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Does Smoking THCA Get You High? THCA vs. THC Explained

One of the non-psychoactive compounds found in the raw cannabis plant is THCA, tetrahydrocannabinolic acid. It is officially the precursor to THC—tetrahydrocannabinol, generally considered to be the principal psychoactive constituent of marijuana. Much as THCA itself does not cause a direct “high” effect, it can be decarboxylated into THC. In this article, we will explore the association between the two cannabinoids and answer the question: does smoking THCA get you high?

Chris Dorcey
Inheal Editor
Post date
Time to read
2 mins 38 secs
Smoking THCA Does It Get You High

Key Takeaways

  • THCA is a non-psychoactive compound found in raw cannabis plants, while THC is the main psychoactive compound in marijuana
  • THCA naturally decarboxylates into THC through heat, light, or long-term storage of cannabis
  • Smoking THCA-rich cannabis produces a high due to the heat of combustion converting THCA to THC
  • The optimal temperature range for converting THCA to THC is between 400°F and 450°F, maximizing conversion while limiting THC losses
  • Other consumption methods involving decarboxylation include vaporizing, cannabis-infused edibles, and tinctures made with decarboxylated cannabis

Understanding THCA vs. THC

But, in order to grasp how smoking THCA differs, one really needs to know at least a little about what makes THCA so different from THC in the first place.

CompoundPsychoactive EffectsPresence in Cannabis
THCANon-psychoactiveRaw cannabis plants
THCPsychoactiveDecarboxylated cannabis

THCA: The Precursor

THCA is abundantly present in raw cannabis plants and is regarded as the forerunner to THC. In its raw form, THCA does not have psychoactive effects. What that means is that raw cannabis use—like putting it in salads or smoothies—does not cause one to get “high” from the THCA.

THCA needs a process called decarboxylation for it to be converted to THC. Decarboxylation occurs when cannabis is exposed to heat, light, or prolonged storage. As the cannabis is heated, the THCA loses its carboxyl group — COOH — converting itself into THC.

Decarboxylation can happen in a few ways:

  • Smoke/vaporize cannabis
  • Bake most cannabis edibles
  • Expose cannabis to direct sunlight over long periods of time

Smoking THCA: Will It Get You High?

Now, to the real question: Does smoking THCA get you high? Yes, it does, but not directly.

When you smoke cannabis, the heat from the combustion process decarboxylates THCA into THC. This is how THC works within the endocannabinoid system of your body to create the psychoactive effects associated with being “high.”

It is a fact, however, that smoking does not really convert all THCA into THC. Some might remain unconverted, and some THC is lost together with the high temperatures involved during combustion.

Smoking TemperatureTHCA to THC Conversion Efficiency
Below 300°FNo conversion
300°F – 400°FPartial conversion
400°F – 450°FOptimum THCA to THC conversion range
Above 450°FPossible THC degradation

A working temperature of between of 400°F and 450°F is generally recommended for smoking cannabis, so that THCA gets optimally converted to THC, and one does not lose any THC.

Other Ways of Consumption

While smoking THCA-rich cannabis will convert the THCA to THC, causing psychoactive effects, some other ways of consumption involve decarboxylation before ingestion.

  • Vaporization: Vaporizers heat cannabis to a temperature that allows the THCA to undergo decarboxylation and release THC-rich vapor without combustion by-products.
  • Edibles: When preparing cannabis edibles, one needs to decarboxylate the cannabis with heat before adding it in the recipes. In this way, THCA turns into THC before being ingested.
  • Tinctures: Cannabis tinctures can also be prepared from decarboxylated cannabis. Through these means, THC can be ingested into the body and brains without the inconvenience of smoking or vaporizing it.


In summary, smoking THCA does get a person high, but not directly. Rather, it is decarboxylated by the heat from smoking to THC, which then induces its psychoactive effects. The effectiveness, however, may vary in response to temperature during smoking—ideally, between 400°F and 450°F.

Significantly, however, THCA cannabis production only ever shows up psychoactively active when smoked. Alternative ways of consuming the cannabinoid include steps to decarboxylate before consumption, like vaporizing, edibles, and tinctures.

As with any cannabis use, it’s important to start low and go slow—to really listen to your body to find that balance that works for you. Always be responsible with your cannabis use and follow local laws and regulations regarding cannabis use.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How is THCA different from THC?

    Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid, or THCA, is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid of the raw cannabis plant. It acts as a precursor to THC—tetrahydrocannabinol, which is the primary psychoactive constituent of marijuana. It does not have a "high" effect until changed into THC through decarboxylation.

  • How is THCA decarboxylated into THC?

    THCA is converted into THC through a procedure named decarboxylation. This occurs naturally when cannabis is exposed to heat or light or just over an extended period of storage. This heat causes the THCA to lose the carboxyl group, COOH, which in turn converts it into THC. Once decarboxylation happens, it is smoked or vaporized with cannabis; baked inside cannabis-infused edibles and just placed in direct sunlight for extended periods.

  • Will smoking THCA-rich cannabis get you high?

    Yes, smoking THCA-rich cannabis buds will get you high, but of course it doesn't precisely happen direct. When one smokes cannabis, the heat from the combustion process is what creates the decarboxylation of THCA into THC. It is in this converted form that THC fuses with a person's endocannabinoid system to cause a high.

  • Temperature range at which THCA optimally converts into THC during smoking.

    To maximize the conversion of THCA into THC, and to prevent losses of THC during the actual process of smoking, one should smoke within the window between 400°F and 450°F. Minimal quantities are converted if smoked below 300°F. There may be some THC degradation at temperatures higher than 450°F.

  • What other methods of consumption make use of decarboxylation prior to ingestion?

    Yes, there are other ways of consumption that decarboxylate before ingestion. These include:

    • Vaporizing: Vaporizers heat cannabis to a temperature that allows for the decarboxylation of THCA and the release of THC-rich vapor without the harmful byproducts of combustion.
    • Edibles: When making cannabis-infused edibles, the usual method will be decarboxylating the cannabis through heat and then adding it into the cooked recipe.
    • Tinctures: As in the case of tinctures, cannabis might be decarboxylated. This will enable one to consume THC without having to smoke it or vaporize it.

The statements on this blog are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent any disease. FDA has not evaluated statements contained within the blog. Information on this website or in any materials or communications from Inheal is for educational/informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Please consult your healthcare provider before making any healthcare decisions, correct dosage or for guidance about a specific medical condition.

by Chris Dorcey

A connoisseur of cannabis creativity and true contemplation with more than 20 years of experience, Chris extracts deep thoughts from getting lightly baked and shares his wandering mind. He blends cuisine and cannabis culture into nutritious, delicious recipes and insights for other hemp lovers.

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