When it comes to cannabis, many people assume that the higher the THC percentage, the more intoxicating the strain will be. However, this isn't necessarily true. The actual amount of THC consumed is difficult to estimate, but studies suggest that between 30 and 70 percent of a strain's THCA might not be converted through the smoking process. This is because THC isn't as heavy as THCA, and the shape of the THCA molecule is larger and does not fit certain cannabinoids, specifically CB1 receptors.
THCA is found in raw cannabis buds and concentrates, and when crystalline, can be extracted and consumed in its purest form. It has little aroma and flavor because the main purpose is for cannabis extracts to remove terpenes and flavonoids to isolate cannabinoids. There are also raw cannabis tinctures and edible raw cannabis tinctures that can be purchased prefabricated on the market, which contain high levels of THCA and other raw cannabinoids. Decarboxylating cannabis basically means exposing it to heat and allowing the process of converting THCA to THC to take place.
Since THCA is a precursor to THC, it is still an important cannabinoid to consider when calculating the potency of a cannabis strain, although THCA itself is not intoxicating. Compared to THC, relatively few studies have been conducted on the potential therapeutic uses of THCA. Knowing the THC percentage of a specific product can give you a better idea of how intoxicating it will be when ingested. However, many people will be surprised to discover that, despite what their labels say, raw cannabis buds don't actually contain any THC. Instead, they contain THCA, a cannabinoid similar to THC. When you see something like “total THC” on a product label, they should get that number using a calculation that takes it into account (see Method 2 in Figure 3 below).
This gives a good estimate of the total THC present in the raw cannabis strain. This is sometimes also referred to as maximum THC, since in practice, under typical smoking conditions, not all THCA is converted to THC. So what is a good THCA percentage? It's clear that 3% can't be right, it's too low. But THCA doesn't convert to THC with perfect efficiency, which gives us another mathematical obstacle before we know the strength of the strain. The answer lies in understanding how much THCA will convert to THC when exposed to heat.
THC is simply THCA after cutting a piece and accounting for 87.7% of the molecular weight of THCA. That's why the total THC on the previous label is 21.35% instead of 24.1%. So if you're looking for an optimal THCA percentage for your cannabis strain, you should look for something around 22%, plus or minus a few points depending on your desired potency.