THC, also known as tetrahydrocannabinol, is a chemical compound in cannabis plants. It is also the main psychoactive component of marijuana. When THC is consumed, it binds to cannabinoid receptors in the brain, activating the endocannabinoid system and creating a variety of physiological responses. Such responses include pleasure, memory, pain, coordination, thinking, and appetite. THC can produce some physiological effects, including increased heart rate and altered perception. The effectiveness of THC in the body depends on the amount consumed.
THC is present in both hemp and marijuana. However, the concentration level may differ due to how it was processed and the legal requirements of the area. Generally, marijuana contains higher concentrations of THC than hemp, but both plants contain the compound. Hemp has less than 0.3% THC, while THC concentration in marijuana usually ranges from 5-35%, sometimes higher. Like most states, Arkansas adheres to the 2018 Farm Bill that legalized cannabis with less than 0.3% of THC concentration. Arkansas lawmakers also passed HB1518 which legalizes hemp-derived cannabidiol that does not surpass 0.3% THC concentration.
Delta-9 THC is commonly recognized as the type of THC legally allowed in cannabis products. However, other isomers of THC include:
Delta-8 THC: Delta-8 THC is a psychoactive compound similar to Delta-9 THC. However, its psychoactive effects are lesser than delta-9 THC
Delta-11 THC: Delta-11 THC is closely related to Delta-8 THC with less potency but still produces a mild psychoactive effect
Tetrahydrocannabinol Acid (THCA) - THCA is present in raw cannabis plants and is the precursor to delta-9 THC. THCA becomes delta-9 THC after exposure to heat, a process known as decarboxylation
Delta-10 THC - Although it is related to delta-9 and has similar effects, delta-10 THC is less popular and has a milder psychoactive effect
Delta-7 THC - Delta-7 THC is a synthetic isomer of THC that shares intoxicating effects and properties with delta-9 THC. It is commonly used therapeutically
Hemp-derived THC products are legal in Arkansas if it does not exceed the required concentration limit. The 2018 Farm Bill and HB 1518 permit the use of hemp-based CBD products not exceeding 0.3% of delta-9 THC. Residents registered in Arkansas's medical marijuana program can also purchase THC products prescribed by their physicians at licensed dispensaries. However, medical dispensaries may not provide cannabis-infused food or drink products with more than 10mg of THC content.
Hemp products, including hemp oil and CBD extract, are known to have as little as 0% THC content and may not exceed 3% THC. Marijuana carries a high THC potency (can be as high as 90%) depending on its origin and strain.
In 1960, the average THC potency of weed was around 4-5%, much lower than what it is today. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the average THC level in seized cannabis samples in 2021 was about 15%, with a peak of 34% in more potent strains, as reported in 2018. Thus, the current THC potency of weed is much higher than it was some decades ago.
THC potency varies considerably between different marijuana plants and strains available in dispensaries. As cannabis has become increasingly popular, users have become more open to experimenting with different flowers and strains, increasing THC potency. The extraction of cannabinoids and terpenes from marijuana plants or flowers can result in products with up to 90% THC concentration or higher.
Popular weed strains sold at dispensaries typically have similar THC concentrations. Some strains, including Gorilla Glue #4, Northern Lights, and Blue Dream, have an average of 16-26% THC concentration, though this may differ depending on the strain.
The Tetrahydrocannabinolic Acid (THCA) level found on weed labels is not the same as the THC level, although they are closely related. THCA is a pre-decarboxylated form of THC and is not psychoactive until it is heated and converted into delta 9-THC.
Several THC compounds are present in weed. In descending order of abundance, these compounds include:
Delta-9 THC: Delta 9-THC is the most abundant THC compound in weed and it is psychoactive. Studies have shown that it can be a suitable treatment for glaucoma, post-traumatic stress disorder, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, and many other medical conditions
Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV): Although similar in structure to delta-9 THC, THCV has a different orientation of the double-bond at the third carbon atom, giving it different properties from delta-9 THC. Moreover, THCV's psychoactive effects are lesser because it does not bind as strongly to the body’s CB1 receptors. However, higher doses of THCV will result in a “high” similar to delta-9 THC
Tetrahydrocannabiorcol (THCC): THCC is found in cannabis pollen and does not have the same psychoactive effects as delta-9 THC. Its effects are more closely related to CBD, as it does not interact with CB1 or CB2 receptors. Instead, THCC binds more effectively to the vanilloid receptors (TRPA1), providing a unique effect profile
Tetrahydrocannabiphorol (THCP): THCP was discovered in 2019 and is known to be up to 33 times more potent than delta-9-THC due to the presence of two extra carbon atoms on the alkyl side chain of THCP
In 2016, Arkansas legalized medical marijuana after the approval of the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment by voters. It allowed certified medical physicians in the state to issue prescriptions not exceeding 2.5 ounces of marijuana to individuals with qualifying medical conditions. While the amendment only states the quantity allowed, the rules governing medical marijuana (Section XVI) in Arkansas stipulate that the THC level must not exceed 30% RSD when tested.
