Education & Wellness

What is THC-A?

June 25, 2022

While THC-A can easily be confused with THC, the compound in weed that gets you high, it’s actually much different. In this piece, we’ll discuss how THC-A becomes THC, what happens when you consume THC-A, and where you can buy it in Canada. 

What is THC-A?

Ever been confused by the label on your legal cannabis that says it contains THC-A, THC, or both? 

THC, tetrahydrocannabinol, the primary cannabinoid that creates the “high” experience, starts as THC-A, tetrahydrocannabinolic acid. In fact, the dried flower you buy often has little to no THC in it — it’s almost all THC-A.

a black jar of cannabis on its side, with green cannabis nugs falling out
Contrary to what many consumers think, dried packaged cannabis flower typically has mostly THC-A, rather than THC. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Cannabis plants’ cannabinoids take the form of THC-A while they’re growing. It’s only once the weed is heated or cured (say, by smoking a joint), that those acidic THC-A compounds become sweet, sweet, THC.

On its own, THC-A is non-psychoactive, meaning it won’t get you high. This is because it doesn’t bind well to your brain’s cannabinoid receptors. 

You have to turn it into THC, which fits snugly into those receptors, to get high.

Can You Buy THC-A Products in Canada?

Yes, you can. Since cannabis is legal in Canada, and THC-A is part of cannabis, it’s totally legal to buy THC-A products from licensed retailers in Canada.

Happy Dayz sells THC-A diamonds, which you can sprinkle over a bong bowl or crush up into a joint. Though, they’re best enjoyed by heating on a dab rig or in a vaporizer. The resulting vapour contains a vast range of terpenes and flavours.

How Does THC-A Become THC?

The THC-A compound can become THC in two main ways — by drying it out (curing) or through decarboxylation, which is a scientific way of saying what happens when THC-A is exposed to heat. THC-A is a rather unstable compound, and will lose the acidic state (the A) when these changes happen.

Curing the THC-A will change it to THC over time. One study showed that THC-A will slowly convert into THC between the temperatures of 4 and 18ºC, making it hard for scientists to test pure THC-A.

a woman with multicolored hair smoking a joint on a comfy chair
When THC-A is exposed to flames, it is turned into THC. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Smoking THC-A, or vaporizing it, converts it into THC instantly. 

How to Convert the Amount of THC-A To THC 

Only 87.7% of THC-A in a product can actually turn into THC when it’s decarboxylated. So if you vape a product that’s 100% THC-A, you’re actually inhaling just 87.7% THC.

If your cannabis label has both THC and THC-A amounts on it, you can figure out the total amount of THC by multiplying the THC-A content by 0.877, and adding that number to the THC amount listed on the label. The formula looks like this:

* 0.877 + = Total THC

Who said stoners can’t do math?

Frequently Asked Questions

Is THC-A Legal?

Yes. In Canada, it’s perfectly legal to buy THC-A just like any other licensed cannabis product. In fact, if you’ve ever bought dried flower, you’ve bought THC-A!

Does THC-A Get You High?

No. On its own, THC-A is non-psychoactive, so it won’t get you high. But when you smoke or vaporize it, it turns into THC, which does get you high.

Is THC-A a Sativa or an Indica?

It can be either, depending on the plant it’s extracted from. For instance, Wook Breath’s diamonds are created from a fresh-frozen single strain sativa through hydrocarbon extraction.