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THCa VS Delta 9 THC: What’s The Difference?

Whether you smoke weed everyday or are a cannabis newbie, it’s always good to know what you’re consuming. 

Delta 9 is a more technical name for the THC we all love. 

THCa refers to a completely different substance. Well, almost completely different. 

THCa is actually the precursor to THC and It’s federally legal. Without it we wouldn’t get high. On its own, without decarbing it however, THCa won’t get you high at all. 

So what’s the deal with THCa vs Delta 9 THC? 

In this article, that’s exactly what we’ll explain. Keep reading to discover the subtle, yet extremely important differences of these two crucial cannabis compounds.

d9 vs thca

THCa Is A Cannabinoid Acid 

THCa is just a short way to say tetrahydrocannabinolic acid, the scientific name given to the chemical precursor of THC. 

In short, this means that THC is derived from THCa, and more specifically, that THCa converts into THC after a specific process.

THCa is a cannabinoid naturally present in all hemp and cannabis plants. 

It takes the form of an acid, which means it’s a bigger molecule than regular THC. THCa contains potential therapeutic benefits that are different from THC, and it doesn’t cause any psychoactive effects.

If you wanted to consume THCa, you’d have to ingest raw cannabis that has not been exposed to heat. Juicing raw cannabis buds and leaves is a popular way to benefit from THCa. THCa tinctures are also slowly making their way into the market.

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THCa Is The Delta 9 Precursor 

As we’ve said, THCa is a precursor to THC. In the raw cannabis plant, this cannabinoid is fairly present. However, once weed is decarbed, the majority of it turns into Delta 9 THC. 

THC has multiple isomers, and each of them produces particular effects. They’re known as: Delta 9, Delta 8, and Delta 10. They differ slightly: Delta 9 is the most psychoactive, and Delta 10 is the weakest. 

When people talk about THC, they’re usually referring to Delta 9 THC. THCa turns into Delta 9 after a process called decarboxylation. THCa loses its acidic carbon atoms when it’s heated up This makes it smaller, allowing it to fit into CB1 receptors in the brain. Ultimately, this is how you get high.

Essentially, this means that when you consume raw cannabis leaves, you’re getting that THCa. But after you smoke, bake or vape them, you’re consuming THC. THCa is not psychoactive, which means it cannot get you high. But, like most cannabinoids, it does have some promising medicinal potential.


THCa VS Delta 9: Compared 

So what are the main differences of THCa vs Delta 9 THC?

That’s exactly what we’ll look at here.

After all, the more you know about these different cannabinoids, the more informed you’ll be when purchasing Delta 9 or THCa Flower.

Chemical structure

The biggest difference between the two, which makes all the difference, is the chemical structure of THCa vs Delta 9.

Before decarboxylation, THCa has a whole group of carbon atoms (carboxyls) attached to one end. This makes THCa much larger than D9. 

Before it’s decarbed, the THCa molecule is too large to fit CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors. Basically, this is why THCa can’t get you high.  Remember, it’s because THC fits perfectly with CB1 receptors that we even get high.

When THCa is decarbed, it loses these carboxyls and the molecule becomes lighter and thinner. It then fits perfectly with CB1 receptors, and we get to experience weed’s famous euphoric effects. 


Cannabis works by tinkering with the endocannabinoid system in the brain, which regulates a myriad of different functions throughout the body and mind. And it’s the influence of cannabis on cannabinoid receptors that’s largely responsible for its effects. 

While studies have measured a minute binding of THCa molecules with CB1 receptors in the brain, it’s not enough for you to feel any effects. In short, THCa will not get you high. Delta 9 THC, however, is a different story.

This is because of many factors, but mainly because of what we’ve discussed above. You should expect to get high quickly with D9 THC, even at small doses.

Both appear to have therapeutic benefits, but more research is necessary to make any medical claims. That said, medical marijuana is used widely to treat several different mental and physical conditions.

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Product selection is another big difference of THCa vs Delta 9.

While the number of THCa products is steadily increasing, there’s definitely a much wider selection of Delta 9 products on the market. 

Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid is typically found in THCa vape carts, THCa concentrates or flower because it needs to be decarbed before getting high. That said, the market for THCa gummies and other edibles is gaining traction. 

THC, on the other hand, comes in a wider array of products. Especially in states that have legalized medical and/or recreational cannabis. You’ll find THC in all kinds of ganja goodies, including D9 gummies and other sweet treats, vapes, joints, blunts, concentrates and more.

Related Reads: Delta 8 VS THCa, THC In A Joint

Wrapping Up THCa and D9 THC 

When it comes to cannabis, THCa is a huge deal because it turns into THC when it’s heated up — a process called decarboxylation. Without THCa, there would be no Delta 9 THC.

Before it becomes THC, however, THCa will not get you high. 

Delta 9 is simply what most people are referring to when they’re talking about THC.