THCA vs. Delta 9

Woman with marijuana buds on her hand next to a THCA loaded preroll from Imperial.

While the world of cannabinoids seems to always have new arrivals, some are more similar than others, which can get a bit confusing for newcomers.

In this blog post, we’ll explain the two most popular compounds — THCA and delta 9. These two compounds are astonishingly different in the effects they have on the human body and even legal status. Interestingly, not many people can tell them apart!

If you are one of these folks, read on because we’ll explain THCA and delta 9 from their basics, then build up on that by exploring the science, controversy, and potential that differentiates them from one another.

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Key Takeaways

  • THCA is the acidic precursor to delta 9 THC and occurs naturally in the cannabis plants.
  • In the presence of heat and light, THCA converts to delta 9 THC through a process known as decarboxylation.
  • THCA is non-psychoactive and will not get you high if you consume it, while THC is a renowned psychoactive cannabinoid.

What is THCA?

THCA, which is an easier way of pronouncing the actual compound (tetrahydrocannabinolic acid) is a naturally occurring compound found in the cannabis plant.

THCA is a non-psychoactive compound, which means it doesn’t get people high. However, many experts believe THCA may have numerous potential health benefits, such as anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective, and antiemetic effects on the human body.

How is THCA Made?

THCA occurs naturally in cannabis plants. However, it is typically extracted from raw cannabis plant material through various processes. The extraction methods commonly involve the use of solvents such as butane, ethanol, or CO2, which help separate the cannabinoids and terpenes from the plant matter, resulting in a concentrate rich in THCA. 

What are the Benefits and Effects of THCA?

Just as it is with every cannabinoid, THCA has several effects on the human body. These effects, however, can be positive and help improve health. Here are some potential benefits of THCA:

Pain Management 

Although the pain-relieving effects of THCA might not be as strong as those of THC, some people find it relieving for chronic pain conditions, including headaches and migraines.

Neuroprotective Qualities 

Some studies suggest that THCA may have neuroprotective properties. This means it could help protect and support the health of nerve cells, which has potential implications for neurodegenerative conditions.

Antiemetic (Anti-nausea)

THCA may also reduce nausea and vomiting, making it beneficial for individuals undergoing chemotherapy or those with conditions that cause severe nausea, such as motion sickness.

Sleep Aid

THCA has been observed to promote better sleep by helping individuals relax and unwind, helping those with insomnia or sleep disturbances. By interacting with the endocannabinoid system, THCA may help balance the body’s natural functions and improve sleep patterns.

Mood Enhancement

While more research is needed, some people claim that THCA has a positive impact on mood, reducing anxiety and stress without the intoxicating effects of THC.

Potential Side Effects of THCA

While THCA is generally considered safe, especially when consumed in its raw form, it also has some potential side effects. Here are some considerations you should make when consuming THCA:


When heated, THCA can convert into THC, which can cause intoxication and the typical side effects associated with THC use, such as altered perception, impaired coordination, and increased heart rate. 

So, if you heat or smoke THCA-rich products, you should know that you’ll likely get high.

Allergic Reactions

Some individuals may be allergic to cannabis compounds, including THCA. Allergic reactions can range from mild to severe and may include symptoms like:

  • Skin Reactions – Skin rashes, hives, redness, or itching are often among the earliest signs of an allergic response. Contact with cannabis plants, pollen, or even topical cannabis products can lead to these skin issues.
  • Respiratory Symptoms – Inhalation of cannabis, especially in its smoky form, can lead to respiratory problems such as sneezing, nasal congestion, coughing, wheezing, or shortness of breath.
  • Gastrointestinal Symptoms – Ingesting cannabis-infused products, particularly in large quantities, can result in gastrointestinal issues, such as nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.

Interference with Medications

Like other cannabinoids, THCA may interfere with other medications, often nullifying their effects, reducing their potency, or triggering an adverse reaction. Therefore, you need to consult a healthcare professional, particularly if you are taking medications, to ensure it is safe to use THCA.

Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

Limited research exists on the effects of THCA during pregnancy and breastfeeding, so it’s generally recommended that pregnant or breastfeeding individuals avoid cannabis products.

Best Ways to Take THCA

The best way to take THCA largely depends on your desired outcome and personal preferences. However, here are some of the more popular options cannabis consumers choose:

Consuming Raw Cannabis

One of the most straightforward ways to consume THCA is by ingesting raw, unheated cannabis. This can be done by blending raw cannabis leaves, flowers, or buds into smoothies, juices, or salads.

The advantage of this method is that it avoids decarboxylation, which converts THCA into psychoactive delta 9 THC. This allows you to experience the therapeutic benefits of THCA without the associated high.

THCA Tinctures

THCA tinctures are liquid extracts made from cannabis plants rich in THCA. The tincture is usually created by using alcohol or a glycerin base to dissolve and extract the THCA from the plant material. 

Some manufacturers produce THCA tinctures that are designed to provide a controlled and precise dosage of THCA. These tinctures can be taken sublingually (under the tongue) for faster absorption.

Some of the advantages of THCA tinctures include precise dosing, quick absorption, and odorlessness.

THCA Isolate

THCA isolate is a purified form of THCA that can be consumed in various ways, such as mixing it with food or beverages, vaping or dabbing, and sublingual administration.

Capsules and Edibles

THCA can be infused into capsules, edibles, or beverages. These products provide a convenient and discreet way to consume THCA, and the effects can be longer-lasting compared to inhalation methods. 

As a result of these advantages, THCA edibles have become increasingly popular for both recreational and medical cannabis users. They also reduce the chances of lung irritation and are often designed to taste good, making them a good choice for those who do not want to taste the flavor associated with vaping.

Topical Products

While THCA is non-psychoactive, it has potential anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties, making THCA-infused topical products like creams and balms applicable directly to the skin.

Ultimately, the best way to take THCA depends on your reason for taking it and your comfort level. Nonetheless, experimenting with different methods and consulting with healthcare professionals can help you determine the most effective approach for your needs.

What is Delta 9? 

Delta 9, also known as Delta 9 THC or Delta 9 tetrahydrocannabinol, is the primary psychoactive compound found in the cannabis plant. This compound is responsible for the characteristic “high” or euphoric effects associated with the use of cannabis, which we are all aware of. 

Delta 9 THC causes this high by interacting with the endocannabinoid system in the human body. This system has receptors that are like locks, and delta 9 is like a key that fits into these locks.

When delta 9 THC interacts with the endocannabinoid system, it influences how the brain and body work, making the recipient of the compound feel relaxed and happy, and it can even change how they perceive things (making colors seem brighter or food taste better). 

However, there is more to delta 9 than just the high.

How is Delta 9 Made?

Delta 9 tetrahydrocannabinol, or delta 9 THC, is the main psychoactive compound in cannabis. It’s produced in the cannabis plant and can be extracted through various methods. 

Here’s a quick walkthrough explanation of the production process of delta 9:

  • Growth – Delta 9 THC is naturally produced in the trichomes, which are tiny crystal-like structures on the surface of the cannabis plant. The plant can either be grown indoors or outdoors.
  • Harvest – When the cannabis plant reaches maturity, it is harvested. The trichomes of harvested plants contain THC.
  • Drying and Curing – The harvested plants’ material is dried and cured to remove excess moisture and enhance the flavor and effectiveness of the THC.
  • Extraction – There are different methods to extract THC, such as using solvents like alcohol or CO2, or mechanical methods like shaking or pressing. These methods separate the THC from the plant material.
  • Purification – The extracted material may go through a purification process to remove any impurities if there’s a need.
  • Formulation – The extracted and purified THC can be used to create various cannabis products, including edibles, oils, lotion, and more.

