What is THCA Flower
What is THCa Flower?
THCa flower refers to cannabis buds marketed as hemp. These buds are intended for smoking or vaping. They contain high concentrations of tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCa) and low concentrations of D9. Specifically, their D9 levels do not exceed 0.3% by dry weight. Despite that this flower is federally lawful hemp, smoking it will get you high. In fact, this “total THC” profile is very much in line with cannabis flower sold in regulated marijuana markets. This is because the advertised “THC” values for flower in regulated marijuana markets is almost always “total THC”, meaning the sum of D9 plus 87.7% of the THCa. This is technically written as: THCa(%wt.)× 0.877+∆9THC(%wt.)
For example, if you review a COA for a sample of Durban Poison, one of the most popular marijuana strains. It is typically advertised as having THC concentrations between 15%-25%. The THC concentrations in the Durban Poison COA in this example is 20.67%, right in line with what would be expected for this strain. Of that total amount of THC, the D9 level is only 1.24%. The rest of the THC is in the form of THCa, which registers at 22.15%. This profile is typical for marijuana flower. “THC” that is advertised in marijuana almost always refers to total THC, of which THCa is usually found in the highest concentrations. Although THCa does not have an intoxicating effect when ingested, the reason this total THC profile is acceptable to marijuana smokers is that THCa converts to D9 when heated in a chemical process called decarboxylation. Smoking or vaping creates sufficient heat to convert some of the THCa to D9.
In summary, THCa hemp flower is no different from marijuana flower currently sold in medical and recreational marijuana dispensaries in states with regulated marijuana markets.
Is THCa Flower legal?
The short answer is, “Yes”, at least under federal law and laws of most states.
The idea that there are legal hemp buds that are no different from illegal marijuana buds seems counterintuitive, but proving that this is true involves a very straightforward analysis. The 2018 Farm Bill distinguishes legal hemp from illegal marijuana solely by reference to its D9 THC levels. Specifically, hemp is cannabis with no more than 0.3% D9 by dry weight. So, a hemp bud with THCa levels of 20% and D9 levels of 0.15% falls squarely within the 2018 Farm Bill’s definition of “hemp” and is legal under federal law.
In fact, the DEA specifically agrees that cannabis material meeting this definition is lawful. In a letter written by the DEA on January 6, 2022, the DEA states: “material that is derived or extracted from the cannabis plant such as tissue culture and any other genetic material that has a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol concentration of no more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis meets the legal definition of “hemp” and is thus not controlled under the CSA.” This is not the first time the DEA has confirmed that the sole factor distinguishing lawful hemp from unlawful marijuana is its D9 concentration.
In addition to confirming this standard in both a letter to the Alabama Board of Pharmacy and a public statement to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the DEA’s Interim Final Rule regarding hemp states that marijuana is limited “to only include cannabis or cannabis-derived material that contain more than 0.3% delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (also known as D9 -THC) on a dry weight basis.”
In summary, harvested cannabis flower with D9 concentrations not exceeding 0.3% meets the legal definition of “hemp” and is not controlled under federal law, regardless of its THCa levels.