The Complete Guide to THCP

Delta-9 THC has long held the position as the most psychoactive compound found in cannabis. However, its position was recently toppled by newcomer THCP, which is believed to be 33 times stronger than THC. In this comprehensive Leafreport guide, we’ll demystify THCP, including its legality, safety, effects, and whether it shows up on drug tests. 
Written by 
Emma Francis Stone, Ph.D.
|Last Updated:

Key facts about THCP:

  • THCP occurs naturally in the cannabis plant in trace concentrations and can also be formulated synthetically.
  • Clinical research suggests THCP may be thirty-three times as potent as Delta-9 THC due to its strong binding action on the body’s endocannabinoid receptors.
  • THCP is one of many variants of THC that have recently emerged on the market. 
  • The legality of THCP is currently murky. Some proponents argue the cannabinoid is legal, while others contest its legality.

What is THCP?

THCP (Delta-9 tetrahydrocannabiphorol), also known as Delta-P,  is a naturally-occuring cannabinoid that was discovered by a team of Italian scientists in 2019. This previously unknown cannabinoid was found using advanced technology that provides insights into minor cannabinoids. 

THCP is an analog of THC, which means it has a similar molecular structure. The research team discovered that THCP has a side with a seven-carbon chain, while Delta-9 THC has a five-carbon chain. A seven-carbon chain is the longest chain that has been found to date. The length of this chain is directly linked to the potency of the molecule. 

Although THCP is similar to Delta-9 THC at a molecular level, it affects the body differently. 

According to the scientists who discovered the cannabinoid, THCP may be 33 times more potent than Delta-9 THC. Those who have tried THCP report that it can trigger pronounced changes in visual and auditory perception, euphoria, and even cause mild psychedelic effects. This increased potency is because THCP has a stronger binding affinity with the body’s CB1 receptors, so can more easily induce effects such as psychoactivity.

How is THCP made?

THCP is generally considered a natural cannabinoid since it occurs in trace concentrations in the cannabis plant. The cannabinoid can be extracted from industrial hemp in a similar manner to Delta-8 THC. Isolating THCP through extraction requires massive quantities of hemp, however, so retailers that are manufacturing THCP use other hemp cannabinoids to synthesize it in a laboratory setting.

At present, very few suppliers are formulating THCP. Many are cagey about the techniques they use to extract or synthesize this novel cannabinoid. Spyglass CBD, a THCP retailer, claims to create THCP products using a specialized process synthesizing THCP from cannabinoids in hemp. Producing THCP in bulk is costly, with the expense passed onto the consumer. However, the sheer potency of the cannabinoid means that consumers only need to use a little to experience the psychoactive effects.  

Dr. Jordan Tishler, an expert cannabis physician at InhaleMD, cautions that the synthesis of cannabinoids isn’t a science to be taken lightly.

“It’s important to understand that THC and all cannabinoids are large, complex molecules that can be synthesized from each other and from similar molecules,” says Tishler. “This is, in fact, how the ‘bad’ cannabinoids like K2 and Spice are made as well. Certain changes to the molecules lead to differences in the effects of those molecules. Some are OK, others are quite dangerous.”

Similar to many novel or synthesized cannabinoids, the legality of THCP is presently ambiguous. Some argue that THCP could be considered legal at a federal level if it is derived from industrial hemp.

Jim Higdon, co-founder and CCO of Cornbread Hemp, says that THCP is ‘kind of’ legal. 

“THCP is not illegal if it’s derived from hemp, in that it’s not explicitly banned by name in the 2018 Farm Bill,” says Higdon. “Currently, THCP exists in a legal gray zone, along with Delta-8 THC, Delta-10 THC, and THC-O. If THCP is derived from industrial hemp and is in a product that contains less than 0.3 percent Delta-9 THC by dry weight, then THCP is probably legal.”