What are the Benefits of Delta 9?

While research is still ongoing to provide conclusive evidence on the benefits of delta 9, anecdotal records from consumers have shed some light on some potential perks.

Here are some of the potential benefits that come with consuming delta 9 THC:

Pain Relief

Just as it works with THCA, THC interacts with the body’s endocannabinoid system and may help with pain relief, making it valuable for people living with conditions such as chronic pain.

Relaxation and Euphoria

Due to the feeling of “high” that THC induces, it can induce a sense of relaxation and euphoria. Many individuals use it recreationally to unwind and enjoy a pleasurable experience.

Appetite Stimulation 

THC triggers the release of hormones that increase appetite and make one hungry — “the munchies.” This can prove beneficial for people living with eating disorders or dealing with a lack of appetite.

Nausea and Vomiting Reduction

THC has antiemetic properties, making it effective in reducing nausea and vomiting. It’s often prescribed to cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy or individuals with severe nausea due to other medical conditions because it reduces the chances of vomiting.

Sleep Aid 

THC may induce drowsiness and improve sleep quality for some individuals. This effect can be especially helpful for people dealing with insomnia or sleep disturbances, although it’s essential to be cautious about dependency.

Potential Side Effects of Delta 9 

It is important to emphasize that individual responses to THC can vary widely, and not everyone experiences positive effects. Additionally, overconsumption or misuse of THC can lead to negative side effects such as impaired judgment, anxiety, and addiction. 

Below are some potential side effects of Delta 9 THC explained in depth:

Impaired Cognitive Functions

THC can impair cognitive function (especially when a high dose is taken), leading to difficulties in concentration, memory, and problem-solving. This effect can be particularly problematic for students and individuals in professions that require mental acuity.

Anxiety and Paranoia

Some users may experience increased anxiety, paranoia, or panic attacks when using THC, especially at higher doses, or if they are prone to anxiety disorders and can manifest as a general sense of unease, restlessness, or nervousness.

Increased Heart Rate and Blood Pressure 

THC can lead to a temporary increase in heart rate and blood pressure, which can be a cause for concern for individuals with heart conditions such as hypertension, arrhythmias (irregular heartbeat rhythm), and cardiomyopathy (an abnormality in the structure and function of the heart).

Addiction and Dependence

Regular, heavy use of THC can lead to dependence and addiction in some individuals. They may experience withdrawal symptoms when they try to quit using the substance, which can often be fatal.

Respiratory Issues

When THC is smoked, it can be harmful to the respiratory system. Smoking marijuana may lead to coughing, increased phlegm production, and lung problems over time.

Altered Perception of Time and Reality

THC can distort the perception of time and reality, which may lead to discomfort or disorientation in some users.

Mood Swings

THC can cause mood swings, including periods of elation followed by periods of irritability or low mood. This period of irritability, known as a “comedown” or “crash,” becomes noticeable as the initial high begins to wear off. 

Best Ways to Take Delta 9

The best way to take delta 9 depends on your preferences, intended effects, and individual factors. However, the consumption of this compound is very similar to the consumption of THCA. Here are some common methods of consumption:


Smoking delta 9 is one of the fastest ways to feel its effects. You can use a joint, a pipe, or a bong. However, smoking may not be the healthiest option for your lungs and may cause irritation or coughing.


Vaporizing cannabis heats it to a temperature where delta 9 THC is released without combustion. This method is generally considered less harmful to the lungs compared to smoking.


Edibles are food products infused with delta 9 THC, such as gummies, brownies, or tinctures. Effects take longer to kick in (typically 30 minutes to 2 hours), but they last longer.


Delta 9 THC capsules are pre-measured and provide a consistent dose. They are a discreet and controlled way to consume THC, similar to taking any other medication.


Some companies offer delta 9 THC-infused beverages, such as teas or sodas. Like edibles, they take time to have an effect, but they provide an alternative to traditional edibles.

