THC, or Tetrahydrocannabinol, is one of the popular chemical compounds found in cannabis plants. THC is a cannabinoid that interacts with the body’s endocannabinoid system by attaching to the central nervous system and the brain, causing a euphoric effect. THC is found in hemp and marijuana plants. However, hemp plants contain low levels of THC, usually 0.3% or less. By implication, hemp-derived products do not have enough THC to produce psychoactive effects.
Marijuana contains high levels of THC and is psychoactive. THC is the primary chemical component responsible for altering a person's mental state in marijuana. THC activates the neurons in the body, providing a range of disparate feelings from relaxation and pleasure to paranoia and anxiety. THC exists in numerous forms known as isomers. They have the same chemical formula but different positioning of the atom. Common THC isomers include Delta-8 THC, Delta-10 THC, Delta 6A(10) THC, and Exo-THC.
Yes, THC is legal in Colorado. In 2012, Colorado legalized recreational marijuana through Amendment 64 for individuals 21 and older. Furthermore, in 2014, Governor John Hickenlooper signed Senate Bill 14-184, legalizing hemp with no more than 0.3% THC. Consequently, residents can legally purchase all forms of THC products, including hemp-based products.
The amount of THC in weed has steadily increased over the past decades. In the 1960s, THC in most weed strains stood at 1%, and about 4% in the 1980s. However, over time, there has been a significant increase in THC potency in marijuana. Reports show that between 1995 and 2014, the potency of cannabis samples confiscated by the DEA between the period increased from 4% to 12%. Another report shows the potency of cannabis plants seized by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in 2021 was 15%. Today, some weed strains have up to 30% THC and sometimes more.
The flowering heads of cannabis plants contain the most THC, up to 12%. Next to the flowers are the leaves containing up to 2% THC. The stalks of cannabis plants contain up to 0.3% THC. The root contains the least amount of THC at about 0.03%. Cannabis oil is the most potent form of cannabis concentrates, having up to 70% THC content. Some cannabis products, such as edibles, can contain up to 90% THC. Cannabis strains with the highest reported THC levels include:
Godfather OG: 34% THC
Grease Monkey: Up to 31% THC
Pacman OG: 29% THC
Bruce Banner: 27 - 29% THC
Ghost Train Haze: 28% THC
THCA or tetrahydrocannabinolic acid levels on weed labels are dissimilar to THC levels. THCA is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid found in fresh cannabis plants. When exposed to light or intense heat, THCA is converted to THC, which is intoxicating. Manufacturers of cannabis products are required to disclose the THC concentration on their products. Most products display the potency analysis of THCA, THCV, CBD, CBDA, CBGA, THC, CBD, CBG, CBC, and CBDV.
THC, the most abundant and potent analog in cannabis plants, also exists in other forms with similar structures but different psychoactive responses. The following are other THC compounds found in weed:
Delta 9 THC
THCV - Tetrahydrocannabivarin
THCC - Tetrahydrocannabiorcol
THCP - Tetrahydrocannabiphorol
Delta 7 THC
Delta 8 THC
Delta 10 THC
Cannabis and THC products are legal in Colorado for recreational and medical use. Consequently, it is legal for residents to possess up to 2 ounces of marijuana or hemp-derived THC products. In 2018, the United States signed the Farm Bill into law, removing hemp from the list of Schedule I substances under the Controlled Substances Act. The bill defines hemp as a cannabis plant with no more than 0.3% THC on a dry weight basis and permits states to create a regulatory framework for the legal sales of hemp-derived THC products.
In 2019, Colorado modified its hemp regulations through Senate Bill 19-220 to align with the 2018 Federal Farm Bill. The state legalized hemp-derived products containing THC concentrate of no more than 0.3% on a dry weight basis. The bill also permits the sale and use of hemp-derived THC products. Colorado residents may legally purchase hemp-derived THC products such as edibles, vapes, tinctures, and oils from dispensaries and online stores.
