Hemp plants being pruned by hand using clippers. A chemical structure is superimposed over the bottom left corner of the image.

What is THC: An Overview of Tetrahydrocannabinol

A lot has been said about the different cannabinoids present in the various species of cannabis plants lately. Cannabidiol or CBD is slowly turning into a part of many peoples health regimens and has attracted more eyeballs than ever. This curiosity has propelled people to learn about the other compounds present in the cannabis plant as well. What we know so far is that there are over 100 cannabinoids present in the cannabis plant, but CBD, along with THC, are the most renowned and widely recognized cannabinoids in the world.  

But what makes THC so uniquely important in the cannabis genus? What does THC mean in the scheme of things for cannabis? Fasten your seat belt. The journey below is a factual joy ride for anyone looking to hop on the CBD wagon.  

What is THC & what does it stand for?

THC stands for Tetrahydrocannabinol. It is the key psychoactive element of the cannabis plant, and the biggest ingredient responsible for generating the high or euphoric effects usually associated with cannabis. 

THC is present in both hemp and marijuana plants in different quantities. Despite the difference in their chemical structures, the most notable distinction between hemp and marijuana is the amount of THC. Hemp plants usually contain a lower level of THC as compared to marijuana plants. So when CBD along with other cannabinoids is extracted from the industrial hemp plants through the CO2 extraction method, the ultra low level of THC fails to give you the ecstatic feeling that marijuana successfully does.  

How does THC work?

THC works in tandem with your endocannabinoid system and pushes your brain to release pain relief hormones. It provides a psychoactive effect and gives you a feeling of calmness and serenity. But how does THC achieve this?

THCs chemical structure is almost similar to a chemical in the brain named Anandamide which functions as a neurotransmitter. Anandamide sends chemical messages between different nerve cells in the central nervous system which directly affects sensory experiences such as pleasure, memory, concentration, coordination, movement and perception of time.

The similarity between THC and Anandamide chemical structure creates confusion for the body. The human body treats THC as a homegrown entity. So when THC enters the body, it attaches itself to the cannabinoid receptors on these neurotransmitters and slowly but steadily affects the functioning of the nervous system, especially the sensory experience mentioned above. If you have ingested THC, you will see its ecstatic effects slowly.  

CBD vs THC: Whats the difference?

The million-dollar question is Whats the difference between CBD and THC?This is one question that still rattles many people. However, the biggest difference between THC and CBD is the presence or absence of psychoactive properties respectively in each compound. The bigger picture here is that CBD is a non-psychoactive and legal compound with mild effects while THC due to its ability to provide ecstatic feelings has more obviously powerful effects. 

Interestingly, CBD derived from hemp plants contain up to 0.3% THC as allowed and legally prescribed by the 2018 Farm Bill while the marijuana plant is supposedly known to possess higher levels of THC ranging from 15% to 25% which adds a psychoactive component not found in CBD.  

While buying CBD products, you need to remember that hemp now doesnt fall under Schedule 1 of the controlled substances list after the implementation of the Farm Bill. Hemp can be legally grown on farms throughout the United States while marijuanas legality varies from state to state as they still classify it as a schedule 1 drug. 

How to take CBD and THC?

There are multiple ways to consume CBD and THC at present. They can be consumed by smoking, being taken sublingually, vaping, or by eating gummies infused with CBD or THC. Here are a few options available to you: 

These arent the only options available to you these days. New products are being developed all the time. So when choosing CBD or THC products, it is also important to consider their formulation. Full spectrum CBD products contain THC, CBD and other cannabinoids while broad spectrum does not contain any THC in them. A third of the lot is Isolate CBD products which contain only CBD and no other cannabinoids. 

So if youre starting afresh in the CBD space and wish for a mild experience, CBD Isolate should be your partner in crime. 

An array of CBD products placed on a purple backdrop

How long does THC stay in your system?

