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What is TAC vs THC? Cannabis & Hemp Potency Explained

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The cannabis market has seen considerable growth in the past few years, and with that growth comes a wide range of products and endless ways to consume them.

Many of these products, including both legal hemp and recreational cannabis products, contain different compounds. As a result, they typically require labeling to communicate the potency of those compounds.

Some of these compounds include tetrahydrocannabinol (Delta-9 THC) and tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA), while some more niche products include cannabinoids such as CBG and Delta-8 THC.

Although many of these are listed as percentages independently and are simple to decipher, you may have seen that these products also tend to include a TAC percentage.

In comparison to THC levels, TAC is an entirely different calculation that should be taken into account during purchases as well.

Each of the metrics on your product's label tend to mean different things, so it's important to be able to decipher them appropriately in order to get the best experience.

So, how do you read them?

TAC vs THC - What's the difference?

One of the most important things to understand when reading cannabis and hemp derived product labels is the distinct difference between TAC and THC.

TAC stands for Total Active Cannabinoids. This represents the total amount of all active cannabinoids in a cannabis product, and can include Delta-9 THC, Delta-8 THC, CBD, CBG, and other minor cannabinoids.

On the other hand, THC (Delta-9 THC) and THCa percentages are strictly in reference to those individual cannabinoids.

This is due to the fact they're the main active ingredients in cannabis, and are usually present in much higher concentrations than other cannabinoids (at least in the recreational cannabis industry). This is also why they are commonly associated with overall potency of the product.

However, you'll likely find that in hemp derived products there is more prominence towards Delta-8 THC or other psychoactive cannabinoid percentages when it comes to potency.

That's not all though, the numbers don't stop there!

What is TAC (Total Active Cannabinoids)?

Since Total Active Cannabinoids (TAC) is a term used to indicate the combined total of all the active cannabinoids present in a cannabis product, it's important to understand the weight it holds when looking at your product from a wider perspective.

TAC is expressed as a percentage, which is typically calculated by taking the sum of all the active cannabinoids and dividing it by the total weight of the product.

This figure gives a better indication of the potency of the product than simply measuring the amount of THC alone.

It’s important to note that this figure only applies to products that are not already decarboxylated and not yet ready to consume.

 

Cannabis Plant with Light Purple Hue

 

What is THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol)?

As mentioned earlier, Delta-9 THC is the main psychoactive compound in cannabis. This is responsible for the “high” that people associate with marijuana. This is due to the way it interacts with our endocannabinoid system (ECS), much like other cannabinoids.

THC levels can be found in higher concentrations in certain strains of cannabis, so it’s important to read product labels carefully if you want to avoid unintended effects.

If shopping for hemp based products, you'll likely want to look for THCa or even Delta-8 THC percentages as a quick substitute for what would be Delta-9 THC percentages when it comes to potency, but more on that later.

At the end of the day, due to the amount of variance that can occur in today's market of multi-cannabinoid products, it's important to distinguish THC levels from Total Active Cannabinoid percentages, as they can mean totally different things!

How to read Product Labels to Identify Cannabinoid Concentrations

So, how do you use TAC to make an informed purchasing decision?

Well, the Total Active Cannabinoids (TAC) value found on product labels is simply just the sum of all cannabinoids detected in your cannabis or hemp product. A key point to note is that it's expressed as a percentage of the total weight of the product.

This value is important because it gives you an idea of the overall potency of the product. For example, if the package says “TAC 15.2%,” that means that 15.2% of the product is strictly cannabinoids.

 

Potent Marijuana Bud In a Jar

 

Why it's Important to Check TAC Levels

This is important to remember when researching products online or at a dispensary because the THC content may be lower than the TAC value. Remember, the TAC includes CBD, CBG, and other cannabinoids in addition to THC.

Although it's an easy way to estimate your products potency with the TAC, it's possible that a major portion of it is a result of a specific cannabinoid you might not be looking to enjoy at the moment.

For example, some of the most common cannabinoids are known to differ in effects drastically. Some of these include CBD, CBG, and even more minor cannabinoids such as CBDv. If you're not paying attention, you may be looking at a CBD rich product with a minor amount of THC although the TAC is high.

Knowing the TAC will allow you to determine the overall potency of the product and make an informed decision when making a purchase.

Hemp & COAs

Although the process is pretty straight forward when looking at recreational marijuana product labels, there are a couple things you'll want to keep in mind when looking at hemp derived product labels.

Gauging Potency

When it comes to hemp flower and delta-8 products, looking at the Delta-9 THC percentages isn't the ideal way to gauge potency.

In fact, the reference to Delta-9 THC in hemp products is primarily used to determine its legal status. It's not necessarily indicative of effects in today's multi-cannabinoid market.

Although some hemp products, such as hemp derived delta-9 gummies, do use Delta-9 THC to gauge strength, your best bet will usually be to check for any THC variants such as:

  • Delta-8 THC
  • Delta-10 THC
  • THC-O
  • HHC
  • THC-P

And combine them.

Or, you can check the TAC and subtract the non-psychoactive cannabinoids such as CBD or CBG and their variants. These can be cannabinoids like CBDv or CBGa, among other lesser known alt-cannabinoids.

Legal THC Levels in Hemp

In addition to checking potency, always check to make sure your product's total THC and/or Delta-9 THC level is within legal limits (typically 0.3%). This may depend on your local or state laws, so always do your research ahead of time before browsing for products.

Learn Your Cannabinoids & Have Fun!

In conclusion, it is important to understand the difference between TAC and THC when reading cannabis product labels. Always remember that the TAC level represents total active cannabinoids, while THC level represents the amount of Delta-9 THC in your product.

However, there are many other active compounds that can vary in each product, especially in the hemp industry. Your best bet is to read both the individual levels of each cannabinoid as well as the TAC.

As you learn more about cannabinoids, being able to read these labels are an essential skill for those looking to venture out into more refined products with different use cases.