Anyone who works in cannabis retail has heard of THC and CBD – two of the most well-known cannabinoids in the market – but what about the hundreds of other cannabinoids that may be found in the plant?
Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCa) and cannabidiolic acid (CBDa) are two increasingly popular cannabinoid acids the industry is paying attention to, due to their promise of potential health benefits without any of the psychoactive high typically associated with THC-rich products.
But what exactly are these acid forms?
THC vs THCa
THC is easily the #1 most recognized cannabinoid in the industry, largely responsible for weed’s famous psychoactive “high” that many consumers aim to experience. But what if your customers are looking for the health benefits of cannabis plants without any of the intoxication?
Enter: the THCa molecule, a non-intoxicating acid that can be found in abundance in the raw form of a cannabis plant. It is the precursor to THC.
THCa contains many of the benefits of THC without any of the high, and more consumers are utilizing the cannabis byproduct to treat or prevent ailments like inflammation, neurological issues, or nausea.
THCa is produced during the plant’s growth period and will only convert to THC form when decarboxylated – a.k.a., heated enough to separate the acid and bind with a cannabinoid receptor after consumption. Most commonly, this happens when cannabis meets a flame during consumption or a heat source during extraction.
At room temperature, THCa remains non-psychoactive but incredibly effective.
Without intoxicating effects, it won’t interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system the way THC does, establishing it as one of the plant’s “acid forms” in this early pre-activation stage.
Keeping this in mind, the only way to consume cannabis and reap the benefits of THCa is to ingest it in raw form, via topical, oil, or even by blending the leaves in a morning smoothie.
CBDa vs CBD
CBDa is another increasingly sought-after acid form of the cannabis plant. It is the precursor to CBD. Similar to THCa, CBDa is found in the raw form of the plant, and once the decarboxylation process is in place, the acid will convert to CBD.
While THCa is often thought of as the non-intoxicating version of THC, CBD is already considered non-psychoactive, so the main differences between CBD and CBDa lie in how the compounds interact with the human endocannabinoid system.
CBDa works quite similarly to CBD. Consumers turn to the cannabinoid to treat, cure, or prevent many ailments or illness side effects like inflammation, nausea, or anxiety, and CBDa may be a great new option for that as well.
In fact, recent studies suggest that CBDa may be even more effective than CBD when it comes to boosting mood or treating nausea.
Some other potential health benefits of CBDa include promising anti-seizure properties and the alleged suppression of the spread of cancer cells, which could be revolutionary for cannabis-centric cancer treatment practices.
As with THCa, more research still needs to be done on CBDa, especially if it’s intended to help treat or prevent illnesses in cannabis patients, but there are already a few products on the market for consumers to try.
Just keep in mind that most CBDa products on the market today only contain very small amounts of CBDa, so it’s up to business owners and employees to help consumers figure out if they’re getting enough bang for their buck, depending on the desired results they’re seeking.
Are THCa and CBDa products federally legal?
Depending on the state you operate in, certain cannabis products may be off-limits for sale and purchase. But since THCa and CBDa are both non-intoxicating, you may be wondering where they fall in terms of legality.
CBD is already non-intoxicating and almost fully legal throughout all 50 states, and CBDa typically falls under the same umbrella. As long as the products don’t contain any significant amount of THC, they should be considered legal anywhere CBD is, depending on your state’s Controlled Substance Act.
As for THCa, the answer isn’t exactly straightforward.
THC is the one component of cannabis that is undeniably illegal on a federal level, and while THCa isn’t scheduled as a federally illegal substance itself, it may be considered an analog of THC to some local and state governments, similarly to delta-8 THC.
If that’s the case, a THCa product could very well be prosecuted under the Federal Analogue Act, especially considering that it only takes some heat to transform the acid into THC.
The bottom line: be careful with acidic cannabis products, especially if you’re operating in a region where THC is not fully legal.
THCa and CBDa products
THCa and CBDa are still fairly new concepts for the cannabis industry, and in general, the market still has a lot to learn when it comes to the plant’s potential and the different ways it can be consumed and utilized.
That being said, there are a few THCa and CBDa products on the market that have already been benefiting consumers throughout the nation.
If your customer base has expressed interest in THCa or CBDa, or regularly seeks to treat ailments these cannabis acids are known for helping, you may want to look into the following up-and-coming products to add to your offerings.
Oils & Tinctures
There are quite a few oils and tinctures available that include cannabinoid acids like THCa, CBDa, and even CBGa.
Another super simple way to ingest CBDa or THCa is to take it via capsule, which can be particularly favorable to medical patients looking for something discreet.
These 1000mg capsules by Upstate Elevator Supply Co. combine the best of CBDa and CBD, providing consumers with full-spectrum results.
If your customers are more inclined to purchase THCa products, these 25mg tablets by Sava are convenient to consume on the go with a quick and reliable onset.
CBDa and THCa products also come in topical form, often with special formulates for consumers looking to treat skin conditions or physical ailments.
Hemplucid’s full spectrum CBDa body cream is one of the highest-rated CBDa topical products on the market, and Yummi Karma’s Wild Thing body lotion contains the best of CBD, THC, and THCa in an easy-to-use cream.
Finally, the simplest and most straightforward way to consume THCa or CBDa is by ingesting the cannabis leaves themselves.
This can be achieved by blending the raw leaves into a smoothie or juice, providing consumers with all of the plant benefits and none of the high (or unsavory smoking side effects).