The last decade has been a period of significant change within the cannabis industry. The first major developments were the legalization of medicinal, then recreational, weed in a growing number of states. Then, the 2018 Farm Bill revolutionized the hemp market, and a mind-boggling array of items became available, even in areas where marijuana use is still outlawed. 

The ocean of products on offer continues to swell, and the latest offering to start flying off the shelves is THCA flower. It looks, smells, and tastes like regular weed, but these buds come from hemp and are, therefore, accessible in many areas where the devil’s lettuce is not. 

Let’s take a closer look at THCA flower and how it differs from its infamous cousin. 

THCA vs. THC: Similar Cannabinoids With a Very Big Difference 

THCA may seem like something new and exciting, but it has actually existed for as long as the cannabis plant itself. It is an acronym for tetrahydrocannabinolic acid, and it is the acidic form of tetrahydrocannabinol, better known as THC. 

Those who know their nugs know that THC is the plant’s primary intoxicating chemical. It is responsible for the psychedelic, mind-altering effects that have made cannabis so famous, including euphoria, time distortion, increased sensitivity, and enhanced appetite. THC also has some medicinal properties and is frequently used to treat chronic pain, nausea, muscle spasms, and a host of other ailments. 

On the flip side, THC can cause some unpleasant side effects, especially when consumed in excess. The most common of these are dry mouth, confusion, dizziness, anxiety, and paranoia. 

Anyone who has ever consumed marijuana will be well acquainted with the positive and negative effects of THC. Therefore, many are surprised to discover that raw cannabis flower does not actually contain the notorious chemical at all. Instead, it contains THCA, which is converted to THC when it is heated by smoking or vaping. 

This is why you are unlikely to get high from cannabis edibles made using raw weed. The buds need to be prepared first by heating them to induce a reaction called decarboxylation. This is the process that converts THCA to THC by removing the carboxyl (COOH) group that makes it acidic. 

Decarboxylation happens automatically when you smoke a joint but not when you stir a sprinkling of special herbs into your brownies. You see, unlike THC, THCA does not cause intoxication. However, it does have some potential therapeutic benefits stemming from its anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective properties. 

Is THCA Flower the Same as Real Weed? 

At this point, you might be feeling a little bit confused. If regular weed contains THCA until it is heated, and THCA flower contains THC after it is heated, what exactly is the difference between the two? 

As much as anything else, the answer to this perplexing question comes down to semantics. According to the 2018 Farm Bill, any member of the Cannabis sativa species containing under 0.3% THC is classed as industrial hemp and legal to cultivate and process. Meanwhile, any member of the species containing over 0.3% THC is classed as “drug-type” marijuana and is federally illegal, although individual states are free to set their own laws. 

So, technically, as long as a plant falls within this limit, it could be considered THCA flower. And while standard cannabis may also contain high levels of THCA and low levels of THC, it might contain more than the 0.3% limit, depending on the age of the plant material and how it has been stored, as some THCA naturally degrades into THC over time. 

It is a slightly bewildering situation and something of a legal minefield, to say the least. Moreover, some states have already closed the loophole and banned THCA flower, including Arkansas, Hawaii, Minnesota, Oregon, and Rhode Island. Luckily, all of these states permit the use of medicinal cannabis, and some of them also have adult-use laws.

How to Use THCA Flower

The good news is that if you can get your hands on it, you can use THCA flower in exactly the same way as you would use good old Mary Jane. Most people enjoy smoking or vaporizing these tasty buds, and they are available with the same terpene profile as many popular weed strains. You could also try cooking with THCA flower, but remember, if you want to get high, you’ll need to decarboxylate it first. 

You complete the process by breaking up your buds and placing them on a baking sheet in a low oven. Heat the buds for 30-40 minutes until they become toasty golden brown. Then, you can infuse them into butter or coconut oil for baking. 

Just like regular weed, always use THCA flower responsibly and take a low and slow approach to dosing until you are familiar with its effects. Then, sit back and enjoy the ride!