What is THC?

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There are many acronyms associated with cannabis. You’ve probably heard the term “THC” before, but what is it exactly?

The cannabis plant contains over one hundred chemical substances known as cannabinoids or phytocannabinoids. Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, also known as THC, is the most common and well-studied cannabinoid. THC is distinctive because it possesses many of the intoxicating and therapeutic effects that both recreational and medicinal cannabis users seek.

Stated plainly, THC is the active ingredient in cannabis that gets you “high”.

History of THC

THC was originally isolated in 1964 by an Israeli chemist named Raphael Mechoulam. The chemist isolated and synthesized THC while working with Lebanese hash. This discovery marked the beginning of modern cannabis research and lead to the study of many other cannabinoids and the human endocannabinoid system.


THC is typically the most abundant cannabinoid in the majority of cannabis cultivars. CBD is usually the second-most abundant cannabinoid. THC produces an intoxicating high while CBD does not.

Most cannabis plants will produce larger quantities of THC than CBD. Hemp plants only produce small amounts of THC, as they must contain less than 0.3% THC by definition to be considered hemp.


The cannabis plant produces cannabinoid acids, which are then activated through heat and converted into the cannabinoids that consumers are seeking. Cannabis manufactures a chemical known as THCA (Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid) which is converted into a neutral cannabinoid (THC) when decarboxylated. This is why it is essential to decarb your cannabis before cooking with it to fully reap all of the intoxicating properties.

How is it consumed?

Smoking is the most popular way that high-THC cannabis is consumed. Cannabis can be smoked through joints, blunts, pipes, bongs and other devices.

Additionally, THC flower can be vaporized. There are numerous handheld and table-top vaporizers available for cannabis consumers. We recommend the PAX 3 if you are looking for a convenient handheld device.

Cannabis can be processed into concentrates and extracts, which are consumed by dabbing. In this form of consumption, a “nail” or “banger” attached to a “dab rig” is heated using a torch, the concentrate is placed on the hot surface and the vapours are inhaled.

Alternatively, THC can be infused into edibles and beverages. Making your own cannabis edibles at home is relatively simple and affordable.

Tetrahydrocannabinol can also be infused into topicals for use on the skin. Some users report localized relief of pain, soreness and inflammation from these cannabinoid-infused products.


What Is The Purpose?

THC is a cannabinoid. Cannabinoids are referred to as “secondary metabolites”, which means that they are chemicals that have no active role in the plant’s development and growth. However, many researchers hypothesize that these cannabinoids act as a sort of immune system for the cannabis plant, helping to ward off pests and other potentially dangerous predators.

How Does it Work?

The human body contains cannabinoid receptors (the CB1 receptor and the CB2 receptor) located in the brain and central nervous system. The body produces natural cannabinoids known as “endogenous cannabinoids” such as anandamide, which is the chemical responsible for the wave of euphoria associated with a “runner’s high”.

THC binds mostly with the CB1 receptor found in the brain. The CB1 receptor is associated with an expansive number of bodily functions including the maintenance of homeostasis in health and disease, anxiety, gastrointestinal activity, cardiovascular activity and motor control.

As THC binds to the CB1 receptor, the brain releases the signaling chemical dopamine. This flood of dopamine is associated with the pleasurable “high” that those who use cannabis for recreational purposes seek.

Recreational Properties

High THC cannabis is often associated with positive recreational effects including a sense of euphoria, increased laughter, increased energy and focus, elation, relaxation and positive bodily sensations.

Therapeutic and Medical Benefits

Tetrahydrocannabinol is a promising therapeutic compound. THC contains anti-inflammatory properties, which makes it potentially useful for a wide range of conditions.

Medical cannabis consumers report that THC offers benefits for ailments including PTSD, neuropathic and chronic pain, insomnia, nausea, inflammation, arthritis, migraines, cancer, Crohn’s disease, Fibromyalgia, Alzheimer’s disease, Multiple sclerosis, Glaucoma, ADHD, sleep apnea and appetite loss.

However, cannabis research remains in the early stages. There is still much we do not know. Our understanding of the medical benefits of THC and other cannabinoids will develop as legalization progresses and more scientific studies are published.


Potential Negative Effects

THC is also associated with effects that can be perceived as negative. Some of these effects include dry mouth, red eyes, paranoia, anxiety, increased heart rate, dizziness, memory impairment and drowsiness.

According to the Canadian Public Health Association, 1 in 10 people who use cannabis will develop an addiction. This potential for cannabis addiction and the subsequent “withdrawal symptoms” are largely associated with THC.

Smoking and combustion of any substance is linked to lung-related ailments such as bronchitis. These potential negative effects can be avoided by choosing alternative consumption methods such as vaporization and edibles.

THC Regulations Across the World

Cannabis and THC regulations vary immensely and are constantly changing across the world. Some countries, such as Canada, have fully legalized the plant and all of its compounds. Other countries, such as China, Iraq and North Korea, still promise the death penalty for possession of any cannabis product.

Currently, products containing THC are only federally legal for recreational use in Canada and Uruguay.

In Canada, the Cannabis Act fully legalized the possession and consumption of recreational cannabis for adult-use on the federal level. However, regulations vary across Canada’s provinces and territories.

In 2013, Uruguay became the first country to fully legalize the plant. Citizens of Uruguay can buy cannabis at their local pharmacies.

In South Africa, adults are allowed to use cannabis in private. The country’s Constitutional Court decriminalized the substance in 2018. However, using cannabis in public and buying and selling the plant remains illegal.

In Spain, citizens are not criminalized for growing or consuming cannabis in private. Selling is technically illegal, but there are reportedly more than 800 private cannabis clubs. Obtaining a membership is typically as easy as filling out some paperwork.

In the Netherlands, cannabis is illegal but authorities are known to turn a blind eye. Although only citizens are supposed to be able to purchase cannabis, tourists are able to enjoy the plant in Amsterdam’s world famous coffeeshops.

Cannabis and THC for medicinal purposes is permitted in Australia Argentina.

Cannabis and THC has been decriminalized, or at least is not punishable for private use of small amounts, in Mexico, Belize, Jamaica, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Portugal, Switzerland, Croatia, The Czech Republic, Russia and Ukraine.

Be sure to check local laws before travelling.

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