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THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is one of the cannabinoids found naturally in the Cannabis sativa plant. Like other cannabinoids, THC connects to the cannabinoid receptors in the brain and activates them. However, THC’s interaction with the body produces psychoactive effects, which may result in hallucinations, extreme confusion, and lack of coordination.
Hemp and marijuana are varieties of the Cannabis sativa plant with different amounts of THC. According to the Hemp Farming Act of 2018, the THC level in legal hemp plants must not be more than 0.3%. The THC defined under the federal hemp law is known as Delta-9 THC. Other structural forms of THC include Delta-8 THC, Delta-10 THC, Exo-THC, and Delta-7 THC. These THC isomers have similar chemical constituents, but the atoms are arranged differently.
THC is legal in Iowa. The Iowa Medical Cannabidiol Act in 2017 legalized marijuana products containing no more than 3% THC for patients with qualifying medical conditions. In 2019, the medical cannabis law was amended to allow patients to purchase no more than 4.5 grams of medical THC products every 90 days. Also, in 2019, the Iowa Hemp Act was passed, allowing the cultivation and sale of consumable hemp products with no more than 0.3% THC.
The THC potency of cannabis plants (hemp or marijuana) varies, depending on the strain and cultivation practices. Under the federal hemp law, the THC concentration of hemp plants and their derivatives must not exceed 0.3%. Cannabis containing more than 0.3% THC is considered marijuana, which is still a Schedule 1 controlled substance in the U.S.
Marijuana strains in the 1960s and 1970s contained between 1% to 4% THC. However, in recent times, the THC potency of marijuana has significantly increased due to advanced cultivation methods focused on breeding high-THC weed strains. Some marijuana varieties now have up to 20% THC, while marijuana extracts can contain up to 90% THC. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) periodically analyzes samples of marijuana confiscated by law enforcement agencies to determine the average THC potency. According to the latest DEA analyses, the average THC concentration of all seized cannabis strains is 15%. Below are some common marijuana strains in Iowa together and their average THC potency:
Some weed labels only show the THCA (tetrahydrocannabinolic acid) percentage rather than the THC level. Although they contain similar chemical compositions, THCA does not have the psychoactive properties associated with THC. THCA levels only indicate the potential THC content after decarboxylation. Other forms of THC compounds found naturally in marijuana include:
THC became legal in Iowa when the state legislators passed House File 524 in 2017. Signed by the Governor in the same year, the law allows persons with certain terminal or debilitating conditions to possess cannabis products containing no more than 3% THC. The Act established the Office of Medical Cannabidiol as the state agency responsible for licensing patients, caregivers, and marijuana establishments in Iowa.
The 2018 Farm Bill legalized the hemp plant by removing it from the DEA list of controlled substances. The bill also defined hemp plants and hemp-derived products as agricultural crops containing 0.3% THC or less. As a result, Iowa residents can transport low-THC hemp products across state lines. All hemp products are legal, provided they contain no more than 0.3% THC. However, Iowa prohibits the sale and possession of smokable hemp flowers.
Operating a vehicle while intoxicated with THC is a criminal offense in Iowa. Although medical cannabidiol is legal, patients are prohibited from using marijuana products when driving. According to the Iowa OWI laws, law enforcement suspecting drug impairment in motorists may conduct drug tests to verify the presence of THC in their bloodstream.
Offenders found impaired while driving often face jail sentences, fines, and driver’s license suspensions. The Iowa Department of Transportation may revoke the driver’s license of a first-time offender for 180 days, while second offenders may face a one-year license revocation. On the other hand, habitual offenders may face up to 6 years of license revocation.
Yes, THC can show up on a drug test. Regular drug tests, such as urine or blood tests, are meant to detect the presence of THC metabolites in the body. However, the probability of THC appearing on these drug tests depends on the following factors:
Consuming THC initially produces ‘high’ sensations, which fade after some hours, leaving only its metabolites. The THC metabolite, THC-COOH, formed in the liver is inactive but fat-soluble. As a result, consumers may not experience any high while the THC metabolite continues to stay in the body for an extended period. The length of time THC stays in the body can vary, based on several factors, including frequency of use, dosage, metabolism, and the type of drug test being conducted.
Urine tests typically detect THC for up to three to seven days after use in infrequent users. For regular or chronic users, THC metabolites may be detectable in urine for up to 30 days or longer. THC metabolites are eliminated faster from the bloodstream. As such, blood tests only reveal THC for up to one to two days after the last consumption. Chronic users may test positive for blood tests after up to one week of last use. Saliva tests can detect THC for up to 24-72 hours after last use, while the THC detection window for a hair follicle test can be up to 90 days.
THC oil is an extract containing a significant amount of concentrated THC and is often derived from the cannabis plant. It differs from CBD oil, which contains primarily cannabidiol (CBD) and trace amounts of THC. Also, CBD oil does not have any psychotropic effect, while THC oil produces euphoria, red eyes, and other mind-altering effects. Generally, CBD oil and THC oil both have potential health benefits, including pain relief and seizure.
To make THC oil, manufacturers often use solvents like ethanol and CO2 to extract THC-rich resin from cannabis plants. Afterward, the extract is diluted and purified using a carrier oil. The resultant THC oil, which usually contains between 40% to 80% THC, can be used to make edibles, gummies, and other cannabis-infused products. THC oil consumption is safe but should be done according to recommendations due to its high THC potency. THC oil is also available in vape cartridges, tinctures, and topical products.
THC distillate is a highly refined and concentrated form of THC oil. It is more potent and has a higher THC concentration than THC oil. Generally, THC distillates may contain between 90% to 99% THC. When inhaled or ingested, THC distillate can produce intense psychoactive effects, resulting in a strong "high" sensation.
THC distillate is not the same as CBD distillate. CBD distillate is derived from hemp plants and contains high levels of cannabidiol (CBD) with minimal THC content. On the other hand, THC distillate is produced from marijuana plants. The primary difference between THC and CBD distillate is the dominant cannabinoid present in each; THC distillate has high THC levels, while CBD distillate has high CBD levels.
Manufacturers produce THC distillate by removing impurities and isolating the psychoactive compound from THC oil. The viscous golden oil formed is often added to food products to make edibles or gummies. Some vaping products also contain THC distillates. Due to its high potency, it is important to be cautious of dosage when consuming THC distillate.
Iowa residents can buy hemp-derived THC products (containing 0.3% THC or less) from licensed retailers in the state. Such retailers also provide Delta-8 and Delta-10 THC products derived from hemp, provided the THC amount does not exceed 0.3%. Consumable hemp is available as edibles, gummies, and oils. In Iowa, marijuana products with high THC potency are available at licensed dispensaries for registered cannabis patients and caregivers.