Laws regarding cannabis have changed over the last decade. Today, in 2023, we have 40 states plus Washington, D.C., with legal medical cannabis programs and 23 states plus Washington, D.C., with legal recreational cannabis. Hemp, a type of cannabis, is legal across the nation again after decades of being in the same category as its cousin, medical/recreational cannabis. This has led to an infusion of cannabinoid products that are legal in states that still support draconian federal marijuana prohibition–including THC crystals or THCA crystalline. Products like Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA) crystalline can be purchased online and legally shipped to your address in most places.
As long as that THCA comes from hemp, that is. How do you tell the difference? Is there a difference? Questions like this have led state and government officials to form various regulations to go with the newly emerging market of hemp products. The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, better known as The 2018 Farm Bill, was signed into law on December 20, 2018. This bill legalized hemp in the United States.
According to the US Department of Agriculture, “The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (2018 Farm Bill) authorized the production of hemp and removed hemp and hemp seeds from the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) schedule of Controlled Substances. It also directed the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to issue regulations and guidance to implement a program to create a consistent regulatory framework around the production of hemp throughout the United States. The establishment of hemp as a regulated commodity also paves the way for U.S. hemp farmers to participate in other USDA farm programs.”
Since the 2018 Farm Bill went into effect, the hemp industry has exploded with a wide variety of products. It can be difficult to tell the difference between medical/recreational cannabis and hemp. Products like THCA crystalline can be sold anywhere in the U.S. as long as it’s hemp-derived. But isn’t it still THC? This is where it gets confusing, but that could all change. Interestingly enough, the 2018 Farm Bill expires this year.
THC crystals are made from THCA crystalline. THCA crystalline is made by extracting THCA from harvested cannabis. THCA crystals look just like THC crystals. So, what’s the difference? What is THCA crystalline? According to Precision Extraction Solutions, “THCA crystalline is cannabis which has been refined until it is in the form of crystals. It resembles coarse sugar in its appearance. It’s widely regarded as the most potent form of marijuana, as it contains ~99.96% THCA.”
THCA crystalline is pure THCA, having all other cannabinoids, terpenes, and plant compounds removed. THCA is found in high levels in cannabis plants. Here’s the kicker: THCA is also found in hemp. It is found in higher concentrations in med/retail cannabis than in most hemp, but certain varieties of hemp can have high levels of THCA.
The 2018 Farm Bill did not address THCA, effectively creating a THCA loophole. According to ALM, “Hemp plants have relatively high levels of Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA), which is non-intoxicating, but converts to THC when smoked or heated. Therefore, as the 2018 Farm Bill did not address THCA, potentially intoxicating hemp flower is arguably permitted in the marketplace.”
In general, THCA may seem like a confusing concept. If you apply heat to it, say dab a THCA crystal, doesn’t it become THC? What about non-intoxicating hemp flower (buds)? If it’s high in THCA and you apply heat to it, say smoking it in a joint, doesn’t that effectively decarb (remove the acid molecule) from the THCA, turning it into intoxicating THC?
THCa flower is hemp flower that contains high levels of THCa. THCa converts into D9-THC when it’s decarboxylated and produces essentially the same effects as Delta 9 THC.
Because of the 2018 Farm Bill, THCA flower that contains less than 0.3% delta-9 THC is considered hemp and remains federally legal. Nevertheless, some states have specific laws surrounding THCA, which may be considered illegal, regardless of its source or federal status.
Before it is decarbed, THCA is not psychoactive and does produce a high. When you add heat, THCA is converted into THC and can cause psychoactive effects. THCA is federally legal when derived from hemp, and the final product contains less than 0.3% Delta-9 THC by dry weight. All that’s to say: smoking, vaping, or baking THCA will get you high, just like cannabis.
So, if a product is high in THCA and you apply heat to the cured flower or extract, it converts to THC, which will produce intoxicating effects.
A quick search online for hemp THCA concentrates pulls up options like Blue Dream hash rosin, Girls Scout Cookies live rosin, Maui Wowie live rosin, and many others. THCA crystalline is often marketed as THCA diamonds or THC Crystals. These were also available for purchase. The test results show 99.9% THCa, and Delta-9 THC was ND, meaning Delta-9 THC was non-detectable. The THCa diamonds I found online sold for $24.98 per 1-gram jar or $264.99 for a 14-gram bucket.
These products are made from high THCA hemp and come with a warning. The warning says, “If you are sensitive to THC, please do not purchase this product. Use with caution! Please respect this product and only consume this in the comfort of your own home; do not drive or operate heavy machinery. Consult a doctor prior to consuming this product.”
If you are thinking about trying THCA, make sure you do your research on a product and ensure it’s tested and manufactured safely.