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THCP: Is It Really 33 Times Stronger Than THC?

Jim McDonald
August 23, 2022

THCP is a recently discovered cannabinoid that’s found at very low levels in some strains of marijuana, and can be produced in a laboratory by altering legal hemp-derived CBD. It was found accidentally by Italian researchers in 2019 during analysis of a particular marijuana strain.

The full name for THCP is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabiphorol, which is sometimes shortened to delta 9 THCP or THC-heptyl. Abbreviations include THCP, THC-P, and THCp. One retailer calls it delta-p.

After the smashing commercial success of delta 8 THC, the cannabis industry has found a variety of hemp-derived cannabinoids capable of competing with the delta 9 THC in traditional marijuana. These cannabinoids—delta 8, delta 10 THC, HHC, and THC-O—are all popular in the diverse cannabis marketplace, and THCP is ready to join them.

While THCP may provide a potent new high for recreational users, it could also offer new therapeutic benefits for medical patients. Researchers have barely begun to explore the potential of THCP.

What is THCP?

THCP is an organic cannabinoid (or phytocannabinoid) very similar to delta 9 THC, which is the most abundant cannabinoid in most strains of marijuana. Although first identified in a particular marijuana strain, THCP can also be manufactured in a lab by chemically manipulating CBD extracted from legal hemp plants.

In fact, to produce enough THCP to have any real commercial value, it must be made in a lab, because there’s just not enough of it in actual cannabis flower to cost-effectively extract.

THCP’s molecular structure is significantly different from delta 9’s. It has a longer alkyl side chain (the “tail” of atoms that extends out from the bottom of the largest part of the molecule). The oversized side chain—seven carbon atoms versus five in delta 9—allows THCP to bind more readily with human CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors, which means its effects are likely to be more potent in the brain and body.

Just about everything we know about THCP comes from the 2019 study by a group of Italian academics that introduced it to the world. There has still been no research on human subjects, so we know little about possible THCP safety issues or side effects, except what we can guess based on the effects of other forms of THC.

Does THCP get you high?

The Italian researchers who discovered organic THCP found in experiments on cultured human cells that THCP binds 33 times more effectively with the CB1 receptor than delta 9 THC—probably because of its extended seven-atom side chain. The CB1 receptor is the most important cannabinoid receptor for creating psychoactive effects, but THCP also binds more readily with the CB2 receptor.

That doesn’t mean that THCP will get you 33 times higher than traditional delta 9. There is probably a limit to any cannabinoid’s ability to stimulate the endocannabinoid receptors, and each person reacts differently to every cannabinoid anyway. But while some of THCP’s 33x greater binding affinity may be wasted on already-overloaded cannabinoid receptors, it still seems likely that THCP will be more potent than delta 9 THC for many people. It might get you very high.

The scientists that identified THCP say that the presence of small amounts of THCP in some marijuana strains could explain why those strains seem more intoxicating to users than other strains containing similar or even higher levels of delta 9 THC. In the future, cannabis breeders will probably create new strains with higher concentrations of THCP to emphasize its effects.

KOI THC-P Vape Cartridge

KOI THC-P Vape Cartridge

The Koi THC-P vape carts combine the potent cannabinoid with Delta 8 and THC-O and offer a full body calm and deep relaxation. The carts contain 1 gram and can be used with any 510 battery. They are available in three strain/flavor options and come fully tested by a third-party lab.

What are the effects of THCP?

Because THCP binds so well with cannabinoid receptors, it’s likely to produce effects similar to those of delta 9 THC but perhaps even more pronounced. The scientists who discovered THCP conducted standard cannabis mouse experiments to gauge the new cannabinoid’s physical effects. Mice displayed reduced levels of activity at lower doses, which became catalepsy—a trance-like state—at higher doses. THCP appeared to work as an effective pain killer at higher doses too.

