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Understanding Cannabis: What Is THC?

The Key Attributes & Applications Of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)

THC or tetrahydrocannabinol is wrongly considered by many to be the black sheep of the cannabinoid family. Responsible for cannabis’ Schedule 1 classification, it provides the high that has made marijuana notorious. Despite its notoriety, THC does have some practical applications, and slowly but surely, we are seeing global policy amended. Keep reading to find out the essential characteristics of THC.

THC Is The Most Abundant Cannabinoid

Take a look at cannabis under a microscope, and of all the cannabinoids, THCA is the most prevalent. It exists in every strain of marijuana (at varying quantities), but only exists in trace amounts inside hemp. To become activated THC, heat has to applied to remove the extra carbon molecule (the "A") from inactive THCA. Once activated, THC can interact with our body's endocannabinoid system.

The endocannabinoid system has receptors spread throughout the entire body. However, it is THC’s interaction with CB1 receptors in the brain that has earned the cannabinoid its psychotropic status. CB1 receptors are found in the amygdala, cerebellum, and hippocampus, among several other crucial parts of the brain. By signaling these receptors, THC can induce a range of effects that vary in intensity based on a person’s DNA, the strain being smoked, the concentration of THC, and the method of administration.

Key Features Of THC

Although THC will affect everyone slightly differently, based on the factors above, there are some common effects:

• Slowed reaction time
• Euphoria
• Antiemetic effects
• Increased appetite
• Impaired coordination
• Impaired memory
• Reduced sensitivity to pain
• Altered mental state
 

THC Primarily Serves The Recreational Market

Cannabis is the most widely used recreational drug in the world, despite its global prohibition. Now, supporting evidence on the effects of THC has started to change public opinion. Legal markets have begun to develop across several US states and EU nations. The majority of these markets are medical, with a stronger focus on non-psychotropic cannabinoids like CBD and CBC, but recreational markets are slowly developing. 

So far, Canada and Uruguay are the only nations that have fully legalized the consumption and sale of recreational cannabis. Although significantly smaller, recreational markets utilise a broad range of products. Cannabis flower is fundamental, but there are also tinctures, edibles, concentrates, and THC-infused beverages (alcoholic and non-alcoholic). 

The difficulty in investing in recreational markets is the variable nature of legislation. In Canada and Uruguay, despite both accepting the use of recreational cannabis, the rules surrounding limitations and restrictions will vary—there is no one-size-fits-all approach. You will need to carefully analyse the local market to understand what product ranges are viable, what restrictions are in place, and which companies have established a presence. 

THC Is Still A Schedule I Substance

We touched on this at the beginning of the article, but in accordance with United Nations scheduling, cannabis is defined as a Schedule I narcotic thanks to the effects of THC. Schedule I implies that “cannabis and cannabis resin and extract and tincture of cannabis” have “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse”. 

Bear in mind that cannabis was scheduled back in 1961, and since then, research into the therapeutic potential of the Cannabis sativa species has grown significantly by the year. It is possible for countries to make local decisions on cannabis legislation (Canada and Uruguay), but the influence of the UN is a significant factor that's worth considering. 

The scheduling assigned to cannabis is currently under review, but it involves numerous global organisations and regulatory bodies, so don’t expect a definitive timeline. As an investor, it is a process you should be keeping a close eye on. Any final decision to amend or reschedule cannabis, or any of its derivatives, could transform the investment potential of recreational markets. 
 

THC Has Recreational And Medical Applications

Although we have focussed heavily on the recreational aspects, there are studies to suggest that THC has various medical applications. Many of these applications use a combination of CBD and THC to offset the psychotropic effects of THC. The difficulty in researching THC’s efficacy as a medical treatment again comes back to its Schedule I classification. Authorisation of grants for research is incredibly difficult for any substance assigned to this classification.

The recreational market is continually evolving, and while it may seem like THC is a delicate commodity to navigate, reviews into its legality are underway. Cannabis, THC, and recreational markets epitomise the philosophy of high risk, high reward. Legislation may be volatile, but if the most widely used illegal drug becomes legal to use, the market growth potential could be into the billions.