THCA online from any retailer. Let’s get rolling.

What Is THCA?

To understand THCA, it’s essential to first understand cannabinoids, which are the group of hemp and cannabis compounds that impart most of the plant’s unique effects.

Cannabinoids are a large family that includes THCA, CBD, and Delta-9 THC, among many others. Delta-9 THC is the most commonly known and referenced cannabinoid in cannabis, and it’s usually just referred to as “THC,” but for the purposes of today’s article, we’ll be specifically calling it out “Delta-9.”

No matter which cannabinoid we’re talking about, they all interact with our body through the endocannabinoid system, a network that helps regulate important bodily functions, such as:

  • Sleep
  • Metabolism
  • Immune response
  • Learning and memory
  • Growth and development

… and others still. It’s a big deal, and it helps explain why hemp and cannabis can have such a powerful effect on us.

THCA is the chemical precursor to THC. It’s an acidic compound that can be transformed into Delta-9 through heat in a process called “decarboxylation.” With products that are intended to be smoked, vaped or dabbed, decarboxylation happens naturally during consumption. With other products, such as edibles or topicals, THCA is converted to THC during processing so that the active form of THC is ready to be used or consumed.

But even before it’s decarboxylated, THCA can impart some very interesting effects on the human body. According to current studies, THCA may help reduce inflammation and control seizures, and it may also have powerful anti-nausea effects.

One thing THCA doesn’t do is get you high. Unlike CBD, it’s not considered intoxicating—meaning that it doesn’t have any effect on our feelings, thoughts, or mood. It’s the major way in which it’s very different from Delta-9.

What Is Delta-9?

Also known simply as THC, Delta-9 THC is the cannabinoid most responsible for the cannabis plant’s intoxicating “high”—but it does a lot more than that. Studies support a growing number of medicinal benefits, including its potential to manage chronic pain, improve sleep quality, and stimulate the appetite, among many others.

Is THCA the Same as Delta-9? The Effect of Decarboxylation

Here’s something to ponder: If THCA is the chemical precursor to Delta-9, aren’t they kind of the same thing? It’s an understandable question and one we hear a lot.

But in actuality, they’re not. While the major difference between THCA and Delta-9 involves the effect it has on us—THCA not being intoxicating versus Delta-9 getting us high—behind the scenes is another big difference, and it’s one that has to do with the atomic structure of the cannabinoids themselves.

When we look at THCA and Delta-9 at the atomic level, they appear very similar. However, chemically speaking, THCA has an extra molecular carboxyl ring, which prevents it from binding to the cannabinoid receptors in our body’s endocannabinoid system. That means we don’t experience the intoxicating high that makes cannabis plants so special.

But, there’s a surprisingly easy way to remove that carboxyl ring—one that’s so simple, it may surprise you. When you hit fresh THCA flower with heat, either in the form of a match, lighter, or even a hot oven for a short period of time, it initiates the process known as “decarboxylation,” which automatically removes the carboxyl ring. From there, the compound can bind to our cannabinoid receptors to get us high.

Are there other ways to decarboxylate THCA? Actually, there are! Over time, some proportion of the THCA in cannabis or hemp will naturally decarboxylate into Delta-9. This can happen during the growing process or after harvest due to the effects of ambient heat, exposure to oxygen, or sunlight. As we like to point out to our customers, that’s one reason it’s worth investing in a stash box to keep your stash fresh, green, and potent.

THCA vs Delta-9: Legality

Now, knowing what you do about the differences between THCA and Delta-9, you’ve probably caught onto something important. While THCA is the chemical precursor to Delta-9, it’s chemically distinct, which means that the two are currently considered different from a legal standpoint.

Under the 2018 Farm Bill, which allows the sale and use of hemp products containing 0.3% Delta-9 THC or less, THCA products are legal so long as they contain less than this threshold and are exclusively hemp-derived.

So, doesn’t that mean that all hemp or cannabis flower is legal because it contains THCA and not Delta-9? Not quite. As we pointed out a moment ago, it’s normal for at least some of that THCA to naturally decarboxylate over time into Delta-9. But if cannabis or hemp strains are carefully selected, grown, and handled so as to minimize this conversion, they can test under that 0.3% THC threshold, making them 100% legal under the 2018 Farm Bill.

