How is THCA Flower Made?

Cannabis plant adorned with reddish and white lights, casting a captivating glow against a dark backdrop

The 2018 Farm Bill legalized hemp, making hemp-derived cannabinoids like delta 9 THC legal. Conventionally, delta 9 is scheduled under the Controlled Substances Act, meaning it’s regulated.

So hemp typically contains low levels of delta 9 (< 0.3%). Though this 0.3% limit was an arbitrary figure used in early studies to differentiate cannabis strains based on THC levels, it’s now the official differentiator between hemp and cannabis.

Essentially, such a low THC level is considered insufficient to induce the archetypal effhects of THC. But barring medical cannabis users, a large percentage of cannabis use is recreational. The top reasons often provided for cannabis use are fun, bonding, relaxation, and emotion regulation.

So, what if we told you there’s a way to get enough THC in cannabis to meet your recreational goals? It all lies in THCA flower, and it’s 100% legit!

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Key Takeaways

  • THCA (tetrahydrocannabinolic acid) is a non-psychoactive precursor compound that forms THC when heated.
  • It’s inactive in its raw form but can interact with non-cannabinoid receptors, specifically the TRP ion channels.
  • Studies show THCA may have therapeutic properties, notably anti-inflammatory, antiemetic, and anticonvulsant effects.
  • THCA is legal as per the 2018 Farm Bill.

 

What is THCA?

Despite sounding similar, THC and THCA are quite different. The abbreviation THCA stands for tetrahydrocannabinolic acid, one of the 100+ naturally occurring phytocannabinoids in raw cannabis and hemp.

Another cannabinoid that sounds similar is THCV. Learn more about THCV vs. THCA here.

THCA, alongside CBDA (cannabidiolic acid), are the precursors of THC and CBD—the two dominant cannabinoids in cannabis. In its natural form, THCA is non-psychoactive, which is why you don’t feel anything when you eat raw cannabis.

When subjected to heat, e.g., via smoking, THCA converts to delta 9, the primary psychoactive ingredient in cannabis. But despite its inactivity, THCA might have therapeutic benefits. That’s because it can modulate the functions of TRP ion channels.

For example, research shows THCA is a potent TRPA1 agonist and TRPM8 antagonist. It also exhibits inhibitory effects on cyclooxygenase enzymes COX1 and COX2. In rats, it demonstrates the ability to reduce nausea and vomiting.

Other studies suggest THCA may reduce the levels of inflammatory cytokines such as tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α), suggesting immunomodulatory properties. It’s also shown to be potentially anticonvulsant. These findings are promising, and with further research, this cannabinoid could be vital to boosting health and overall wellness.

 

What is THCA Flower?

In the same way we often talk about CBD flower, so can we about THCA flower. This is hemp flower with high THCA content. The law allows THCA flower to be legally sold if the delta 9 THC content is below the stipulated limit.

When you smoke or vape THCA flower, the heat converts some THCA to THC. In effect, THCA flower can induce the same high as regular cannabis. In fact, regular cannabis tends to have higher levels of THCA than THC.

In this respect, there isn’t much difference between THCA flower and marijuana flower currently sold in medical cannabis dispensaries in states that have decriminalized small amounts of marijuana. The only difference is that the latter is illegal while the former is not!

 

How is THCA Flower Made?

Are there THCA-rich cannabis strains? THCA flower can be grown aeroponically to yield a 100% natural compound. Hemp farmers have figured that if they grow high-THC cannabis under cold enough temperatures, it prevents THCA from converting to delta 9 THC. This makes it legal under federal and state cannabis laws.

Another way to make THCA flower is by spraying compliant hemp flower with THCA extract. But this means creating THCA to start with.

So, we did a little search and chanced upon this method. It essentially involves converting CBDA into THCA using solvents at extremely low temperatures. The final product is then sprayed on hemp flower.

The question, however, is whether THCA flower made this way complies with the federal Farm Bill’s requirements. Remember, the DEA considers all cannabis material with less than 0.3% THC levels by dry weight lawful.

 

Is it Similar to How HHC Flower is Made?

The process of making THCA differs significantly from how HHC is made. For starters, the primary raw material for manufacturing HHC is THC. This can be delta 8 THC or delta 9 THC. Given the federal and state restrictions on delta 9 THC, producers typically use delta 8 THC.

Delta 8 is then hydrogenated to form HHC. In the case of THCA, the raw material is CBDA, an inactive phytocannabinoid in cannabis. By looking at the abbreviation, you can tell that this is the acid form of CBD.

Unlike HHC, THCA can exist naturally in high concentrations in some cannabis strains. So, it can be directly extracted to make THCA hemp products. However, once non-natural processes are involved in creating a cannabinoid, it becomes a semi-synthetic compound (SSCs). These are rapidly becoming popular due to their unique attributes.

For example, HHC provides mild THC-like effects. As a result, it’s popular among cannabis users seeking THC’s recreational and health benefits without the adverse side effects.

