All THC Is Not Created Equal

BY: TJ Gagnier


Since the onset of expanded legalization, cannabis research has exploded. More and more government and scientific entities have access to our favorite plant and it is changing the way we look at our highs. CBD has taken the world by storm, loved by medical patients and housewives alike. And with it, we have learned about even more minor cannabinoids like CBG (cannabigerol) and CBN (cannabinol), the more uplifting and sedating cousins to CBD, respectively. But what about the O.G. cannabinoid, THC? What have we learned about Tetrahydrocannabinol in recent years? As it turns out researchers have learned a lot; there are a number of different versions of THC and each one affects you a bit differently. As such, if you’re more interested in the recreational side of cannabis, it can be beneficial to know just what iteration of THC you’re about to interact with.

THC, from A to V

At the core of getting high in the conventional sense is Tetrahyrodcannabinol, or THC. This is the cannabinoid that stoners have been familiar with for decades. It is what gives you the “psychoactive” high of cannabis, what makes electronic music tolerable and fast food some of the most gourmet stuff you’ve ever tasted. When it is not being used for hilarity and recreational fun, THC is consumed by millions for therapeutic and medical reasons. THC is the reason we all found pot and why we are interested in learning more about it. And it’s only the beginning.

On the analytics label of your cannabis, you will often see a different type of THC, Tetrahydrocannabolic acid, or THC-A. THC-A is the precursor to THC and is found in abundance in freshly harvested weed. While THC-A slowly converts to THC while being dried, it still exists in raw bud that is purchased. So to help it along, THC-A is heated up to just over 200 degrees with a lighter or in your oven, causing it to decarboxylate and become its more fun cousin. THC-A when consumed unaltered is non-psychoactive and in a lot of ways, has effects more similar to CBD than actual THC. It is most often utilized for its anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective properties.

At the other end of the spectrum is THC-V (tetrahydrocannabivarin). Derived from primarily African landrace strains, THC-V is still being researched even though we have known about it for decades. As such, there is still a lot of debate about this cannabinoid. Many believe that THC-V is highly psychoactive while other studies suggest that it is only about a quarter as potent as THC. The current prevailing theory is that THC-V’s psychoactivity is exponentially compounding depending on how much is consumed. One thing that all the research tends to agree on is that THC-V is an appetite suppressant. So, if you are someone who is prone to the munchies, seeking out strains high in THC-V may be beneficial for you. Additionally, medical patients may seek out THC-V to help find relief to anxiety, Alzheimers and diabetes.

THC by the Numbers

Most of the time, the only numbers we have to deal with when it comes to cannabis are the percentages on the back and the price tags. But there are a whole slew of “numbered” THC types as well. The primary of which is Delta-9 THC (Δ-9). This is the “conventional” THC that you consume. The Delta in these names refers simply to the structure of these particular THC molecules, so don’t be too concerned that Δ-9 sounds like a government issued pesticide.

The second most common THC structure is Δ-8. It is a partially degraded form of THC that has become more prominent around the cannabis marketplace in recent years. You can most easily think of Delta-8 THC as the “light beer” of THC. Δ-8 has about 20% of the psychoactive potency of Δ-9 THC. As a consequence, it produces highs that are more gentle and manageable than some of the more intense psychoactivity of high Δ-9. Since Delta-8 THC still has the same therapeutic properties that are associated with Δ-9 THC, Δ-8 functions as a good option for users who are looking for the medicinal aspects of cannabis, without the impairment.

While Delta 8 and 9 are the most common molecular structures of THC, Δ-10 has recently emerged as another isomer worth noting. Delta-10 is a by-product of the concentrate and extraction process of cannabis. A crystallized version of THC, Δ-10 occurs during distillation. Not much is known about this compound, as for many years, extractors misidentified the compound as CBC or CBL. While there is still a lot of research to be done on the effects of Delta-10, most current anecdotal evidence suggests that Δ-10 produces high energy in its consumers.

The final THC compound worth noting is 11-Hydroxy-THC. This is the metabolic byproduct of consuming cannabis orally. Whereas most cannabis we enjoy is processed through the lungs into the bloodstream, edibles pass through the GI tract and the liver to be broken down. This process and subsequent conversion into 11-Hydroxy-THC is what causes edibles to last longer and feel more potent than your average joint. It is essential to be aware of this compound transformation as it allows us to better articulate why exactly eating cannabis is so much more intense than just smoking it.

Through understanding all of the different incarnations of THC, we are learning how to better dictate our highs. We can provide both ourselves and other users with the right experience for them to best appreciate cannabis and what it can do for your life. For a while after legalization, it seemed that pot had just become too strong at the behest of the general public’s preferences. But as we learn more and more about it, we are understanding that not only is there a strain for everyone, there is a specific cannabinoid for everyone as well. Highs are much more controllable than you think. You just need to do a bit of research.