Drug Test: How Long Does THCA Stay in Your System?

While THCa has a group of acids attached to it that prevent it from triggering an intoxicating high, it can stick around in the body for just as long as THC, potentially leading to a positive drug test.

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Known as the non-intoxicating precursor to THC (largely responsible for marijuana’s high), THCa products are becoming more popular thanks to their potential to offer anti-inflammatory and neurodegenerative protection. But while they don’t cause a high, thanks to their acidic carboxyl group (-COOH), many are concerned they can still test positive for marijuana use. Let’s explore the question of how long does THCa stay in your system, and if it will result in a positive drug test. 

How the Body Processes THCA?

When THCa is ingested without undergoing the decarboxylation process, the cannabinoid will go through a series of different molecular shapes during metabolism before eventually being broken down into Delta 9-THCA-A-COOH metabolites. If the THCa cannabinoid has been decarboxylated, which is most commonly done by adding heat, most of the THCa will convert into THC, then metabolized into THC-COOH metabolites

CYP enzymes that mainly reside in the liver are responsible for metabolizing cannabinoids. Different CYP enzymes metabolize different cannabinoids at various rates. Some individuals may have unique CYP enzymes that metabolize cannabinoids at greater rates than normal, but that may only occur depending on the consumption method. 

Factors Influencing THCA Detection Times

Whether the drug test you’re taking is looking for Delta 9-THCA-A-COOH metabolites or not, please treat THCa cannabinoids the same way you would THC cannabinoids in regards to how long these suckers can stick around in our body — completely harmless, by the way. I mentioned above that consumption methods and the make-up of an individual’s CYP system can influence said duration, but there are many other factors. 

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Need to clear cannabinoid metabolites out of your system? Then it’s time to get sweating by hitting grueling workouts. You’ll then pair those with a diet designed to lose as much fat as safely possible. This is because cannabinoids are fat soluble, meaning the greater your body fat percentage, the longer it’s going to take to clear the metabolites out of your system. Frequency of use plays into duration as well. Daily users may need to abstain for more than a month to successfully pass a drug test.  

THCA Detection in Drug Tests

First, if you are decarbonizing your THCa through vaping, making edibles, etc., please treat the product as you would with a regular THC product regarding drug tests. I.e., you will most likely fail a drug test if you are regularly partaking and not doing anything to remove THC metabolites from your system. 

Drug tests may sometimes look for Delta 9-THCA-A-COOH metabolites. However, it’s important to note that not all drug tests specifically target THCa metabolites, or even most. Standard drug tests typically focus on detecting THC or its metabolites in urine, blood, or saliva samples. These drug tests have various detection windows, with the urine test able to detect for use the longest. It’s also the most common drug test, but thankfully may be the easiest to pass if you’re smart and have enough time to prepare for it. 

When the 2018 Farm Bill was passed, only delta-9 THC was limited; all other cannabinoids could be legally sold in various ratios without restrictions. This creates a loophole of sorts, where some companies sell legal cannabis flower, knowing it won’t be legal for long once the buyer adds heat to the product. Technically, this should mean that as long as you consume un-decarbed cannabis items, you are abiding by federal laws. However, some states like Rhode Island, have gone ahead and lumped THCa with other THC cannabinoids, meaning these products can’t have more than 0.3% THCa. Then, in 49 states, your employer can fire you for any reason that’s not illegal, and finding THCa metabolites on a drug test may give them a good enough reason to fire you. So please stay safe and up-to-date on all the various restrictions that apply to your cannabis use.

Nicholas McKenzie - Cannabis Research Specialist

Nicholas McKenzie - Cannabis Research Specialist

Nicholas has spent the last ten years teaching gardeners, businesses, and enthusiasts how to succeed in the exciting and ever-changing world of cannabis. Whether he’s in the field getting his hands dirty or in the lab studying cannabinoids and their uses, Nicholas is passionate about bringing well-researched, factual, and concise information to an industry that very much needs it.

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