How to Use THCa for Great Results

Earthy Select. How to Use THCa for Great Results. Woman smpokes high THCa hemp flower.

Everyone knows about THC, the psychoactive component in cannabis. But the new kid on the block is pretty popular too. THCa is the latest cannabinoid du jour, creating quite a buzz in the ever-changing world of hemp. How to use THCa depends on what outcomes you want.

The main thing to know about THCa is that it is non-psychoactive. But this is true only when it’s in its raw, acidic form. The moment the cannabinoid hits heat, it transforms into psychoactive THC.

Here we’ll explore how to navigate the land of THCa. Whether you choose to consume the pure cannabinoid or its non-acidic, mind-altering cousin, we’ll explain how to get the best of both worlds.

What is THCa?

Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCa) is an acidic compound found in raw cannabis. It serves as the precursor to THC and is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid until decarboxylated. Cannabis plants contain an abundance of THCa as they grow. Yet, after harvest, as the plant ages or undergoes various decarboxylation methods, THCa converts into psychoactive THC.

In its natural progression, the cannabis plant goes through a vegetative and flowering stage, producing cannabigerolic acid (CBGA), otherwise known as the “mother of all cannabinoids.” Enzymes convert CBGA into THCa and other cannabinoids. For instance, CBGA also may convert to CBDa, which then converts to CBD (cannabidiol) [1].

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Some people enjoy consuming THCa in its raw form for its many potential benefits by eating it or making it into tinctures. Some even enjoy it in transdermal patches. Others seek out THCa because of its ability to change into its more potent form: Delta-9 THC.

Learn more in the Guide to THCa.

The endocannabinoid system

To understand how cannabinoids affect the body, it’s important to learn the endocannabinoid system’s (ECS’s) role. The ECS is a complex signaling system discovered in the early 1990s by scientists exploring the effects of THC.

Researchers still have a lot to learn to fully understand the ECS. Still, we know it regulates various bodily processes, including mood, memory, alertness, reproductive functions, and appetite.

Endocannabinoid receptors naturally exist throughout the human body. They bind to endocannabinoid receptors to prompt various signals. Cannabinoids in cannabis also bind to these receptors and affect our body’s responses.

There are two types of endocannabinoid receptors:

  • CB1 receptors exist in the central nervous system (THC binds to these receptors)
  • CB2 receptors exist in the peripheral nervous system, including immune cells

Endocannabinoids (from the body) and phytocannabinoids (from plants) bind to each of these receptors and send signals to adjust our perceptions and functions. For example, THC might target CB1 receptors in a spinal nerve related to pain perception. In contrast, CBD might bind to CB2 receptors to signal adjustments modulating inflammation. Science hasn’t produced definitive answers across the board, but drug companies have managed to produce solutions like Epidiolex so there is definitely promise in the cannabis plant.

The difference between THCa and Delta-9 THC

In the ECS, THCa does not bind to the CB1 receptors. Thus, it does not produce psychotropic effects. Delta-9 THC, conversely, adheres to the CB1 receptors in the ECS, creating the “high” we associate with marijuana.

Does THCa get you high?

The short answer is no. THCa does not get you high. But, the short answer is also yes, in that THCa will get you high if you smoke, vape, or cook it, at which point, it is no longer THCa, but Delta-9 THC. Put simply, THCa is non-psychoactive until heated. On the other hand, if you eat freshly harvested, raw cannabis flower, you will not get high.

You may notice that some hemp products list high levels of THCa on their packaging. Hemp retailers have discovered that the THCa content of certain hemp flowers is high enough to rival marijuana. Additionally, some manufacturers begin with lower THCa strains and spray them with THCa isolate, a fine powder of concentrated THCa [3].

Both of these products produce psychotropic outcomes when heated. After harvest, some hemp producers add extra THCa isolate to attain high THCa percentages for consumers who seek more intense psychoactive effects. They add this post-harvest because the plants are tested for “total THC” content before harvest by the FDA. This is intended to distinguish hemp from marijuana. But, fortunately for THCa flower fans, the DEA only tests the plants post-harvest for Delta-9 THC levels, not “total hemp.” The DEA is not concerned about where the plant came from or if it has added THCa isolate [4].

To recap, pure THCa will not get you high, but that’s only when consumed before it is heated. When applying heat, it becomes psychoactive.

What about THCa and drug screenings?

Both THC and THCa will show up on most drug tests. So it’s best to avoid using any heated or unheated THCa products for a period of time before taking a drug test.

What is THCa crystalline?

THCa crystalline contains nearly 100 percent THCa cannabinoids. By contrast, most extracts contain between 50 to 80 percent THCa. Despite the high potency of THCa crystalline, you won’t get high from orally consuming the pure crystalline form of THCa. It will neither have flavor nor aroma since isolates are free of terpenes [6].

Many consumers convert THCa crystalline to THC by heating the product before consuming it. Once it changes to THC, through a vaporizer, cooking, or smoking, it produces psychoactive effects.

Learn What is THCa Isolate and How Does it Work?

Is THCa legal?

THCa hemp flower has recently become a sought-after commodity. Though it is lawful under the guidelines of the 2018 Farm Bill, not everyone understands its legal status, sometimes even when it comes to law enforcement officials. Therefore, it’s important to understand the issues and risks involved in partaking of THCa flower. Moreover, certain states may have specific guidelines that diverge from the federal rules and regulations regarding THCa.

