Cannabinoids 101

April 20 2020 1 Comment(s)

Cannabinoids, or phytocannabinoids, are chemical compounds found in cannabis plants. Cannabinoids have been found to interact with the human body’s “endocannabinoid system.” The hemp plant, Cannabis sativa, produces phytocannabinoids that mimic what the body produces and interacts with the Endocannabinoid System (ECS) in order to regulate certain functions, such as mood, sleep, appetite, and pain.

Cannabis plants produce hundreds of different chemical compounds, but science has only researched a fraction of these. CBD and THC are the two most well-known cannabinoids.

CBD, or Cannabidiol, is one of the more well-known cannabinoids because of its ability to provide relief for a number of conditions without an intoxication effect and it is widely available due to its federal status since the descheduling of hemp and its derivatives in 2018.

Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ9-THC), commonly referred to as just THC, is well-known for its psychoactive effects. Recently, many states have enacted adult-use and/or medical use programs, although it currently stands as a federally illegal substance (a Schedule One substance with no medical value).

CBD and Δ9-THC are usually not found in hemp plants as they are created by a chemical process after the plant is harvested. These two compounds come from one precursor: CBGA. CBGA, with the enzyme called “synthase,” creates THCA or CBDA, which are the “raw acidic” forms of Δ9-THC and CBD, respectively. Δ9-THC and CBD are created through “decarboxylation,” when the raw acid forms are exposed to heat, light, or air.


Hemp crops are specifically cultivated cannabis plants with lower than 0.3% THC. Farmers also hope to have higher CBD amounts in these crops due to the demand for CBD products.

Comments and responses

  • Sarah Mitchell:

    14 May 2020 19:27:00

    Do lab reports show Delta-9 THC in pre-harvest flower samples? What about samples at harvest, pre-drying? In other words, green and growing plants.

    APRC Response: We have observed some levels of d9-THC in pre-harvest samples, albeit in much smaller numbers than the acidic form.  This is likely because THCA, along with all the other acidic cannabinoids, can be decarboxylated by UV radiation (sunlight), although it is a much slower process than heating. The amount we see is likely comparable in all three sample types, which is a small amount of d9-THC, but the majority is bound up in THCA.

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