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THC Definition

Why Is THC Important

Written by Neal Brown . Updated: March 8, 2021

THC: What It Is and How it Affects Cannabis Users

According to the Business Insider, 33 U.S. states have legalized marijuana for medical use, and 11 allow the sale of recreational cannabis. The most recent addition to the recreational states are South Dakota and Montana. Dispensaries that offer both products are required to label them and indicate how much THC each contains.

However, there is still a lot of confusion among buyers, who often do not understand the effect of cannabinoids like THC. While consumers should always consult experts about the effects of cannabis products they buy, it is relatively easy to understand the basic facts about marijuana cannabinoids and how they interact with the body.

A Definition of THC

THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is a cannabinoid in marijuana that causes the euphoric feeling associated with smoking chronic. It is also present in cannabis products like oils, tinctures, edibles, and capsules.

Per medical specialists at Healthline, THC falls into the category of psychoactive compounds that alter brain function. It can affect a user’s thinking processes, perception of time, and coordination. People consuming marijuana may experience temporary memory lapses and changes in behavior.

The brain’s receptors do not react to THC unless it is activated, a process called decarboxylation. Heating marijuana starts the process and turns raw plant material into psychoactive compounds that impact the brain’s receptors. That is why smoking cannabis is a very efficient way to get a euphoric feeling. The weed seeds themselves also don’t have any THC in them, which is why you can eat handfuls of pot seeds and not get the least bit high.

Even though marijuana was only legalized in recent years, the effects of THC have been studied for decades. Israeli chemist Rafael Mechoulam did much of the early research after helpful police officers provided him with five kilograms of confiscated cannabis. In 1988, Dr. Allyn Howlett discovered the impact of THC on the brain.

Why the Focus on THC?

THC is only one of 85 cannabinoids found in marijuana plants. However, it has unique properties that cause it to produce especially strong psychoactive effects. The answer is in its molecular structure. THC is ideally shaped to fit well with the human brain’s cannabinoid receptors, which are also called binding sites. Binding sites are part of the endocannabinoid system, which regulates several areas, including communication and memory.

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