By now, you’re probably familiar with delta 9 THC — the primary cannabinoid within hemp, known for the classic relaxing effects.
You may also be aware of delta 8 and delta 10 THC — two slightly different molecules with similar effects, also found within hemp.
There are, in fact, dozens of different types of THC, some are much stronger than others.
In this article, we’re going to cover the strongest member of the THC class — THCP — a cannabinoid with more than 30 times the potency of conventional delta 9 THC from hemp.
WHAT IS THCP?
THCP stands for tetrahydrocannabiphorol. It was discovered as recently as 2019, so there hasn’t been much (if any) official research on its effects quite yet. The only research we do have has been exploring its safety and potency using animal and in vitro cell cultures.
Here’s what we know so far.
THCP exists naturally in hemp plants — albeit in very low concentrations. It can be extracted and isolated from hemp using chromatography techniques.
This cannabinoid appears to bind to the CB1 receptors 33 times more often than delta 9 THC. Activation of the CB1 endocannabinoid receptors is what gives THC and THCP their effects.
Is THCP Natural?
Yes! THCP is one of the 140 phytocannabinoids found in hemp.
However, natural levels of THCP are well below 0.1 percent. Some plants, such as the Italian-bred FM2 strain, contain almost 0.1% THCP.
For comparison, THC can be found in concentrations of 25%-30% in medical grade hemp and around 0.3% or less in agricultural grade hemp.
CBD is usually present in concentrations between 20% and 30% in agricultural grade hemp and around 15% in medical grade hemp.
How Is THCP Made?
Because of the extremely low concentration of THCP in hemp, researchers need to recreate THCP artificially in order to study it further.
The first paper reporting THCP extraction from a hemp plant wasn’t published until 2019 and was later adapted to develop the manufacturing process that’s used today.
CBD is used as the starting material to make THCP — which means it can be effectively derived from hemp.
How Hemp Plants Make THCP
Virtually all cannabinoids in hemp plants, including THC, CBD, and THCP, begin their life as cannabigerolic acid (CBGA).
Without turning this article into a chemistry lecture, suffice it to say that CBGA undergoes an enzymatic reaction with other acidic compounds in hemp to create a precursor molecule for THCP called tetrahydrocannabiphorolic acid (THCPA).
THCPA is then slowly converted to THCP by the hemp plant through a process called decarboxylation.
Is THCP Legal?
Delta 9 THC is the only cannabinoid scheduled by the Convention on Substances, meaning that THCP is internationally legal. THCP’s legality is slightly different In the United States, where it is legal as long as it is derived from hemp plants.
However, it’s not always that clear-cut — especially when it comes to hemp. Each state has the ability to form its own laws, so while THCP may technically be legal on a federal level, it could be subject to independent state laws.
Currently, THCP is not mentioned on any state bill but is illegal in states that ban all forms of THC.
States where THCP is illegal:
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
As hemp and THC legalization continues at the state level in the United States, rules and regulations are subject to change.
The 2018 Farm Bill is the relevant legislation to consult for information about the federal legalization of hemp and hemp-derived products.
You’ll have to check with your state’s legislature for more detailed information at the state level, as each state has its own laws regulating THC as well as analogs like THCP.
THCP VS. THC: What’s The Difference?
THC and THCP share nearly identical chemical structures with one crucial difference: the length of their alkyl side chain.
THC’s chain is a five-carbon atom chain, while THCP’s has seven carbon atoms.
Besides being an interesting piece of trivia, this structural difference makes THCP significantly more biologically active. THCP’s longer side-chain gives it 30 times higher bonding activity at cannabinoid type one (CB1) receptors, making it potentially 30 times more potent than THC.
What Are The Effects Of THCP?
Many THCP users describe the effects as a more pronounced version of THC. It’s stronger, so you need a smaller dose to experience the same general effects as traditional THC.
Current research about the effects of THCP is scarce, but people who have tried THCP report that its effects are virtually indistinguishable from THC’s effects.
The original 2019 paper reporting the first detection of THCP in a hemp plant claims that the physiological effects include pain relief and suggests that THCP might share many medicinal effects with THC.
Even though THCP and THC may share many benefits, there is one key difference.
THCP is 30 times more biologically active than THC and, therefore, also has proportionally stronger effects. This means the dose of THCP and THC are going to be very different.
How Does THCP Work?
THCP works by interacting with your body’s endocannabinoid system. The endocannabinoid primarily has two kinds of receptors: cannabinoid receptor type one (CB1) and cannabinoid type 2 (CB2) receptors. CB1 and CB2 receptors behave differently and create different effects.
CB1 receptors are located in the nervous system and are responsible for the cerebral effects of THC and THCP.
Like THC, THCP is a strong CB1 agonist, meaning it binds with the receptor and causes an effect. Since THC and THCP have the same CB1 behavior, their pharmacological effects are similar.
How Do You Take THCP?
Right now, there are relatively few THCP products available, but you can expect this to change in the near future.
THCP can be used the same way as any other cannabinoid. It can be vaped, smoked, eaten, taken sublingually, or even applied to the skin.
Most companies that are selling this cannabinoid right now sell it in the form of a replaceable vape cart.
How Does THCP Compare To Other Cannabinoids?
THCP VS. DELTA 8 THC
THCP is much, much stronger than delta 8 THC (roughly 60 times as strong).
Delta 8 is the total opposite — it’s has a milder and far more relaxing and mellow feeling. Delta 8 THC is unlikely to make users feel anxious or negatively affect sleep.
There is theoretically a delta 8 version of THCP too — but so far, there’s no information on how it compared to delta 9 THCP. The process for determining the potency of THCP products isn’t refined enough to tell the difference between the delta 8 and delta 9 isomers either.
THCP VS. Delta-9 THC
THCP and delta 9 THC have essentially the same effects. The only difference is the potency levels.
The normal dose of delta 9 THC is around 10 mg. The equivalent dose of THCP is closer to 0.3 mg (300 micrograms). You don’t even need a full milligram of THCP for potent effects.
Because of how strong THCP is, it’s much more likely to lead to side effects than conventional THC products.
THCP VS. Delta-10 THC
Delta 10 THC is generally used during the day as a sort of nootropic. It’s may be more stimulating than delta 8 THC and delta 9 THC without affecting headspace too much.
THCP VS. THCO
THCO is another exceptionally potent cannabinoid (roughly three times as potent as delta 9 THC and nearly six times as potent as delta 8 THC).
The main differences between THCP and THCO involve the origin (THCP is naturally occurring, THCO is fully synthetic), the onset time (THCP kicks in right away, THCO has a delay), and the potency (THCP is around 10 times stronger than THCO).
THCP VS. HHC
HHC (hexahydrocannabinol) is another new cannabinoid to enter the market. This one is much more similar to delta 9 THC than THCP. HHC shares virtually identical effects as delta 9 THC and is only slightly weaker.
You may just need an extra puff or two on an HHC vape to get the same intensity of effects as delta 9 THC.
Key Takeaways: What Is THCP?
THCP is a cannabinoid of the future — sitting on the cutting edge of cannabinoid science.
The cliff notes version is that THCP is a stronger, legal version of delta 9 THC.
THCP products are difficult to find thanks to the difficult manufacturing process, but the lucky few who have gotten their hands on some report that it feels like taking THC (just beware of the dose).