In sum, HHC is made through hydrogenation, while THCA is artificially manufactured via condensation/crystallization.

 

How Strong is THCA Flower?

Once you apply heat to THCA flower, it essentially becomes as potent as regular marijuana flower. That’s because the heat converts THCA to THC.

For this reason, the strength of THCA flower is proportional to its THCA content. The higher the THCA levels, the stronger it is. And since many producers are making THCA flower, it’s advisable to consume THCA with the same caution you give THC flower.

That’s because THCA flower produces the same effects as THC. In large doses, these effects can be too intense for your liking. So, as always, start with low doses. Knowing how much THCA you’re taking in via smoking can be tricky, but here’s a trick that may help. Take long pauses between puffs.

When you smoke cannabis, the effects kick in quickly, typically within minutes. So, taking long pauses allows you to feel how your body responds. The stronger the flower, the faster the effects’ onset time.

 

Can You Grow THCA Flower?

With the advent of selective breeding, we can’t rule out breeders growing THCA flower soon. Some producers already claim to produce THCA-rich flower, so this is a space to watch. If anything, hybrids like Lemon Kush, Gorilla Blue, Silver Haze, and Death Star, among others, are considered rich in THCA.

Meanwhile, there are suggestions that growing conventional THC-rich cannabis in cooler settings might stop the conversion of THCA to THC. If true, THCA flower may flood the hemp market sooner than we thought.

Generally, strains with high THC content (> 15%) are considered rich in THCA. That’s because THC comes from THCA. But remember that once THC forms, the concentration of THCA reduces. So the best way to trap more THCA in cannabis flower is by keeping it fresh for as long as possible. This can be done by flash-freezing cannabis biomass immediately after harvesting.

Flash-freezing is often employed during the manufacture of live resins.

 

What is Considered a High THCA Hemp Flower Percentage?

Generally, cannabis strains with high THC levels (> 15%) are considered to have high levels of THCA pre-decarboxylation.

However, note that THCA content is not the same as THC content. But if you get hemp flower with known THCA content, you can calculate the amount that will convert to THC using the formula:

THC total = (%THCA) X 0.877 + (% THC)

Other factors may, however, influence the THC total value, so this formula is more of a guide.

 

Can You Make THCA Diamonds out of THCA Flower?

Yes, you can make THCA diamonds out of THCA flower. Like all diamonds, high pressure is needed to form THCA diamonds. But first, THCA is extracted from freshly harvested flash-frozen cannabis using the cold-extraction method.

The extract is then subjected to intense pressure in a chromatography machine until crystals start to form. From this point, two methods can be used to make the diamonds: closed–loop extraction or crystalline method.

In the closed-loop extraction method, a liquid solvent isolates THC and terpenes from the extract. The resulting solution is supersaturated with THCA. It’s then slowly purged to remove the solvent residues as the crystals form. These crystals can be 100% pure THCA.

With the crystalline method, the THC extract is mixed with a solvent to form a supersaturated solution. The solution is then heated under intense pressure for the diamonds to form. During heating, the solvent evaporates, and pure THCA crystals begin to form.

Some producers reintroduce terpenes to enhance the crystals’ potency, as theorized by the entourage effect.

 

Is THCA Flower Legal?

Since THCA naturally occurs in hemp, it’s legal as per the 2018 Farm Bill. However, the same law allows states to develop rules to regulate hemp farming and production within their jurisdictions.

THCA flower is legal in some states (e.g., North Carolina) but restricted in others, such as Oregon. In states such as Idaho, THCA flower is completely illegal. In other words, the laws and reg

ulations of a state determine the extent to which THCA flower is legal.

 

Is THCA Flower Safe?

There’s no doubt that more research is needed to clarify the potential health benefits of THCA. Nonetheless, preliminary research shows this compound has great promise. This notwithstanding, THCA is a cannabinoid, like all others, and demonstrates the ability to interact with receptors in the body.

In raw form, THCA is non-psychoactive, so it’s well-tolerated by most people. In this form, it can be blended into drinks such as smoothies and juices. When heated, it converts into THC and produces THC-like effects.

However, these are likely mild because not all THCA converts into THC. It also doesn’t display the potential for abuse, in case you’re wondering if THCA is addictive.

Generally, THCA flower is safe, especially if it’s not subjected to heat.

 

Conclusion — How THCA Flower is Made

THCA flower is broadly marketed as hemp intended for vaping or smoking. It typically contains high THCA and low THC concentrations in line with the 2018 Farm Bill. Cannabis strains with high THC content tend to have high THCA levels because it’s the precursor molecule for THC.

There are several claims on how to grow THCA flower. Some producers contend growing regular cannabis in cold temperatures prevents THCA from turning into THC. Others suggest utilizing aeroponics to grow THCA flower.

That said, THCA can also be made synthetically via condensation and crystallization. The resulting product—THCA diamonds—is pure and highly concentrated. These are best taken by dabbing or vaping.

 

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