THCA vs. Delta 9: Effects

Man smoking a joint.

THCA and delta 9 THC are related compounds found in the cannabis plant, but they have different properties and effects. Some of these differences include:

Non-Psychoactive vs. Psychoactive

THCA is the precursor to delta 9 THC and does not produce psychoactive effects on its own. When raw cannabis is consumed, it primarily contains THCA, and users do not experience a “high.” 

On the other hand, delta 9 THC is the primary psychoactive compound in cannabis, responsible for euphoria, relaxation, altered perception, and other typical “high” effects when consumed.

Medicinal Properties

THCA has shown the ability in preclinical studies for various potential health benefits, including anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective, and antiemetic (anti-nausea) effects

On the flip side, delta 9 has analgesic properties and is commonly used for pain management in conditions like chronic pain and neuropathy.


Decarboxylation or heating is needed to convert THCA into delta 9 THC and experience its psychoactive effects, while THCA naturally occurs on the cannabis plant.

THCA vs. Delta 9: Potency

The potency of THCA and delta 9 THC can vary based on several factors, including the specific cannabis strain, how the cannabis is prepared and consumed, and the individual’s tolerance. 

Here’s a general comparison of the potency of both compounds:


THCA is generally non-psychoactive in its raw, unheated form, as found in fresh cannabis plant material.

When cannabis is decarboxylated through heat (e.g., smoking, vaping, or baking), THCA converts to delta 9 THC, which is the compound responsible for the psychoactive effects. The psychoactive potency depends on the extent of decarboxylation and the strain’s original THCA content.

Delta 9 THC

The potency of delta 9 THC can vary significantly from one strain to another. Some strains have high delta 9 content, leading to more intensity in their effects, while others have lower concentrations, resulting in milder effects.

The potency can also be influenced by how delta 9 THC is consumed. Smoking or vaporizing cannabis typically delivers the compound more rapidly and with greater intensity compared to consuming edibles, which have a slower onset and different bioavailability.

THCA vs. Delta 9: Legality

The legality of THCA and delta 9 THC varies from one state to another as well as country and can be subject to change over time. 

Here’s a general overview of how legality may differ for these compounds:


In the US, hemp-derived products are legal according to the 2018 Farm Bill, as long as they contain less than 0.3% THC on a dry weight basis. Therefore, THCA is legal at the federal level. However, specific states may have their unique regulations for THCA and other hemp-derived products.

Delta 9 THC

In the U.S., delta 9 THC is still a controlled substance. However, products containing THC may fall in the legal gray area of the 2018 Farm Bill. Interestingly, in some US states, THC is fully legal for medical and recreational use, while in others, it remains prohibited or tightly controlled. 

However, legalization related to delta 9 THC has gained momentum in various countries and U.S. states in recent years.

THCA vs. Delta 9: Cost

The cost of THCA and delta 9 THC can vary significantly based on various factors, including the legal status of cannabis in your location, the form in which you purchase it, and the quality of the product. 

Here are some considerations regarding cost:


Some THCA-rich products, such as tinctures or topicals, may be priced similarly to other over-the-counter health and wellness products. In areas where cannabis is legal for medical use, insurance may cover some of the costs for patients using THCA products for specific medical conditions.

Delta 9 THC

In regions where cannabis is legal, competition and a variety of products often result in a range of prices. Recreational and medical cannabis dispensaries offer a variety of delta 9 THC products, each with its own pricing structure. 

THCA vs. Delta 9: Which One is Right for You?

Choosing between THCA and delta 9 depends on your personal preferences, needs, and goals. Each compound offers unique advantages, and the best choice varies from person to person. Hopefully, the insights we’ve shared in this article can help you on your way to making up your mind.

If you’re looking for high-quality cannabis products, check out our fine selection on the Imperial website. You’ll find that we strongly commit to quality and safety while providing our customers with exciting variety.

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