On the other hand, however, there’s existing legislation that predates the Farm Bill called the Federal Analogue Act. This law automatically categorizes the analogs of controlled substances, like THC, within the same regulatory class. This means THCP would most likely be considered illegal at a federal level.

“Let’s remember that cannabinoids are complex molecules and any chemist can start to tweak those molecules to make something new and different,” comments Tishler. “This is why the DEA refers to the controlled substance analogue law. There are an infinite number of analogs that can be made, but the risk of harm from these novel molecules and from poor manufacturing is substantially the same for all, until proven otherwise.”

Is THCP safe?

Novel cannabinoids like THCP raise questions about safety. As THCP exists in a liminal space between legal and illegal, its manufacture is largely unregulated. What’s more, there’s currently no short or long-term data about its effects on users. 

Higdon pointed out the manufacturing process may pose the greatest risk with respect to safety.

“There’s not a lot of research on this newly discovered cannabinoid to know for sure, although the cannabinoid itself is probably safe,” reflected Higdon. “The greatest safety risk is potential contamination in the finished product due to bad manufacturing processes.”

Tishler emphasized that while contamination represents a real risk, it’s not the only risk. 

“Since the manufacture of these molecules is not regulated nor audited, there could be many toxic byproducts and contaminants in any commercial product,” he said. “The safety and effectiveness of THCP is completely unknown. While we do know that THCP  binds loosely to the CB1 receptor (the same one that THC affects), we have no idea what other effects it may have in the human body.  There is zero human data on THCP.”

The extreme potency and psychoactivity that may attract users to experiment with THCP could also pose issues with respect to safety. 

The researchers who reported the initial discovery of THCP stated the cannabinoid is as active as Delta-9 THC, but at significantly lower doses. There’s no further data yet about the effects of moderate or high doses of THCP, or how both physical and psychological wellbeing may be affected.

Dr. Tishler emphasizes that existing data suggests ultra-potent synthetic cannabinoids can trigger serious side effects.

“THCP is an old-style designer cannabinoid just like K2,” says Tishler. “It is more potent than THC and likely very dangerous on that basis.  Remember the pharmaceutical trial in France some years ago that left a student in a coma? That’s the kind of risk here.”

What are the effects of THCP?

THCP appears to exert cannabimimetic activity typical of Delta-9 THC. Like Delta-9 THC, THCP can induce relaxation, help to relieve pain, and lower body temperature. THCP may also cause euphoria, alter perception, cognition and decision-making, and feel mildly psychedelic. Depending on whether the cannabinoid is teamed with other terpenes or cannabinoids, THCP may also elevate mood and energize, or create a more sedative, sleepy effect. 

According to the Italian researchers who found the molecule, THCP is 33 times as potent as Delta-9 THC. This aggressive potency occurs because the cannabinoid has a much stronger binding affinity than Delta-9 THC to both CB1 and CB2 receptors in the body. The binding activity of THCP on the CB1 receptor is particularly strong–and CB1 receptors are the receptors primarily responsible for mediating the psychoactive effects of THC.

However, even though THCP could be 33 times as strong as regular THC, users don’t report experiencing that extreme level of potency. Those who have tried THCP reflect that it feels 3 to 5 times stronger than regular Delta-9 THC. 

Higdon recommends allowing for some downtime after using THCP to allow the effects to wear off.

“Anyone trying THCP should be super careful and might need to clear their calendar the day after trying it, just to be safe,” he says.

The study also underlined the THCP may be partly responsible for the pronounced psychoactivity of some cannabis cultivars over others. While the concentration of Delta-9 THC has long been recognized as primarily responsible for psychoactivity of a cannabis cultivar, the researchers speculated that the presence of THCP, or other similar cannabinoids, may also affect the psychoactivity of a cannabis strain.

Possible side effects of THCP

Ironically, the powerful psychoactivity that attracts many to try THCP could also be the source of unwanted side effects. 

