The increase in legislation supporting the legalization of cannabis or marijuana has helped more people become more familiar with tetrahydrocannabinol or THC.

However, THC is far from the only cannabinoid or cannabis compound you can find in marijuana. Many people are also familiar with THC's cousin, cannabidiol or CBD, but few know about THCA.

No, THCA isn't a typo. It's a whole other cannabinoid. Adding just one letter at the end of THC can change many things — from people's knowledge and perception about it to its chemical composition and how to take cannabis to get more of it.

THCA vs. THC

Every cannabis-based product from a High Profile dispensary, whether recreational or not, comes with an extensive product label. These labels are filled with an alphabet soup of capital letters: THC, THCA, CBD, CBG, CBN, and more. Each label details the cannabinoid and terpene profile down to the exact percentages.

Upon careful inspection of these labels, you’ll likely notice a trend — THCA almost always has a much higher content than THC and other cannabinoids. You might find yourself wondering, “What is THCA and why does it have a higher content percentage than THC? Is there really any difference?”

What is THC?

Understanding THCA and its difference from THC begins with a basic understanding of THC.

THC, or more formally delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, is one of the hundreds of cannabinoids found in cannabis plants, such as marijuana or hemp. THC is an active ingredient derived from the leaves, flowers or buds, and stem of the marijuana plant. However, it isn’t found in the raw or freshly picked parts of the plant.

THC is also primarily known for being the defining factor behind the legality of cannabis products on a state and federal level.

What is THCA?

THCA stands for tetrahydrocannabinolic acid. Like THC, it is also a cannabinoid naturally found in marijuana. THCA also shares a similar chemical composition to THC, with the only difference being an additional carboxyl group.

Having almost the same chemical structure except for an extra carboxyl group makes THCA the acidic form of THC. This slight difference in structure means that THCA works differently to THC. Unlike THC, THCA is an inactive compound. THCA is also present in raw, live, freshly-picked, and unprocessed parts of the plant.

More importantly, THCA is the precursor to THC. Heat, burning, and prolonged exposure to air or drying out marijuana triggers the chemical reaction that converts THCA into THC.

Keeping It Simple

Here’s a quick and simplified recap of the differences between THCA vs. THC:

  • THCA is an inactive compound, while THC is active.

  • THCA becomes THC when you burn, heat up, or dry out marijuana. THCA is present in live, raw, freshly-harvested cannabis, while THC comes from processed cannabis.

Turning THCA Into THC

Decarboxylation turns THCA into THC by removing the extra carboxyl group in its chemical structure. This chemical reaction is triggered by exposure to high temperatures, heat, or light.

This process changes THCA’s chemical composition or structure, converting it into THC.

Decarboxylation can happen through any of the following:

  • Exposure to direct heat, such as burning, vaping, or smoking cannabis

  • Exposure to extreme sunlight

  • Exposure to high room temperatures

  • Prolonged exposure to air

Keeping Things Legal

The legal use of cannabis or marijuana depends on a lot of factors, including age, state laws, amount used, and more. Medical marijuana use is now legal in 38 states, plus Washington, D.C. Meanwhile, recreational marijuana has been legalized in 19 states and D.C.

Another important factor in determining marijuana legality is the potency of the THC. Across the U.S., the legal limit for THC in marijuana products is 0.3%

How to Get THCA

The only way to get THCA is to use or ingest raw cannabis. You shouldn't smoke, vape, or even add it to your favorite desserts.

One alternative to eating or ingesting raw marijuana into your diet is to look for products that process the cannabis without using any heat. You can visit your nearest High Profile cannabis dispensary to ask for recommendations and ideas on how to use them.

You can also add the leaves, buds, or flowers to smoothies, juices, salads as greens or dressing, sauces, and other cooked meals as garnish.

Ingesting or juicing fresh leaves, buds, and flowers allows you to get the potential therapeutic effects of marijuana without experiencing any psychoactive effects, such as the signature euphoric high.

Getting the Most THCA in Your Products

When talking about cannabis products, you can’t leave out potency and product labels. Federal rules require brands and dispensaries to be transparent regarding these topics. This is mainly because this is how the legality of marijuana on a state level is determined.

Cannabinoid potency affects the product's overall potential therapeutic benefits. This means products with low THCA and THC potency will be less effective than more potent ones.

There are two ways to test for potency. One is liquid chromatography (LC), while the other is gas chromatography (GC). Both of these techniques are effective but produce slightly different results because of the difference in how they are conducted.

For more accurate THCA potency, relying on LC or liquid chromatography test results is better. This is because gas or GC involves high temperatures. As such, most of the THCA ends up decarboxylating into THC.

For high THCA content, using or taking raw marijuana buds, leaves, and flowers may be your best option. However, there are also many processed products that contain both THCA and THC. If you want or need more potent THCA or have questions regarding product potency, we recommend talking to any staff in a High Profile dispensary.

The Bottom Line

If you are interested in trying cannabis or have any questions, the experienced staff at your local High Profile Cannabis store locations in cities like Boston, St Louis, Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, and many other dispensaries can help you find the right product or strain for all your needs.


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