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THCa and THC are two crucial compounds in cannabis, but they serve different purposes. THCa, or Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid, is the non-psychotropic precursor to THC, the psychoactive cannabinoid responsible for the “high” in cannabis. This article delves into the differences between THC vs THCa, their benefits, and the conversion process from THCa to THC.

What Is THCa?

Many people are familiar with THC, but it comes from the acid compound called THCa. This article will teach you how THCa is converted into THC and list the benefits of THCa and THC. 

If you’re asking the difference; THC vs THCa, one is technically made from the other. THCa (or Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid) is the non-psychotropic cannabinoid found in raw/live cannabis. THC (or delta-9-tetrahydrocannabino) is the active, psychotropic cannabinoid. They share a similar composition; the difference is an extra carboxyl group in THCa. 

What in heck, a carboxyl group? 

Don’t worry, that’s as science-y as it gets. What you need to know is that if you want to get high off THCa, you need to “decarboxylate” it, or in other words, burn off the pice of the molecule that turns it into THC.

THC vs THCa: What's The Difference?

Does THCa Get You High?

THCa does not get you high, but there are other reasons to use it. If you’re looking for a high, you’re looking to convert THCa into THC. More on that later. But if you want no high, THCa does contain things that help with inflammation, sleep aid, pain relief, appetite stimulant, and antioxidants. It sounds like it helps with just about everything, and it seems that scientifically, it does help everything a bit differently for everyone.

How THCa Becomes THC

When the raw form THCa is heated, it is converted into THC through decarboxylation. There are many ways for that to happen, including:

  • Sunlight Exposure
  • Room Temperature Exposure
  • Heat Exposure through smoking, vaping, concentrates, and oven decarboxylation

Marijuana plants, if consumed live, are going to have no side effects except those of THCa. A particular process called decarboxylation turns THCa into THC, which transforms a psychoactive substance. There is a good reason why cannabis is dried, cured, and vaped or burned before consumption: to turn as much THCa into THC or other more productive cannabinoids.

This chemical reaction changes the chemical composition of the herb by removing the carboxyl group, as I mentioned in the introduction. All this is caused by the thermal (and UV) instability of THCa. This is one reason you want to keep your cured flowers in a dark container away from UV light and heat. The difference of THC vs THCa is a chemical reaction that is very sensitive to heat and light. You can think of THC and THCa as the same molecule but in different stages of heat. You can’t turn THC back into THCa, the same way you can’t uncook an egg back into its raw form.

THC vs THCa: How Do They Compare?

Consumption Methods

There is a boatload of health benefits that many patients claim when they include raw cannabis in their treatments. While THC is available in the usual delivery methods of cannabis, the bulk of THCa flower, often juiced, is available in topicals, tinctures, capsules, and raw cannabis juice. Full-spectrum cannabis oils are based on raw plants, and most users or patients can obtain their daily THCa dosage by adding cannabis to their diets. Add it to anything; just remember not to cook it! 

Try adding it to:

  • Juices
  • Salad dressings
  • Salads
  • Steamed vegetables
  • Side dishes
  • Sauces


THCa does not get you high, but THC does. THCa levels are super-high in live or freshly harvested plants. Raw cannabis is a known superfood, and juicing it can offer the higher amount of THCa.

We now know the therapeutic properties of cannabidiol (CBD) and the psychotropic effects of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC),but it looks like THCa is worth looking into too.

Like CBD and THC, THCa reacts with the central nervous system and endocannabinoid receptors. THCa will not get you high, but there are other reasons to use it. It contains anti-inflammatory properties, neuroprotective properties, anti-nausea properties,

Anti-cancer properties, anti-spasm, sleep aid, relieve pain, appetite stimulant, and antioxidant. It can help prevent cancer, consider it a super-food!

For those looking for the science part, it’s the shape of the THCa molecule that does not fit into cannabinoid receptors in the brain, central nervous system, lungs, liver, and kidneys. 


(Potential) Medicinal Benefits 

In addition to all the potential benefits of THCa listed above, additional potential benefits of THCa include: 

  • Reducing opioid addiction when used in programs, 
  • Metabolic output increase for working out, 
  • Vasodilation may reduce pain and eye pressure related to glaucoma,
  • Increasing the amount of anandamide, the natural brain neurotransmitter in charge of anxiety and several other body functions.

Raw cannabis works much differently than cannabis which is burnt (decarboxylated), when we talk about how long it lasts in the body. The cannabinoid acids in THCa flower are stored in the body fat. Apparently, it takes about 4-8 weeks for full saturation. Once the fat has completely absorbed all the cannabinoid acids, the full medicinal effects are felt. By juicing leaves and buds, patients can increase their daily intake of cannabinoids, no worry of getting high is involved.


Though I’m not a legal professional, I would warn you that some laws may consider THCa equal to THC in terms of regulation. THC and THCa might be treated the same, so bear that in mind. The fact is that this has the potential to turn into THC and therefore is covered under THC regulations. They may or may not allow for a % conversion from THCa to THC. The difference of THC vs THCa is a simple chemical reaction that may not be distinguished in your local law. There is potential for THCa to be turned into THC quite easily.

If you need some more drying advice and you’re located in the Okanagan Valley, stop by our Kelowna Dispensary or West Kelowna Dispensary today. Our friendly and knowledgeable staff would be more than happy to get you going!