THCP may induce side effects similar to those of Delta-9 THC, including:

  • paranoia
  • anxiety
  • panic
  • dry mouth
  • temporary memory loss 
  • nausea
  • dizziness

There are not many anecdotal reports of adverse effects associated with THCP yet, because it’s still not widely available. Among those that users have shared, some of the more unique side effects included sleeping for excessive lengths of time, headaches, brain fog and emotional numbness.

Higdon cautions that dabbling with novel cannabinoids such as THCP may carry a host of unwanted, unknown side effects. He recommends that sticking with natural cannabinoids may represent the safest bet.

“Why risk possible bad effects from a new, untested cannabinoid like THCP, especially when there’s not a clear-cut understanding of how it’s made and the safety concerns that could arise from the manufacturing process?” he reflects. 

Higdon also points out that the demand for THCP is borne of a desire for effects similar to Delta-9 THC, which occurs naturally in cannabis and hemp. 

“Although industrial hemp is limited to 0.3 percent Delta-9 THC, this is not a small amount when included in a product like a full-spectrum gummy,” he explains. “Consumers interested in the effects of Delta-9 THC should look for hemp-derived products containing Delta-9 THC until more research can be done on novel cannabinoids like THCP.”

Does THCP show up on a drug test?

Synthetic cannabinoids are well-known for being able to evade routine drug tests

Many urine analysis tests pick up the metabolites of THC, not on THC itself. A metabolite is the substance formed when the body breaks down a chemical or drug. While it’s unlikely that a conventional drug test will detect the metabolites of THCP, there’s insufficient data to indicate whether this is the case. We don’t know how long THCP remains circulating in the body either. 

Suffice to say, it’s probably advisable to exercise caution if you plan on using THCP and are likely to undergo a drug test in the days or weeks after consuming it.

Where can I buy THCP?

At present, THCP products are limited to a handful of suppliers in formats such as vape cartridges, tinctures, and gummies. It’s possible that if consumer demand for THCP grows, a wider variety of more cost-effective products will emerge onto the market.

Spyglass CBD, Bees Knees CBD, and Binoid CBD are the three main retailers of THCP products at the moment. Binoid specializes in vape cartridges containing hemp-derived THCP, Delta-8 THC, and terpenes. Bees Knees CBD offers THCP-infused chocolate and gummies, while Spyglass specializes in a THCP sublingual tincture.

Some of the THCP products have links to lab reports for potency–but many of the products don’t. Furthermore, when Leafreport checked, some of the lab report links were broken, or illegible. None of the THCP products had links to purity testing. 

Before purchasing any THCP product, it’s advisable to ask if links to purity tests, potency tests or certificates of analysis are available. Leafreport has a number of resources that can help you make sense of a certificate of analysis (CoA).

If you’re thinking about buying THCP online, check if the brand will send the product to the state you live in. A number of states have banned or made a strong stance against hemp-derived THC analogs such as Delta-8 and Delta-10 THC. These states include Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Delaware, Idaho, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, and Utah. 

THCP versus other cannabinoids 

With so many THC analogs on the market at present, it can be helpful to differentiate them by comparing potency, formulations, and effects. 

In the comparisons below, we’ve weighed THCP up against Delta-8 THC, Delta-9 THC, Delta-10 THC, AND THC-O. That being said, many of these cannabinoids share properties typical of all THC molecules–and users’ experiences can vary wildly. Think of these descriptions as a rudimentary method of contrasting some THC variants.

THCP versus Delta-8 THC

Delta-8 THC is known for its smooth, relaxing effects that users generally experience as an ‘indica high’ or ‘body high’. The psychoactivity of Delta-8 is significantly less potent than THCP. THCP users may experience sedative, relaxing effects similar to Delta-8. However, they may also experience a more noticeable head high too, including heightened alertness, energy, and altered perception that can feel mildly psychedelic.

Like THCP, Delta-8 is a cannabinoid that occurs naturally in cannabis, although it’s not usually available in sufficient concentrations for isolation and extraction. Both Delta-8 THC and THCP are commonly formulated synthetically for manufacture.

