A few decades ago, weed could only be associated with hippies and Woodstock. Most people only know about pot and its effects because of the TV series or movies they watch, where the depiction of this plant might be “inaccurate,” to say the least. So, indeed, whether you are one of them or not, you’re probably having issues figuring out what the acronyms mean and wondering, “what is THC?” “what does it do to my body?” and “does it have side effects?”
Bob Marley’s words couldn’t hold truer today, for the times they a-changing’. From newspapers to social networks, teens to the elderly, scientists to lawyers, the debate for weed legalization and consumption is in everyone’s mouth. Case in point, look no further than last year’s political campaigns where almost every candidate, either for local or national offices, had to take a stance and say whether they were in favor or against cannabis.
There’s a lot of noise out there, no doubt at all. Don’t you fret, though, because we’ve got covered. To ease your craving for knowledge and certainties in this mad and chaotic world, we’ve done our homework. So, after so much research, we’re happy to bring you the ultimate guide on marijuana, cannabis, and THC.
What Is THC?
Ohhh, the million-dollar question: what is THC? For beginners, THC is one of the components of the marijuana plant, a cannabinoid. It stands for tetrahydrocannabinol (good thing we use abbreviations in our language, right?) which is the primary psychoactive chemical you can find in cannabis. In other words, it’s the active ingredient responsible for getting people “high” when they smoke some good old MJ.
Why does THC make us feel this sensation? Because of the shape it has. As our friends from the herb. co-write, “THC just happens to have the right molecular structure to fit into special landing sites on cells throughout the body, called cannabinoid receptors.” 1 These receptors can be found on the surface of our body’s cells. Once they land there, especially on the brain cells, they cause psychological reactions, thus the “high.”
Smoking weed is not the only way of getting THC into your system. You may also ingest it orally by drinking or eating drinks and foods that have it. Balms and lotions containing THC and allowing THC to be incorporated into your skin are becoming increasingly popular throughout the US. The market is, without any doubt, booming for hemp-based products.
It’s important to understand that THC and marijuana aren’t interchangeable terms, the same way cacao is different from chocolate. Weed is made up of hundreds of chemical components. That’s why you’re prone to feel confused when reading the labels from products made with hemp. Another common abbreviation you may find written down in many of these items is CBD. But what is the difference between THC and CBD?
CBD is the abbreviation for cannabidiol, which is another chemical compound present in marijuana. Cannabidiol, unlike THC, is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid found in both hemp and marijuana, whereas THC is only found on marijuana. This means that you won’t get high when you consume products with CBD (unless it also contains THC). If you get tested regularly, you can incorporate it into your lifestyle without any risk.
THCA is another common term we can find in marijuana jargon. But what is THCA? It stands for tetrahydrocannabinol acid and is the previous form of THC. What do we mean by that?
Well, marijuana plants have small amounts of THC. What they do have is THCA. THCA has no psychoactive effects on our bodies, but it turns into THC when heated to high temperatures. This is why marijuana is smoked, burned, or baked before we consume it.
We should also take into consideration that there are different strains of marijuana. As with any other plant or animal species, you can find different types of marijuana these are called strains. Depending on the strain, the amount of CBD and THC the plant has varied. Humans have developed a large number of strains that are suited for whatever use you want.
What Is Delta-8 THC?
As we mentioned previously, there are hundreds of cannabinoids that can be found inside the marijuana plant. However, the most common cannabinoid used in most of the products we consume and gets us high is Delta-9 THC. Despite this, new research has found a new cannabinoid that may become a game-changer in the cannabis industry.
This cannabinoid is similar to Delta-9 THC, so their effects will resemble. However, their molecular structure varies; the “8” and “9” correspond to the chemical bond placement. Incredible amounts of Delta-9 THC can be found in Sativa plants, whereas Delta-8 is much harder to get from marijuana as it needs particular practices in growing, breeding and extraction. This has hampered its commercial use in the industry for a long time.
Both cannabinoids are psychoactive, but Delta-8’s intensity is much lower in comparison. This is beneficial because it provides a safer alternative to those prone to anxiety or paranoia when they consume too much THC. Moreover, Delta-8 can be extracted from both hemp and marijuana, while its counterpart can’t.
With time and funding for research, we’ve learned more about Delta-8’s benefits. New studies have proved the potential beneficial effects we can harvest from this cannabinoid.
Some of them are:
- Chronic pains relief
- Appetite stimulation
- Aiding with substance abuse disorders.
What’s more, as the high effect from Delta-8 has a lower intensity than that of Delta-9, “Most of the people who have tried Delta 8 THC products claim that it gives them a clear-headed high. It leaves them energized and motivated but still in control. They claim that it doesn’t make them feel as sluggish as Delta-9 does.” 2 Delta-8’s weaker intensity makes it worth it to be taken into account.
History Of THC
Marijuana has been a quintessential part of many societies. For example, it has been used to make solid and light fabric for clothes and bags or, in more modern times, as a base for paper, providing a more inexpensive alternative than wood. However, more important has been its use in religious rituals, recreational use, and medical purposes. Benefits from marijuana seem to be miraculous. This is why it catches the attention of many.
In the 17th century, an Irish doctor found that marijuana could help treat stomach aches and reduce vomiting in people ailing from cholera, a common illness in India, where he was studying. By the end of the century, drugstores throughout Europe and America started selling cannabis to treat stomach problems.
It was only a matter of time before researchers discovered that the one component responsible for most of these benefits as THC. Due to its psychoactive properties, they also found it could stimulate hunger and lessen nausea, as THC comes in contact with the areas of the brain in charge of it.