Although marijuana is legal in Colorado, driving while impaired is illegal. Colorado sets a legal limit for the amount of THC in motorists’ bloodstream. Per House Bill 1114, persons caught operating a motor vehicle with up to five nanograms of THC or more per milliliter in their blood commit a driving under the influence (DUI) of marijuana offense.
The penalty for a first-time offense DUI of THC is a mandatory incarceration of 5 days but no more than a year and a fine of up to $1,000. A second-time offender gets a compulsory 10-day jail period but no more than a year, with fines of up to $1,500. For subsequent offenses, the penalty is imprisonment for 60 days but not exceeding one year with fines of up to $1,500.
Yes, THC can show up on drug tests many days after use. Certain factors influence whether a drug test will detect THC metabolites in the body. They include:
The amount of THC consumed
Genetics and metabolism of the consumer
Frequency of THC consumption
Body mass index of the consumer
Type of drug test
The route of THC administration
THC metabolites are fat-soluble and are usually detectable in the body up to 30 days from the last use. When smoked or ingested, THC is absorbed by the bloodstream and stored in the organs and fatty tissues in the body. Over time, the THC stored in the body organs is released back into the bloodstream to be metabolized by the liver.
How long it takes to detect THC metabolites in the body depends on the sample used. Blood tests typically detect recent THC use in the body. They can also detect THC within 12 hours and 30 days after the last use. Urine testing is the most popular test method. THC is detectable in urine within 3 - 5 days after a single use and up to 30 days for regular users. Saliva testing has a short detection window. It detects same-day consumption of THC for mild users and up to 72 hours for frequent users. Hair follicle testing has the longest detection window and can detect THC metabolites up to 90 days after the last use.
THC oils are concentrates extracted from the cannabis plant. THC oil is made by extracting the active components, THC and other cannabinoids, from the marijuana or hemp plant. THC oils can be extracted using solvent-based or solventless extracts. However, both extraction methods use extreme heat and high pressure to transform the plants into oils.
THC oil, although safe to use, can get consumers high. Depending on the extraction process, THC oil may be more potent than cannabis flower. First-time users of THC oil must exercise caution and should consume small amounts while ensuring to check the potency levels of THC in the oil. THC oil may be consumed by vaporizing or ingesting orally. It is used in some edibles, such as baked goods, candy, and chocolates. THC oil is also available as topical. THC oil is not the same as CBD oil. CBD oil contains high levels of cannabidiol found in the hemp plant, which is low in THC. CBD oil is non-intoxicating and is commonly known for its pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory properties.
THC distillates are highly refined and concentrated forms of THC. They are made by isolating and extracting plant matter from the cannabis flower and then purifying and filtering them into THC distillates. THC distillates are highly concentrated, with almost 100% purity. Because of its extreme purity and potency, users get quickly intoxicated. THC distillates can be consumed through a vape pen, a dab ring, a smokable joint, or sublingually. They are safe for ingestion and are available in pills and edibles.
THC oil and THC distillates are not the same. THC oils are concentrates that have not been stripped of most of their compounds. In contrast, THC distillates are stripped of every other cannabinoid, leaving only the THC component. In most cases, THC oil contains up to 80% THC, while THC distillates contain more than 90% THC content. Again, THC distillate differs from CBD distillates. CBD distillates are highly refined cannabidiol extracts from the hemp plant, having all cannabis components except THC. Its CBD content is high, usually up to 80%. CBD distillate, unlike THC distillate, is non-psychoactive. It is known for its healing effect, pain management, and anxiety relief.
Residents can buy Delta-8 and Delta-9 THC products from recreational and medical marijuana dispensaries in Colorado. Common THC products in Colorado dispensaries include gummies, cookies, tinctures, topicals, infused beverages, vaping cartridges, and pre-rolled joints. State law also permits the online sales of THC products and delivery to local addresses in Colorado.