THCP versus Delta-9 THC

Delta-9 THC is the most abundantly available natural form of THC. Although THCP also occurs naturally in cannabis, it’s only available in trace concentrations, which means it has to be formulated in a lab to create a meaningful amount.

Delta-9 THC and THCP share many similarities: Both can provoke feelings of euphoria, altered perception and cognition (changes in how you see, perceive, and understand the world), and changes in heart rate and body temperature. However, their main difference is their potency. THCP binds significantly more effectively to the body’s cannabinoid receptors, so the effects of THCP are much more noticeable. The reason that THCP binds better than Delta-9  is because it has seven carbon chains in its molecule–and THC has five. These extra two carbon chains make an extra tight fit with the body’s cannabinoid receptors, so the body can experience the effects of THCP more intensely.

While the researchers who discovered THCP stated that the cannabinoid is 33 times more potent than Delta-9 THC, users more commonly experience the effects as 5-10 times stronger. That’s still significantly stronger, so it’s important to take care when using THCP.

THCP versus Delta-10 THC 

Like THCP, most Delta-10 THC is formulated in laboratory settings using natural cannabinoids derived from hemp. 

Both cannabinoids are capable of eliciting a ‘heady’ high that can promote feelings of alertness, euphoria, creativity, and energy. However, THCP is significantly more potent than Delta-10 THC, so these effects can be somewhat intensified–for better or worse. 

THCP users describe experiences such as the urge to laugh or dance manically–or feelings of being overcome with brain fog, headaches, or numbness. Unlike Delta-10 THC, THCP can also exert strong effects on the body too, inducing what some users refer to as an “indica high’.

THCP versus THC-O

At present, THCP is the most potent naturally-occurring cannabinoid. It’s significantly more potent than the strongest known synthetic form of THC, THC-O. Although both cannabinoids can be formulated from hemp molecules, they are created using different formulation processes. 

Both THCP and THC-O are associated with the psychoactive effects that can be typical of THC, including euphoria, altered perception, sleepiness, and brain fog. Users report that THC-O, however, offers a smoother, more predictable high while THCP has been linked to inconsistent and sometimes dramatic effects. 

The future of THCP

The repercussions of the discovery of THCP are likely to reverberate for years to come. THCP shares many similarities with Delta-9 THC, which is one of the most therapeutically prominent cannabinoids present in cannabis. It’s possible that THCP also holds similar therapeutic benefits, along with other properties we may be currently unaware of. The authors of the 2019 study concluded that the discovery of THCP may help to shed light on certain pharmacological effects that have been observed in cannabis that are not ascribable to Delta-9 THC alone.

Other research exploring the prevalence of THCP in cannabis cultivars is also starting to emerge. One recent 2021 study found that THCP was detected in 13 THC-dominant cannabis plants, but was not detected in a CBD-dominant plant. This means THC-dominant plants may have a higher concentration of THCP than previously thought.

The final word

The frontiers of our understanding of cannabis are constantly shifting. Although the discovery of new cannabinoids is exciting, it’s also essential to approach new cannabinoids like THCP with caution. In many cases, the version of THCP that has found its way onto the market is most likely synthetically formulated. 

As long as there’s no regulatory framework in place for the manufacture of THCP, its safety is questionable–and so is its legality. If you’re thinking about experimenting with this novel cannabinoid, thoroughly vet any products before you purchase them. Evaluate the trustworthiness of the brand, and check for purity and potency reports.

Dr. Emma F. Stone is passionate about plant medicine and the potential it holds in transforming the current medical paradigm. She has written extensively for Leafly, Weedmaps, Flowertown, Psychedelic Science Review, and contributed to industry reports and fact sheets detailing cannabis medicine, dosage, and delivery methods for diverse conditions. She’s currently working on a book exploring plant medicine and its uses.

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