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THCa VS THC Percentage In Cannabis Explained

THCa is naturally present in cannabis plants, and THC is the cannabinoid that gets us high. 

When buying different weed products, it’s crucial to know the percentage of both THC and THCa in your products.  

Why? What does it actually mean when a label says “Total THC Percentage”? 

Basically, it’s a way of measuring how potent your weed will be after it’s prepared. The higher the THC percentage by weight, the stronger the high will be.

In this article, we’ll explain the meaning of THCa vs THC percentage, how to read cannabis product labels and how to know what percentage of THC or THCa you should be looking for.

THCA percent in weed

Key Takeaways: THCa VS THC Percentage Meaning 

  • THCa turns into THC after it’s heated up.
  • Product labels contain a potency analysis that estimates the total THC levels after preparing the cannabis.
  • The efficiency with which THCa is converted into THC will depend on your decarboxylation method.
  • Ultimately, you’ll need to figure out your sweet spot regarding total THC content.

THCa Turns Into THC 

THCa (tetrahydrocannabinolic acid) is a naturally occurring substance found in all varieties of cannabis. It’s the acidic precursor to THC, and its main attraction is that it turns into Delta-9-THC after a particular chemical process.

This process is called decarboxylation and occurs when harvested cannabis flower is  heated up.

Essentially, the THCa molecule has a group of carbon atoms called carboxyls. These acidic carbon atoms detach when heated, converting THCa into THC. 

The main difference between THC and THCa? THCa can’t get you high until it’s converted to THC, while Delta 9 THC is the primary psychoactive cannabinoid found in marijuana.

Related Read: Delta 9 VS THCa

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THCa and Total THC Product Labeling 

In the USA, cannabis products sold legally are required by law to carry a label outlining their cannabinoid content. 

This means you’re likely to see stickers on products that mention percentages of CBD, THC, THCa, and CBDa. But what do these mean?

Most products list those when detailing a “potency analysis,” containing percentages of different compounds. These are great for determining how strong your weed is.

Don’t panic if you read that the THC level is low or around 1%.  Most plants have a lot of THCa, which needs to be decarboxylated, but not much THC. This means you’ll likely see THCa percentages up to 20% or higher. 

Another standard label is “Total THC,” which refers to the total percentage of THC present by dry weight after decarboxylation. Don’t worry if the THC and THCa levels don’t add up. They’re not ever going to.

thca percentage
Source: Leafly.com

This is because the decarbing process isn’t 100% efficient. THC is lighter than THCa because of those missing carbon atoms. Total THC could be some 13% lower than “total” THC and THCa levels.. Some even estimate that 1 out of every 4 THC molecules burns up when decarbed.

This goes to say that total THC levels won’t ever really add up to the sum of THC and THCa percentages, so don’t overthink that when trying to determine how much THC your product contains

It’s impossible to predict the total THC content of a product after decarboxylation. This is because total THC depends on a few different factors, like how long it’s  exposed to heat and how high the temperature it is.

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What Is a Good THCa Percentage? 

What’s considered a good THCa percentage?

This totally depends on what you prefer. As we’ve said, the THCa will convert into THC somewhat inefficiently, so you should account for that.

Ultimately, you’ll have to try out different THC percentages to determine which one you like best.

Also, you should consider that decarboxylation will impact your final THC percentages. When you smoke flower, the conversion of THCa to THC is instant. But baking edibles is entirely different. 

THCa cannot get you high, but you don’t want to bake it at temperatures so high that you end up with no THC and a little THCa left. But you don’t want temps so low that THCa doesn’t convert to THC.

So what’s the ideal baking temperature? Research shows that the optimal decarboxylation temp for THCa conversion to THC is 131 °C for approximately 65 minutes. Anything hotter than 149 °C will cause cannabinoids and terpenes to burn off and your edibles won’t get you high.

thca pecentages in hemp

Wrapping Up: THCa and THC Percentages Compared 

THCa turns into THC after it’s heated up, but it does so inefficiently. It’s likely that up to a quarter of your THCa gets lost when smoked or baked. 

This will have a significant impact on the potency of your cannabis, and you should consider this when shopping for weed.

The potency analysis on the label will tell you the total THCa and THC content in your cannabis. Under “Total THC,” it will also estimate THC percentage in the total dry weight of your weed after it’s decarboxylated.

Ultimately, to determine what a good THCa percentage is for you, you’ll need to try out different products and see how they affect you. Click here to check out some of our favs.