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What Is THC? Understanding the Main Psychoactive Compound in Cannabis Skip to main content

What Is THC?

THC – or Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol for the more chemically inclined – is the main psychoactive compound found in the cannabis plant. It occurs naturally, mostly concentrated in the flowers, though there are smaller amounts in leaves and other parts of the plant. Different cannabis strains have widely varying concentrations of THC. For example, industrial hemp plants may have under 0.3% THC in their flowers, while some strains can have over 30%. Typically, anything under 10% is considered a low-potency cannabis flower, while anything over 20% is considered high potency.

THC is a carefully controlled substance under Canadian law and can only be legally purchased from federally licensed stores, or with a prescription from licensed medical suppliers like Alterna Pharma.

What Does THC Do?

THC is responsible for the psychoactive effects of cannabis. Put simply, it’s what gets you “high.” This means it changes nervous system functions and alters perception, mood, consciousness, cognition, and/or behaviour. Specifically, psychoactive effects of THC may include euphoria, relaxation or stress-relief, hyper-awareness of sensation, increased libido, and boosted creativity. It can also affect the body physically by increasing appetite and helping to relieve pain. Some users can also experience negative side-effects such as anxiety.

What’s the Difference Between THC and THCA?

In its natural form, most of the THC in cannabis is actually a non-psychoactive chemical called tetrahydrocannabinolic acid, or THCA. And even though it’s one of the most abundant and therapeutic compounds produced by the plant, in this raw state, it can’t get you high. But once heated via smoking, vapourizing, or cooking, THCA converts to THC, with full psychoactivity.

In Canada, all cannabis products must be labelled with their THCA content.

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