THC gradually accumulates in your system. It completely depends on the frequency of your usage. If you are a frequent user of THC, it will remain for a longer period in your body and also in higher quantities. It is known that THC can also be detected in irregular users for one to three days after their last dose and 30 days or longer in frequent or regular users. 

However, remember that the mode of consuming THC plays a big part. Vaping or smoking might not allow THC to stay in your body for long but if you consume a THC edible, it will take longer for your body to digest the THC in it. 

Drinking tons of water to flush THC out of your system is also not advised. THC might show up in your urine test for up to 21 days and also in your blood test for up to 7 days. So it is always preferred to adjust your THC intake as per your personal regimen and then make changes accordingly. See what fits the bill in your life and then take THC for your desired purpose.  

Is THC Legal?

Marijuana is still classified as a Schedule 1 drug under the Controlled Substances Act so it doesnt have the same legal clearance as the hemp plant. If CBD is extracted from a hemp plant and contains less than 0.3% THC, it is unequivocally given a federal clearance. Hence, consuming THC up to 0.3% is legal, within limits and allowed by the federal government.

The water gets a little murkier when THC is extracted from the marijuana plant. The levels of THC shoot up and THC from marijuana plants hasnt been lucky to receive a federal clearance so far. 

But states have different takes and laws when it comes to marijuana. So if you are extracting or taking THC from a marijuana plant it may or may not be legal depending on the state you're in. Lets assume you are in a state that permits the recreational or medicinal use of marijuana. Then you have the freedom to legally purchase marijuana in that particular state if you hold a medical marijuana card. 

It is advised that you look for the marijuana laws of the particular state and then buy THC or CBD products accordingly. If that feels like a lot of work, its best if you choose Full Spectrum CBD products since it will give you all the ingredients - THC, CBD and other cannabinoids, within the 0.3% THC limit and without the hassle of any legal troubles.  

Any potential side effects of THC?

The dosage of THC usually determines its side effects. But if you are taking THC within prescribed limits, it is known not to have extreme effects on your body. But there are some effects which need to be taken into consideration and addressed. They include:

  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Changes in mood and appetite
  • Drowsiness
  • Anxiety

You need to ensure that youre administering the correct dose of THC. If you feel like a particular THC product isnt working for you, switch to another variant and see how it works. The idea is to experiment with different THC products like topicals, gels, salves, lotions, or gummies before landing upon one.  

A man in a doctor's coat and wearing a stethoscope holds up a hemp leaf and a tincture bottle

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  • Is THC safe?

It always depends on the amount that you ingest. The 2018 Farm Bill puts the limit of THC at 0.3% to safeguard people. It is always advised to administer the dose as per your metabolism and threshold level.

  • Is THC addictive?

THC activates the reward center in the brain, leading to a huge dopamine rush. It brings pleasure and satisfaction. If there is a constant surge in dopamine release, it may lead to a state of addiction. But luckily, CBD products have 0.3% levels of THC that limit the dopamine release to a huge extent. 

  • Can we give THC to pets?

Although people have started giving CBD or THC treats to their pets, it is always advisable to consult a veterinarian before you give any THC product to your pet. 

  • Are THC products legal?

CBD products derived from hemp plants with 0.3% THC are federally approved. However different states have different laws relating to THC products. Some states allow medicinal or recreational use of marijuana which contains high levels of THC. Its better to learn about the laws of various states and then make a purchase.

  • Where can I buy THC?

THC products are available online, at websites of reputed brands. If you have a medicinal prescription, THC can also be taken from certified retail sellers in your state. We request you to check the laws on marijuana in your state first.  

Closing Thoughts

THC may still not have received the final nod from the federal government but it doesnt undermine its growing popularity and usage among people. If you ever wish to feel the mild effects of THC without the element of a euphoric high, you can always go for full spectrum CBD products that contain CBD, THC, phytonutrients, and other cannabinoids. The THC level is as per the limit of 0.3% ascribed federally and you can enjoy the product with no hesitation.