The ability of THCP to bind so effectively with cannabinoid receptors in the body could make it highly valuable—not just as a recreational high, but also to relieve pain, ease nausea, and help users sleep. Although THCP hasn’t been thoroughly studied yet, it seems likely that this cannabinoid’s unmatched binding affinity with human receptors will make it especially valuable for treating those and other conditions.

In fact, tiny (and previously unnoticed) amounts of THCP in existing marijuana strains may already be responsible for some of cannabis’ known healing powers. The scientists who found THCP in 2019 wrote that “the discovery of an extremely potent THC-like phytocannabinoid may shed light on several pharmacological effects not ascribable solely to [delta 9 THC]” in marijuana.

Of course, the powerful binding affinity of THCP could also magnify the typical unwelcome THC side effects—like dry mouth and eyes, or anxiety and paranoia. It could even pose new risks for users. But until we see the results of research on human subjects, we’re mostly guessing.

THCP vs. THC-O

THCP is very new. There hasn’t been any serious research (or many real-world observations) describing the experience of using THCP as a standalone cannabinoid. Not many people have used it by itself, since almost all current commercial products containing THCP are blends of multiple THC analogs.

We don’t yet have enough knowledge to say exactly how you’ll feel using THCP versus THC-O, for example—or how THCP affects you in comparison to other popular hemp-derived cannabinoids like delta 8, delta 10 or HHC. Again, most of the time, the THCP products currently available contain a mix of delta 8 and THCP, or a cocktail containing several hemp-derived cannabinoids. It’s impossible to tease out the effects of one cannabinoid when it’s blended with two or three others.

By the way, the same researchers who found THCP also discovered cannabidiphorol (CBDP) in the same cannabis sample. CBDP is a variation of cannabidiol (CBD), but with a seven-atom side chain like THCP’s. It’s possible that CBDP in the future could offer more profound therapeutic benefits than CBD because of the increased bioactivity provided by its chemical structure.

inforgraphic molecule structure thc-p vs thc-o

Will THCP show up in a drug test?

Whether THCP will cause you to fail a drug test isn’t certain because it hasn’t been studied. But there is no reason to believe that THCP doesn’t create typical THC breakdown products in the human body, which would be picked up by standard drug tests used by employers and police.

The bottom line is pretty simple: no one knows for sure, so if your employer conducts tests for marijuana use, you should avoid THCP—and all forms of THC and other hemp-derived cannabinoids (except safe forms of CBD).

Congress legalized hemp and all of its compounds and derivatives in the 2018 Farm Bill—as long as they contain less than 0.3 percent delta 9 THC. In May 2022 a federal appeals court confirmed that delta 8 THC is a legal hemp product—a decision that seems applicable to other hemp-derived products too, protecting manufacturers, sellers and users from federal enforcement.

But states have begun to act on their own to keep hemp-derived cannabinoids off retail shelves, or restricted to licensed cannabis dispensaries. Some states have banned or limited the availability of delta 8 THC alone. But others could follow Oregon’s lead and ban all “artificially derived cannabinoids,” including THC-P.

THCP is just carving out a place in the hemp-derived cannabinoid marketplace, and buying it can be confusing. Most products with THCP in the name actually contain THCP mixed with more common (and cheaper) hemp-derived cannabinoids like delta 8 THC, or they contain a blend of multiple hemp-derived cannabinoids.

There are vape carts and disposable vapes containing THCP, as well as tinctures for oral use, gummies, waxy concentrates for dabbing, and “THCP flower,” which is hemp flower infused or coated with THCP (or a blend that includes THCP).

THCP products are available through most of the same online retailers that sell other hemp-derived cannabinoid products. They’re also sold in head shops, convenience stores, gas stations, and some vape shops.

Smokers created vaping without help from the tobacco industry or anti-smoking crusaders, and I believe vapers have the right to continue innovating to help themselves. My goal is to provide clear, honest information about the challenges vaping faces from lawmakers, regulators, and brokers of disinformation. I’m a member of the CASAA board, but my opinions aren’t necessarily CASAA’s, and vice versa. You can find me on Twitter @whycherrywhy
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