Does THCA get you high? The answer depends

does thca get you high

THCA has been getting a lot of attention lately, both from cannabis insiders and consumers. The popularity of THCA flower and other products is growing, and more people are using the cannabinoid than ever before. But many people wonder: does THCA get you high?

It’s a valid question. THCA is the precursor to good old THC, the compound in cannabis known for its psychoactive effects. Since THC gets you stoned, surely its parent would, too—right? 

The answer may be a bit more complicated than you’d think. While raw THCA may not get you high, turning it into THC does. How exactly does that happen? All it takes is a little heat.

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What is THCA?

THCA, short for tetrahydrocannabinolic acid, is a compound found in raw cannabis flower. When exposed to heat above roughly 230 degrees Fahrenheit, the molecular structure changes, and a carboxyl group is removed. At this point, the cannabinoid converts to delta-9 THC—the classic stoney cannabinoid. This is why the act of baking cannabis bud prior to infusing butter or oil is called “decarboxylation.”

When it comes to THC vs. THCA, the difference is mainly in the effects. THCA is typically not psychoactive, while THC is. As soon as THCA turns into THC, it’s game on.

does thca get you high joint
THCA flower turns into THC once it’s been lit Photo: Canva

Does THCA get you high?

When consumed raw, THCA should not get people high. However, a high should be expected if it’s exposed to heat and turns into THC. This may come from combusting cannabis flower with a high THCA percentage (aka lighting a joint or roasting a bowl) or baking it in an oven to make edibles. 

THCA, on its own, does not bind to the CB1 and CB2 receptors in the endocannabinoid system. This explains why eating raw bud or THCA extract likely won’t produce an overt psychoactive effect. Once the THCA drops its extra carboxyl group and becomes THC, it will interact with these receptors and get you buzzed.

THCA hemp flower has been making waves in states without legal cannabis thanks to its perception as a lawful way to get lit. It can be argued that the bud is actually regular THC cannabis since, technically, the two are one and the same. The flower purchased at a dispensary is essentially THCA flower—both turn to THC once they’re rolled up and smoked. 

However, interpretations of federal law have led many to believe there is a distinction. The semantics leave one type of cannabis legal nationwide and the other a Schedule I narcotic. 

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Is THCA legal?

THCA is technically legal in the eyes of the federal government as long as it’s derived from hemp containing less than 0.3 percent THC. According to the 2018 Farm Bill, any hemp plants meeting this threshold can be harvested. It is this key language that has many arguing that THCA is legal.

Attorney Rod Kight, who specializes in cannabis and hemp, has become a leading authority on the subject of THCA. He explained the discrepancy, boiling down the interpretation.

“Under federal law and the laws of some, but not all, states, THCA flower is not a controlled substance,” Kight previously told GreenState. “In other words, the sole metric for distinguishing hemp from marijuana is the level of delta-9 THC. The levels of other cannabinoids, including THCA, are irrelevant to the material’s legal status.”

In other words, the government has yet to change the law to include THCA in its definition of marijuana—even if THC and THCA are essentially one and the same. Because of this, THCA products have flooded the market, particularly in states without cannabis dispensaries. 

That’s not to say smoking THCA doesn’t have its risks. The THCA market is largely unregulated, meaning products aren’t subject to stringent testing standards. Products could contain contaminants or pathogens; legitimate brands who go the extra mile will have certificates of analysis showing their goods are tested for purity.

As Kight noted, some states have regulated THCA, so it’s important to check local laws if you want to give the cannabinoid a try. Law enforcement who test THCA flower may find THC, even if the bud was purchased “legally.” And since smoking converts THCA to THC, people who are subject to drug tests will likely fail.

thca plant
Is this THCA or THC? It depends on how you look at it Photo: Canva

Benefits of THCA

Consuming THCA has many perceived therapeutic benefits. It has been found to have anti-inflammatory and neuroprotectant abilities. THCA may someday even have a role in fighting cancer.

For those who wish to use THCA for wellness without getting high, there are some options. Juicing raw flower or biomass from cannabis plants is a great option. Some eat fan leaves in their salads. A number of companies have also introduced THCA tinctures to make dosing simple and effective. 

However, smoking THCA flower or hitting a THCA vape cart will turn the cannabinoid into THC due to the presence of heat. If you want to avoid psychoactive effects, leave these products on the shelf.

The buzz on THCA: just a little bit hazy

THCA is having quite a moment. For those seeing the cannabinoid turn up at the local smoke shop or dispensary and wondering, “Does THCA get you high,” the answer is: it depends how you use it.

If turned into THC via fire, vape batteries, or baking, it will definitely lead to psychoactive effects. However, when taken in its raw form, THCA should not lead to a buzz. It’s important to note that everyone is different, so always start low and go slow when trying THCA for the first time. 

The legality around the cannabinoid is also a bit hazy, meaning caution should always be exercised prior to purchase, possession, or consumption. Just remember: THCA can’t take the heat, so unless you want to get high leave the lighter on the table.


rachelle gordon

Rachelle Gordon is a cannabis journalist, Emerald Cup judge, Budist critic, and editor of She began her weed writing journey in 2015 and has been featured in High Times, CannabisNow, Beard Bros, MG, Skunk, and many others. Rachelle currently splits her time between Minneapolis and Oakland; her favorite cannabis cultivars include Silver Haze and Tangie. Follow Rachelle on Instagram @rachellethewriter