Note: While the majority of states have adopted the language of the 2018 Farm Bill, some maintain more stringent restrictions on hemp products. Currently The Dopest is not able to ship THCA products to: HI, ID, OR, MN, RI, UT, VT. Check our FAQ Page for updates on state-by-state legality and other important questions.

THCA vs Delta-9: Effects and Potency

What about the effects of THCA vs Delta-9? Non-decarboxylated THCA—while it’s not intoxicating—is associated with a number of very useful medicinal benefits. However, once it undergoes decarboxylation, the effects are pretty similar to those for Delta-9. Why? Because at that point, it is Delta-9. And if you’ve ever consumed Delta-9, you’ll instantly recognize the psychoactive euphoria, relaxation, calm, and all the other effects we know and love.

In addition to the many effects that cannabinoids offer us, our experience with any hemp or cannabis product is also influenced by another important class of compounds: terpenes.

Terpenes are the aromatic oils in hemp and cannabis that provide it with its signature flavors and aromas, but they also work synergistically with other active compounds in these plants to influence your experience with any particular strain or product in a phenomenon known as the entourage effect. Terpenes are another important consideration when we think about the complex and layered experiences we are often looking for from cannabis and hemp, and any given product’s potency and effects will also be influenced by the terpene profile.

Is THCA Stronger Than Delta-9?

That raises yet another question: Is THCA stronger than Delta-9? Remember: Non-decarboxylated THCA is not intoxicating, but decarboxylated THCA is the same as Delta-9. Same benefits, same great euphoric effects, same experience.

THCA vs Delta-9 Products

Though the effects of consuming decarboxylated THCA versus Delta-9 are the same, the legal technicalities of the 2018 Farm Bill have a big effect on exactly how they’re made. The language of the Farm Bill deals with hemp exclusively, not cannabis.

In cannabis-legal states, this doesn’t really make a huge difference when buying or selling THCA products or where the THCA is coming from. But in states in which cannabis is illegal—or it’s otherwise difficult for people to access—THCA is typically derived from hemp only.

Is there a difference? On a functional level, no. THCA is THCA, and Delta-9 is Delta-9. You could make the case that since there’s no legal threshold in terms of the amount of Delta-9 that cannabis can contain, then THCA products derived from cannabis end up containing more Delta-9 than those derived from hemp. But, in practice, the result is the same, and you’ll still experience all the psychoactive effects from hemp-derived THCA products that you’d expect from cannabis-derived ones.

Another important point to consider when it comes to THCA vs Delta-9 products is the source. When you buy legal, regulated cannabis products in states where it is available, you can rely on the local regulatory law to ensure the products you buy from dispensaries are clean, safe and potent.

With hemp, however, things are a little different. Hemp products are federally legal under the 2018 Farm Bill, but the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) does not actively regulate the hemp industry.

Because of this, there are no federal health, safety or potency standards being applied to the wide variety of THCA and Delta-9 products available. That’s why it’s important to trust the sellers from whom you buy these products. The best hemp retailers online will elect to have their products tested with independent third-party labs to ensure they are clean and safe, while delivering you the potency and cannabinoid levels you’re looking for.

Explore THCA and Delta-9 With The Dopest

There can be a lot of confusion around THCA and Delta-9, and it’s not hard to understand why. They’re both cannabinoids that can be derived from hemp or cannabis and as such, they’re closely related. But, there are still some very important distinctions to be aware of.

What may be the most important aspect to know is that if a hemp product contains THCA but little to no Delta-9, it will still be intoxicating once the THCA is decarboxylated through vaping or smoking. This opens up a fast, safe, and 100% legal opportunity to shop hemp-derived THCA online and have products shipped right to your door.

So, if you’re ready to try THCA for yourself, you’ve come to the right place! Check out our selection of THCA products like The Dopest THCA flower, Snow Caps, vapes, concentrates and more. Choose what interests you and get it delivered right to your door. We’re also proud of the quality of our products, and we make our lab tests and certificates of analysis (COAs) available to anyone who wants to find out for themselves. Click here to view test results for all the products we sell.

If this article inspired you to learn about hemp compounds like THCA, why not keep going? Check out the rest of our blog, where you’ll find more in-depth articles like our explainer on the hemp compound HHC or how HHC stacks up to Delta-9.

Any other questions about Delta-9, THCA, HHC or any of the products we sell? Just drop us a line, we’re here to help.