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January 25, 2023
Learning

THCC

Have you heard about tetrahydrocannabiorcol (THCC) yet? In spite of its name, THCC is not that much like classic THC. It’s more like CBD, non-psychoactive, and targets similar receptors as CBC, CBD, and CBG.

Here’s the scoop on this trending phytocannabinoid in the cannabis news.

What is THCC?

THCC is a cannabinoid that occurs naturally in both cannabis plants and hemp plants.

It has a similar chemical structure to THC and is created as the plant matures through similar chemical processes.

At the molecular level, THCC and THC are nearly identical, with the exception of three carbon atoms that dramatically change their effect profiles. THC exerts its psychoactive effects by activating the CB1 receptors, which THCC cannot do. THCC appears to work more like CBD, upregulating the naturally occurring endocannabinoids in the body and interacting with receptors called the TRP channels.

Is THCC Synthetic?

No, THCC is a phytocannabinoid, meaning it is found naturally in the hemp or cannabis plant, independent from human intervention. Specifically, unlike THC, which is found in the resin produced on the female flowers, THCC is found in cannabis and hemp pollen.

Where Does THCC Come From?

Many cannabinoids start as cannabigerolic acid (CBGA). CBGA goes through several enzymatic reactions as the plant matures and this changes it to other acidic molecules that are precursors to biologically active compounds such as THC and THCC. Tetrahydrocannabiorcolic acid (THCCA) is the precursor molecule that gets converted to THCC during a process called decarboxylation over the course of a cannabis or hemp plant’s life cycle.

Typically, manufacturers extract THCC from hemp or cannabis pollen and use the extract to  make concentrate. It’s a similar process to making other cannabinoid concentrates.

Scientific Research Into THCC

The bulk of research into THCC is focused on cannabis, cannabinoids, and the endocannabinoid system generally. Here are some of the most important articles to consider:

Medicinal Chemistry of Cannabinoids: This review offers a basic overview of the endocannabinoid system, the cannabinoid receptors in it, and cannabinergic agents being explored clinically in drug research.

Cannabinoid Modulation of Drug Reward and the Implications of Marijuana Legalization: This article found in Brain Research focuses on the brain endocannabinoid (eCB) system, mesolimbic dopamine function, and conditioned reinforcing properties of cues predicting reward or punishment.

Cannabis’s Chemical Synergies: In this article from Nature Communications, there is a thorough discussion of the entourage effect (cannabinoids, terpenes, and how they work together).

The Structure-Function Relationships of Classical Cannabinoids: CB1/CB2 Modulation: Finally, this article focuses on the chemical structure of cannabinoids and how they function.

Is THCC Legal?

Delta-9 THC—the classic THC we know and love from cannabis—is the only internationally regulated cannabinoid. These marijuana laws sometimes explicitly exclude all forms of THC, including delta 8, delta 10, and THCC, but not always

In the United States, as long as it’s derived from hemp, THCC is federally legal. This by definition assumes it contains no more than 0.3% delta 9 THC because hemp in the US is defined to include less than 0.3% THC by dry weight.

Each state controls THC analogs, including THCC, so it pays to check first.

THCC vs THC

Based on the names, it would be easy to confuse THC and THCC or think the molecules were basically identical—but they’re not.

THC and molecules similar to it have a key molecular feature that controls their biological activity called an alkyl side chain. The strength of the psychoactive effects is controlled by the length of this side chain; molecules with more psychoactive effects have longer chains, while THCC only has one. For example, mildly psychoactive THCV has 3 carbons, delta-8, 9, and 10 THC have 5-carbon side chains, and the highly psychoactive THCP has 7 carbons.

How Does THCC Work?

THCC produces effects most like CBD. They are relaxing, pleasant, and soothing similar to those you might feel using delta-8 THC but with no trace of psychoactivity. This is because THCC does not involve the CB1 or CB2 receptors in the endocannabinoid system and instead activates the TRP receptors such as TRPA1 on gated ion channels on the cell wall. These play a role in temperature regulation, pain perception, and nerve cell regeneration.

Type 1 cannabinoid receptors (CB1) are related to the brain and central nervous system (CNS) and produce the psychotropic and euphoric effects of THC. Type 2 cannabinoid receptors (CB2) are focused in the organs, peripheral nervous system, and immune cells.

However, in contrast to the more psychoactive cannabinoids such as THC and more like CBD, THCC has no affinity for CB1 or CB2 receptors, meaning it amplifies the effects of naturally occurring endocannabinoids like 2-AG and anandamide and doesn’t produce a high.

Does THCC Get You High?

No. In fact, unlike with other THC products, you’re not going to feel high no matter how much of this cannabinoid you take.

Unlike THC, THCC doesn’t have any psychoactive properties because it has a shorter alkyl chain and does not interact with the body’s CB1 receptors.

Final Thoughts on THCC

THCC is just one of many exciting new cannabis and hemp related options on the market today. It’s a naturally occurring compound, but unlike THC, THCC does slightly different things in the body and mellows you out in a non-psychoactive way. More like CBD than THC, many people like the way this new option makes them feel.