This new cannabinoid is making waves, but is it safe?

thcp vs thc

Those seeking insight into the conversation around THCP vs. THC should go back to the beginning. The complicated cannabis plant is made of countless compounds. One plant may contain over 150 cannabinoids and 200 or more terpenes, flavonoids, alkaloids, esters, etc. With Farm Bill loopholes and more access to high-tech lab equipment and chemists than ever, cannabis companies are isolating all sorts of cannabinoids, including THCP.

THCP has a similar chemical makeup to THC, but with a longer alkyl chain. Many believe that the cannabinoid has more intense psychoactive effects. Unfortunately, there is very little research published about the compound, let alone THCP vs THC, so the side effects and risk potential of THCP are unknown.

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What is THC?

Delta-9 THC is a psychoactive cannabinoid found in Cannabis sativa. It has been highly regulated due to its predominant role in getting people high. Many breeders have worked to produce genetics with high THC, and many plants grown in state-regulated markets do. However, there are laws against hemp plants grown in the national market, they can’t contain over 0.3% THC.

The prominent cannabinoid has been known to make people feel euphoric, focused, relaxed, creative, and more. There is a vast array of options when it comes to the effects of THC that can be tracked in individual strains. Each plant produces a unique combination of compounds based on its genetics and its environment. This impacts things like flavor, smell, and effects.

THC has a similar structure to anandamide, a cannabinoid that naturally exists in everyone and is responsible for pleasure, memory, coordination, concentration, and more. Anandamide and cannabinoids found in weed interact with the same endocannabinoid receptors in the brain. That’s why weed also has an impact on pleasure, coordination, and memory (among other things).

What is THCP?

THCP does occur naturally in the cannabis plant but in much smaller amounts than its popular counterpart. THC levels can reach anywhere from 12 to 29 percent in a plant, but many THC-dominant cannabis plants contain less than 0.01 percent THCP naturally. The same study that got those numbers failed to find THCP in CBD-dominant plants.

This minor cannabinoid was discovered in 2019 while researchers studied a medical cannabis strain cultivated in Italy. The Military Chemical Pharmaceutical Institute in Florence provided the Italian FM2 to the research scientists. This study introduced two new cannabinoids to the world: THCP and CBDP. Scientists detected about 0.3 percent THCP and 0.6 percent CBDP in an ethanol extract of this variety.

Because the plant that grows a detectable quantity of THCP is across the Atlantic Ocean from the United States, many are opting to synthesize THCP from legal hemp plants in a class of products born from a semantic loophole.

Is THCP legal?

THCP is considered federally legal to some, while others might consider it more of a gray area. The Farm Bill is a package of legislation that directly impacts American agriculture– cannabis included. The 2018 Farm Bill included a bombshell addition: it allowed farmers to grow hemp that tested with 0.3 percent THC or lower THC. The products can be sold directly to consumers online, wholesale to shops, and more, all without the stringent guidelines that state-operating brands are held to.

Since cannabinoids all come from one mother compound (CBG), some farmers realized that THC and other psychoactive compounds could be synthesized chemically from hemp-derived CBD. These products became known as hemp-derived cannabinoids and sometimes hemp THC. The cannabinoids end up with the same chemical structure as delta-9 THC and THCP, but they’re derived from hemp which is legal under the Farm Bill. This growing industry and availability in grocery stores and gas stations, has led many in prohibition states to believe they’re enjoying a “legal” high, but that may not be the case.

Chemically, the compounds are the same, but consumers should be aware of unnecessary risks. THCP and other synthesized cannabinoids may be chemically sound, but it’s the harmful residuals that pose a danger to public health. Garage chemists may not have the appropriate skill level or equipment to synthesize cannabinoids without leaving behind compounds used in the process. This could pose a threat to those inhaling or eating the products, but not all products are crafted in illegal labs.

Be a discerning consumer whenever shopping for hemp-derived cannabinoids. Buy from a reputable store that knows about the plant. Seek out testing analysis of products, and research brands for information on extraction methods and starting materials before buying.


The listed psychoactive effects of THC and THCP appear similar with one exponential difference: the scientists that found THCP believe it to be 33 times more potent than delta-9 THC. This is explained by the molecular structure of the cannabinoid. Each has an alkyl chain, which looks like a jagged line, and THCP’s is longer. It’s believed that this longer jagged line creates a stronger binding affinity to cannabinoid receptors, ultimately getting people more high. This means that while THCP is found about 30 percent less in weed plants, consumers may not need to consume higher doses to experience its effects.

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Because THCP was discovered about five years ago, there’s no widely accepted knowledge about its therapeutic benefits or side effects. The Italian research team looked at how THCP impacted mice at various doses, finding that the cannabinoid had the power to relax the rodents mentally and physically and reduce pain.

THCP isn’t regularly added to a certificate of analysis, which is a document from a testing lab that says what’s in a strain or product. Without reliable data on how much THCP is in a regular medical or adult-use cannabis strain, there’s no way to know whether the compound has an impact on effects. Despite a lack of research, there’s a growing market for THCP products in the U.S.

Guide to THCP products

There are many THCP products available in all types, including vape pens, edibles, and pre-rolls. It’s important to be discerning when buying any cannabis products, but that’s even more important in the hemp-derived space. Hemp-derived cannabis products aren’t regulated or monitored by the FDA, which means bad players have little stopping them from crafting harmful products.