In 2018, the United States government enacted the 2018 Farm Bill to authorize the cultivation and sale of hemp that does not contain more than 0.3% of delta-9 THC. The Farm Bill became a precursor for the passing of HB1518 in Arkansas to legalize and distinguish hemp-derived cannabidiol not containing more than 0.3% of delta-9 THC from marijuana.
Arkansas DUI laws have no provisions for a legal threshold for THC in drivers, unlike alcohol. An individual can be guilty of DUI in Arkansas if determined to be intoxicated while driving, and the intoxicating substance impairs their driving abilities.
Individuals legally permitted to use controlled substances, including marijuana, cannot use this privilege as a defense against a DUI conviction in Arkansas. Moreover, patients registered in the state’s medical marijuana program can only use marijuana in their homes, as public consumption is prohibited. Since there is no specified legal limit for THC in a DUI case, a law enforcement officer or prosecutor will have to prove that the ingestion of a controlled substance containing THC impaired the driver's ability to operate a vehicle.
According to the Arkansas incarceration DUI laws, first-time offenders can be jailed for 24 hours to a year, with an increased incarceration term between seven days and a year for a second offense. A third DUI offense within ten years of the first offense attracts a minimum of 90 days imprisonment but no more than a year. Likewise, a fourth DUI conviction within 10 years of the first is punishable by imprisonment between one and six years. Drivers guilty of a fifth and subsequent DUI offense may be imprisoned for no less than two years but no more than ten years. DUI offenses in Arkansas are also punishable by fines from $150 to $1,000 for first-time offenders to between $900 and $5,000 for third-time and subsequent offenders. Likewise, offenders can have their driving license suspended.
Whether THC will show up on a drug test in Arkansas depends on several factors, including the length of time since the individual last consumed THC, the amount of THC ingested, and how frequently the individual consumes. A regular consumer of THC products has a higher probability of testing positive for THC in a drug test. Additionally, ingestion of a large amount of THC will remain in an individual’s system for longer durations, compared with ingestion of a small quantity. Moreover, the level of THC detected in a drug test may also vary, depending on the testing device and the type of drug test conducted.
After ingesting THC, it enters the bloodstream and goes to various organs in the body, majorly the brain and liver. In the brain, THC binds with receptors known as CB1 and CB2 and exudes psychological effects such as euphoria and relaxation. The liver enzymatically breaks it down into various metabolites and eliminates it from the body through urine and feces. Studies show that 65% or more of THC is eliminated through fecal waste, while 20% leaves the body through urine.
Depending on the testing method, THC can be detected in the body system of an individual several days after ingestion. Recent use of cannabis can be detected by a blood test. Heavy users are more likely to test positive to THC via blood tests, up to 30 days after the last use.
The urine testing method can detect THC in the body for up to 30 days after the last use. Saliva tests are more suitable for recent oral ingestion or smoking of marijuana, as THC is still detectable in the saliva after 72 hours. A 2017 study reveals that hair follicle testing can effectively detect THC up to 90 days of the most recent use
THC oil is an extract of the cannabis sativa plant. It differs from CBD oil because THC oil contains a higher concentration of delta-9 THC and has more psychoactive effects on a person.
THC oil is usually made by extracting THC from the marijuana flower using a solvent like butane, CO2, or alcohol. It can then be ingested or consumed through vapors, topicals, edibles, and other forms. Due to the higher concentration of delta-9 THC, THC oil can get users high. THC oil is used in making several products, including vape cartridges, oils, edibles, tinctures, and topical creams.
THC Distillate is a highly potent THC concentrate that has been processed and purified to a greater degree than THC oil. The processing involves a distillation method that eliminates impurities from the cannabis oil, leaving a much more potent product with high THC levels. THC distillate is commonly used in making marijuana products like topicals, vape pens, and edibles.
Unlike THC distillates, CBD distillates have little amounts of THC and produce lesser psychoactive effects on users. CBD distillates generally have high CBD concentrations that may exceed.
There are many ways that users can consume THC distillate, with vaping being a preferred choice, as it allows users to enjoy the flavor and effects of the product without combustion. Other THC distillate products include edibles, topicals, tinctures, and sublingual drops.
Arkansas's Delta-8 THC policy has recently changed. The Arkansas Industrial Hemp Production Act emulates the federal government's position on hemp and hemp-derived cannabinoids to make it legal. Residents can purchase Delta-8 and Delta-9 THC products from licensed dispensaries. However, hemp-derived THC products available for sale must not contain more than 0.3% THC concentration. Some dispensaries offer sales of hemp-based THC products online where Arkansas residents can purchase them. THC products available for purchase may include gummies, edibles, shots, and vapes.