Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCa) is a compound found in raw form, unheated cannabis plants. THCa is the precursor to tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive component in marijuana that causes a high. But does THCa show up on standard drug tests? Let's take a closer look.
What is THCa?
THCa is the raw, non-psychoactive form of THC found in cannabis plants. It contains a carboxyl group, which means it has an extra carbon atom, oxygen atom, and hydrogen atom attached. This chemical structure makes THCa non-psychoactive.
In raw cannabis, like fresh marijuana buds, almost all the THC is present in the THCa form. When cannabis is dried, cured, or heated, the THCa goes through a process called decarboxylation.
The carboxyl group is removed, converting THCa into delta 9 THC, the compound that causes psychoactive effects.
Unveiling the Hidden Powers of THC-A: Decarboxylation Demystified!
Decarboxylation is the process of removing the carboxyl group from THC-A to convert it into delta-9 THC, the compound that produces marijuana's psychological effects. There are a few main ways decarboxylation occurs:
- Heating - Exposing marijuana to heat causes the THC-A to lose its carboxyl group and convert to THC. This happens automatically when smoking or vaporizing cannabis. It also occurs when baking edibles or cooking oils, usually at temperatures over 220 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Drying/Curing - When cannabis is dried and cured after harvest, the THC-A slowly begins to decarboxylate into THC. Drying and curing can convert approximately 10-15% of the THC-A over time.
- UV Light Exposure - Exposing harvested cannabis to ultraviolet light can cause partial decarboxylation. UV light breaks down the carboxyl group. However, UV exposure alone typically only converts around 50% of THC-A.
- Acidic Environment - Exposing THC-A to an acidic environment can cause the carboxyl group to break off over time. This is why some THC-A can convert to THC in the stomach when cannabis is eaten. However, this conversion is usually minimal.
- Time - Very slowly over time, such as during prolonged storage, THC-A can lose its carboxyl group and convert to THC. But this process takes a very long time at normal temperatures.
So in summary, applying heat, drying, curing, and UV light are the main ways THC-A is efficiently decarboxylated into the psychoactive THC compound. This conversion must occur in order for cannabis to induce its euphoric and therapeutic effects.
Will THCa Lead to a Positive Drug Test?
Uncover the Link: Why Decarboxylated THC-A Triggers Positive Drug Tests
- When THC-A is decarboxylated by applying heat or drying/curing, it converts into delta-9 THC, the main psychoactive compound in cannabis.
- This converted THC is what causes marijuana's high, and it is what drug tests are screening for. Urine tests in particular look for the metabolite THC-COOH, which is produced when the body breaks down THC.
- So if you ingest decarboxylated THC-A, such as through smoking, vaping, or eating heated/dried cannabis products, some of that THC can be metabolized into THC-COOH and show up on a drug test.
- The amount of THC-A converted to THC depends on the method. Smoking and vaping convert nearly all the THC-A into THC almost instantly. Eating dried cannabis converts less.
- But any amount of converted THC getting into the bloodstream can be detected on a drug test for 1-30 days after use, depending on frequency of use, potency, and other factors.
- So in summary, decarboxylated THC-A that has been converted into THC through heating/drying can absolutely cause a positive drug test result, since it is metabolized into the THC COOH metabolite compound that drug tests are screening for. Consuming raw, unheated THC-A alone generally will not lead to a positive test.
From Hours to Weeks: Understanding how long THCA Stays in Your System
The amount of time THC stays detectable in your system depends on how often you use marijuana. For occasional users, THC is typically detectable in urine for 3-30 days after last use. However, for frequent and heavy cannabis users, THC metabolites can stay in urine for several weeks or longer after last use.
There are many variables that affect how long THC is detectable, including how much body fat you have (THC is stored in fat cells), your metabolism and hydration levels, how potent the marijuana is, and the sensitivity of the drug test itself.
But in general, infrequent marijuana users can expect THC to clear from urine in around 1-5 days, moderate users 1-15 days, and heavy users as long as 30-60+ days. So the more often you consume decarboxylated THC-A, the longer it will remain detectable in your system.
THC-COOH is formed when THC enters the body and breaks down. It can stay detectable in urine for days or weeks after last use, making it the main compound tested for in urine drug tests.
Different Types of Drug Tests Explored
- Blood Testing - While urine tests look for metabolites, blood tests detect the actual presence of THC compounds. If you consumed THCa right before a blood test, such as smoking or vaping THCa flower However, THCa likely clears from blood faster than THC.
- Heated Preparations - Any form of heating or drying cannabis, like making THCa tea or baking THCa edibles, can cause some decarboxylation and convert some THCa into THC. There is a risk this THC could trigger a positive test.
- Contamination - THCa products could become contaminated with small amounts of THC during processing and handling. This possible THC contamination could lead to a positive test.
- Individual Metabolism - A tiny fraction of THCa converts into THC through exposure to heat and acids in the stomach. For most people this amount is negligible, but for very heavy THCa users, it could potentially build up enough to trigger a positive.
Is THCa Legal?
The 2018 Farm Bill legalized hemp and hemp derivatives that contain 0.3% or less THC. This made THCa federally legal, since it is not psychoactive like THC.
Many states have also legalized hemp and THCa. However, some states still prohibit THCa, so it's important to check your local laws before purchasing any cannabis-derived products.
THC-A Products and Failed THCA Drug Tests
In summary, THC-A in its raw, unheated form is unlikely to cause a failed drug test. However, users should exercise caution when ingesting any products derived from cannabis.
Decarboxylation through heating or drying can convert THC-A into THC, which can absolutely be detected by standard drug tests. The converted THC is metabolized into compounds that drug tests screen for. If you are subject to marijuana drug testing, it is safest to avoid ingesting THC-A products that have been dried, heated, or aged for extended periods of time, as some conversion to THC is possible.
While small or infrequent use of THC-A alone generally will not lead to a positive test, it is impossible to predict with full certainty.
Users should be aware of the risks and educate themselves on the possibility of THC-A causing a failed drug test, especially for those who consume frequently or in high doses. When in doubt, exercise caution with any cannabis-derived products if drug testing is a concern.