Nowadays, it isn’t necessary to smoke to reap the benefits of weed, as you can take THC oil, but what is THC oil? THC oil comes from marijuana, and it’s only extracted and isolated THC. This oil can be consumed orally or serve as a base for many products such as vaping cartridges, lotions, and foods and drinks.
THC has become extremely popular despite its federal ban in the US. “However, its benefits are so great that “the Food and Drug Administration has approved two drugs with THC that are prescribed in pill form, Marinol and Syndros, to treat nausea caused by cancer chemotherapy and loss of appetite with AIDS patients.”
This is undoubtedly a huge cornerstone in the fight for decriminalization.
Forms Of THC
There are three forms in which THC comes. The oldest and most commonly known is in its herbal form, which is sold in buds most of the time. As discussed above, the amount of THC you can get from consuming the Sativa plant directly is reduced. Instead, it would help if you heated it so that THCA will turn into active THC.
That’s why weed is usually smoked or an ingredient in baked goods such as cookies or brownies. This is the less concentrated form. Hash is also another way you can THC. Hash is produced by compressing or purifying resin (trichomes) from buds of the cannabis Sativa plant.
As a result of the purification process, the product holds higher levels of THC than herbal marijuana. Its consumption is similar to that of the herbal form. Quantities should be reduced, though, as THC is usually two to three times more than in the herbal form.
Nevertheless, when comparing the concentration of THC in the different forms, hash oil takes the cake. This form is the most used commercially and in marijuana-based products. It is made from hash resin and resembles dark honey. The level of THC that hash oil has is up to 50%. It shouldn’t be mistaken with CBD oil which is more widespread and legal to produce federally, as it has no THC.
How Long Does THC Stay In Your System?
Even for medical usage, weed consumption is still illegal in many states, so the persecution of consumers is commonplace. Tests are regularly done on parole or simply working in a conservative environment and risk losing their jobs. If that’s something that worries you, you’re probably asking yourself how much time should pass between that joint and your next drug test.
In reality, it’s difficult to say. Of course, it varies from person to person and depends hugely on the testing method used. There’s also a big difference in whether you’ve smoked THC or consumed it through an edible or a lotion, the latter being the longest your body takes to process. However, these are the average times up to which THC can be detected in your body depending on the test method:
- Saliva: Up to 30 hours;
- Blood: Up to 2 days for one-time users and 7 for frequent ones;
- Urine: Up to 3 days for former users and 30 for frequent ones; and
- Hair: Up to 3 months.
It’s important to know that there’s no way of accelerating the detox. As it happens with alcohol, many people believe that you can speed the process up by drinking coffee or water and urinating, but it’s not true. Sweating is also useless, although some exercise may come in handy after calming down those munchies. “Experts say the only way to detox THC is by waiting it out and stopping use.
After so much writing, we should answer the question, “what is THC used for nowadays?” Many ailments are treated with THC. Some of the usages are included.
- Pain reduction: THC has shown positive results in studies with patients that suffered from diseases that induced chronic pain, such as multiple sclerosis.
- Cancer: Patients enduring chemo find relief in medicine that contains THC as it helps reduce nausea and vomiting and opens the appetite. THC can also slow down brain cancer cells. THC is gaining a lot of traction as a palliative care treatment.
- Anti-inflammatory: As explained by Dr. Ethan Russo in 2011, THC has twenty times more anti-inflammatory properties than aspirin and twice that of hydrocortisone.” 7
- Neurological disorders control: Many psychiatrists are beginning to use THC to help patients that suffer from mental disorders that may disrupt their lives. Veterans with PTSD, in particular, show great benefits from smoking THC as it helps to calm down traumatic memories.
As a side note, we should remark that these benefits refer to the Delta-9 THC cannabinoid, which is currently the most studied variant of THC.
Not everything that shines is gold, though. THC, like any other plant that has a lot of potential benefits, has its downsides. Nevertheless, we should state that side effects, especially the harmful ones, are far from being frequent. Those affected by them usually have some mental disorder or mix THC with alcohol or a prescribed medicine they might be taking.
“A fatal overdose is unlikely, but that doesn’t mean marijuana is harmless.” 6 Some of the side effects that may appear, according to the Center for Disease Control are:
- Extreme confusion
- Increased blood pressure and heart rates
If any inconvenience arises, you should suspend the intake and consult a medic.
Is THC Legal?
Do many people wonder whether THC is legal or not? The short answer is a resounding no. However, as it usually comes in America, it’s not so clear-cut. As we mentioned before, federally, it’s illegal to produce, sell and consume THC. Nevertheless, some states have legalized it for research, medical use only, or even decriminalized it thoroughly and allowed recreational use. It’s a permanent tug of war between federal and state governments.
The war on drugs is still ongoing, which is why it’s not advisable to consume THC unless you are somewhere safe. Transporting THC in any of its forms, or even just as an ingredient in a soda can, between states is highly discouraged simply because there are lots of interstate police cars that could detain and inspect your vehicle.
Despite everything I’ve mentioned, it’s important to remember that some hemp-based products have a tiny amount of THC. These products are legal as their main ingredient is CBD oil and not THC. However, they have no psychoactive effects and will not get you high; you’ll still be able to reap many of the benefits of weed.
As hemp-based and marijuana-based products gain popularity, the debate for their legalization heats up. This can be a great thing, especially if we consider how much good THC does for those who consume it and suffer from chronic diseases or are terminally ill. Time and time again, we can hear their voices in the media as they are asked why they need it to ease their pains.
More research is necessary for the plant, its cannabinoids, and the potential use in medicine, beauty care, lumber, or (why not?) recreation. There’s no doubt that more funding will come as more brands emerge every demanding their products to be tested, so they highlight their benefits in ads.