But regardless of how THCa products are produced, they remain federally compliant under the guidelines of the 2018 Farm Bill as long as they are derived from federally compliant hemp. THCa remains federally compliant if its Delta-9 THC content is at or below 0.3 percent per dry weight [4].

THCa and the Farm Bill

After the 2014 Farm Bill differentiated hemp from marijuana and spurred widespread cannabis research, the 2018 Farm Bill launched the hemp industry as we know it. The bill designated hemp products with 0.3 percent or less Delta-9 THC federally compliant. More specifically, the bill (or the Agriculture Improvement Act) authorized hemp cultivation, production, and sales.

As part of the bill, the Domestic Hemp Production Program legalized industrial hemp at the federal level but gave states specific authority over their own hemp restrictions. As such, the Federal Government appointed the USDA to evaluate and approve plans submitted by state legislatures to establish regulations [5].

But, the 2018 Farm Bill refers only to Delta-9 THC levels, leaving legal opportunities regarding potentially psychoactive compounds such as THCa. Since THCa is quickly turned into Delta-9 THC via smoking, vaping, or cooking, it has potential to be as psychoactive as marijuana. Even so, THCa is federally compliant as long as it is derived from hemp, not marijuana.

How to decarboxylate THCa if you want to get high

Apart from vaporizing, smoking, or dabbing your THCa flower or concentrates in a dab rig, you can cook cannabis high in THCa to turn it into high Delta-9 THC. Some enjoy adding THCa powder to a packed cannabis bowl or sprinkling it into a joint. There’s no wrong way to consume THCa if you understand its psychoactive potential and know how your body responds to the cannabinoid [7].

THCa without the high

If you’re not interested in getting “high,” you can consume THCa orally, which leaves you clear-headed and alert. For instance, you can add THCa flower or crystals to foods or drinks. Users may also fill capsules with THCa for daily oral use. This method allows users to consume pre-rationed doses for consistent experiences [8].

THCa is also popular in tinctures and droppers. The sublingual application often is absorbed much quicker compared to oral ingestion. With tinctures, users can apply drops under the tongue and leave them there for up to a minute for optimal absorption.

What is THCa decarboxylation?

THCa decarboxylation is the process by which THCa converts to THC. The acidic precursor to THC, THCa can be consumed through various methods. But one of the best ways to reap the benefits of THCa is through vaporization and dabbing. During this type of combustion, the flower or crystalline structures decarboxylate without wasting potential cannabinoids. This process activates the psychoactive potential of the cannabinoid as it adds heat and efficiently changes its chemistry.

THCa dabbing and vaporizing elicits a potent psychoactive effect due to the nearly pure THC. However, when consumed in its raw form, THCA is not intoxicating.

Benefits of THCa

While pure THCa doesn’t get you high, it may have potential wellness benefits. Though more research is needed, anecdotal reports and preliminary studies indicate THCa has potential anti-inflammatory benefits and neuroprotective qualities. For example, a 2012 study found that THCa may have the potential to be used against neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s [9].

Additionally, a 2013 study found that THCa reduced nausea and vomiting in animal models. As an antiemetic, researchers hope to explore its potential to help cancer patients [10].

Dosing THCa

Unfortunately, the conversion from THCa to THC is imperfect, so it’s tricky to know precisely how much THC you may receive if you smoke, vape, or cook it. But you can use total THC content to estimate the THCa percentage [11].

Final thoughts on using THCa for great results

For some, THCa is too almost good to be true. It’s federally compliant when it’s hemp-derived so you can order THCa flower online and can give you a serious buzz. Buy THCa But for those not so experienced with psychoactive THC, starting at a low dose is best if you intend to decarboxylate your product and experience its mind-altering qualities.

In essence, THCa has two very different roles. The first boasts benefits that may, with further study, contribute to therapeutic and medical treatments for various ailments. The other, of course, is its ability to transform into an agent of euphoria, yet without the dubious associations of marijuana.

If it’s too good to be true, this may have resulted from 2018 Farm Bill legislators who chose language that failed to consider the unstable nature of THCa. But, hark, the new Farm Bill will likely come into play in 2023 with unknown results. Lawmakers may re-think the guidelines for regulating potentially psychoactive cannabinoids. But, in the meantime, many of us are thrilled to reap the joys of this potent cannabinoid while we can.

Medical Disclaimer / Legal Disclaimer – Information is provided for educational purposes. It does not and is not intended to constitute legal or medical advice. We attempt to be accurate and up-to-date, but the legality of cannabinoids and the science of cannabis are evolving. The author is neither a legal professional nor a medical expert. Before buying or using any products, you should check with your local authorities and medical providers.


    1. Demystifying the Differences Between THCa and THC
    2. The Endocannabinoid System
    3. Does THCa Hemp Flower Get You High?
    4. THCa Hemp Flower: The Next Big Thing in Hempland
    5. What is THCa Crystalline?
    6. The Future of the Farm Bill
    7. THCa Isolate
    9. How to Make THCa Capsules
    10. THCa Reduces Nausea in Animal Models
    11. What is THCa?

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Frequently Asked Questions

Yes,  THCa powder and THCa crystalline are forms of THCa other than flower.

THCa isolate consists of only highly concentrated, or isolated, THCa.

Yes, you can use a dab pen or dab device to vaporize cannabis concentrates like THCa Diamonds.