One search online for THCP products brings up pages upon pages of companies selling various things. The first thing to do when researching whether products are trustworthy is to seek out a COA or test results on the product pages of the company’s website. If there’s no COA, don’t purchase those products. This practice will reduce the number of companies to choose from to just a few.

Once the companies withholding test results are filtered out, try to learn about the brand. Find out who founded the company, where they source flower to extract into cannabinoids, and anything else they share on an ‘About’ page. Those who share information about their team, process, and methods aren’t hiding anything, and are therefore easier to trust. However, many companies don’t share their practices for other reasons, so this isn’t a black-and-white indicator of good or bad practices.

The best way to go is to use regulated cannabis products and avoid those that aren’t naturally occurring in the plant, but not everyone can follow these principles. Those who choose to take the risk and mosey into the hemp-derived world need to be mindful of what they purchase.

Other hemp-derived cannabinoids

THCP isn’t the only new cannabinoid on the block; the world of hemp-derived compounds grows all the time. The hemp-derived cannabinoid movement seems to have started with the introduction of delta-8 THC. Soon after, delta-10 THC made an appearance, followed by a trail of acronyms like HHC, THCO, and more.

As time went on, each of these iterations of THC showed harmful side effects worth knowing about. In every case, there is a danger that the chemists involved with synthesizing the products are not keeping a clean workspace. There is also a risk that they use harmful additives in the chemical process that aren’t purged out, leaving things that a human shouldn’t inhale or eat behind. On top of this risk, each compound has revealed its issues.


Delta-8 THC has the potential to get people high, but the negative side effects make it not worth the trouble. The FDA has received adverse event reports about people after consuming or inhaling delta-8 products, including heart issues, hallucinations, vomiting, tremors, anxiety, dizziness, confusion, and loss of consciousness.

Other effects of delta-8 are said to be similar to delta-9, but the voracity of the product is unknown to many who try it. Lots of people overmedicate with delta-8 products, dosing them in a way they would a regulated weed product, but the two aren’t the same.

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People claim that delta-10 THC is similar to delta-8 but with less intense effects. Unfortunately, there is very little research on the compound and even less understanding of its side effects.


Hexahydrocannabinol (HHC) picked up steam in 2021, offering lower potency than delta-9 THC. However, the effects of HHC in the plant may have gone unnoticed due to testing capabilities. Still, there is very little data on how the hemp-derived version of HHC impacts a person. One study found that HHC has an affinity for the CB1 receptor, which signals addiction potential.


Before heat is applied to THC it is tetrahydrocannabinol-acid. If eaten raw, THCA has no psychoactive effect. However, with a little intentional heat, the THCA converts to THC. Some brave purveyors are selling THCA flower using the 2018 Farm Bill’s use of “THC” rather than “THCA” as proof of legality. When eaten raw, THCA has noteworthy benefits, but most consumers of the compound light it up to get high.


THC acetate ester, O-acetyl-Δ9-THC, or THCO, is another CBD-derived product that may be especially dangerous. First, it has the potential to turn into ketene when vaped. Ketene is believed to have caused the 2019 EVALI crisis, also known as Vape Gate.

THCO is also referred to as the psychedelic cannabinoid. People say it takes longer to kick in, but once it does, it is two to three times more intense than delta-9 THC. There is no evidence as to why this happens– another red flag.

No matter the hemp-derived cannabinoid, take the same precautions before eating or inhaling. The side effects of these compounds are largely unknown, and manufacturers are widely unregulated. The risk often outweighs the benefit.

thcp vs thc


Very little is known about THCP, while THC has been the focus for decades. The side effects and risks of THC are well documented, while THCP remains somewhat of a mystery. Because of this, there are lots of questions about the two.

How is THCP different from THC?

THC differs from THCP in that it has one alkyl chain, while THCP has a longer one. This lends to its effects, which may strengthen its binding ability to cannabinoid receptors. They also differ because THCP is unregulated and, therefore, poses more consumer risk compared to regulated THC products.

Is THCP safe?

THCP is unregulated, and so are the facilities where it is made. Because of this, it is not considered a safe compound, especially compared to highly regulated and monitored adult-use cannabis products.

Does THCP turn into THC?

THCP does not turn into THC; that is THCA. The acid drops off of THCA when heat is applied and it converts to classic cannabinoid THC. That does not happen when heat is applied to THCP.

Is THCP stronger than THC?

Preliminary studies show that THCP is 33 percent stronger than delta-9 THC. However, research is required to prove these results. More scientific inquiry into THCP would also reveal the side effects of higher doses of this compound.

THCP vs THC: the final word

When choosing between THC and THCP, always go for the classic THC. Both are naturally occurring, but THC is naturally occurring in higher quantities. There has also been more time to study the impact of THC on the mind and body, whereas THCP’s long-term effects (or short-term, even) are widely unknown.

Those dipping a spoon into the alphabet soup of the cannabis space should be mindful about what they eat, vape, or inhale– no regulations are protecting these consumers.

Cara Wietstock is senior content producer of and has been working in the cannabis space since 2011. She has covered the cannabis business beat for Ganjapreneur and The Spokesman Review. You can find her living in Bellingham, Washington with her husband, son, and a small zoo of pets.