What is THC?

THC is the primary psychoactive chemical compound in cannabis responsible for getting smokers high, as well as for many of the plant’s medicinal effects.

It is one of 85 different cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. These chemicals bind to the cannabinoid receptors in our our body typically utilized by endocannabinoids, or the THC-esque compounds naturally produced in our body.

So one question that obviously comes to mind is, why do cannabis plants produce cannabinoids? Although there’s no clear cut answer, one hypothesis that comes to mind is that THC functions as a defense mechanism to fight off pests and predators. The reason for this educated guess is that what researchers do know about cannabinoids is that, given that they are secondary metabolites, they play no main role in the plant’s development. Furthermore, humans and many other animals with endocannabinoid systems—the recurring interaction between our cannabinoid receptors and our body’s naturally-produced endocannabinoids—are all receptive to THC’s effects because cannabinoids are shaped liked endocannabinoids. In other words, they bind to the cannabinoid receptors in brain and immune cells (CB1 and CB2).

While THC plays a role in producing the euphoric buzz of a high, keep in mind that the relationship between the overall smoking experience and a strain’s THC percentage is the same as the relationship between an alcoholic beverage and its ABV percentage.

While the chemical compound is responsible for producing a number of effects, like elation, relaxation, and even paranoia or anxiety, there are a number of factors at play, including cannabidiol (or CBD), terpenes, and a number of other cannabinoids.

Although THC is strongly associated with recreational smoking, there is a large body of evidence emphasizing THC’s medicinal effects. Studies have found that THC plays a significant role in reducing cancer tumor rampancy and size. But beyond cancer fighting, THC is a powerful anti-inflammatory, which helps fight against a number of rheumatoid and arthritic conditions, glaucoma, gout, autoimmune diseases, and depression. Furthermore, some medicine also contains either THC or synthetic THC compounds like Sativex, a drug used in assisting patients with multiple sclerosis. These are just a handful of examples showcasing this compound’s far-reaching medical benefits, and new research consistently highlights the far-reaching medical potential of THC.

How Long Does THC Stay in Your System?

Weed is coming back into the mainstream. Unfortunately, that doesn’t yet mean it’s going to be ok with everyone. Even in states where it’s now legal to indulge in cannabis culture, this can still get you fired at the workplace. It can undermine your ability to be hired after nailing the interview. So before you plan to light up, let’s go over how long cannabis stays in your system, and what can affect this duration.

The good news is that we know most drug tests are checking your urine for THC metabolites, or THC-COOH, not THC proper. These metabolites are byproducts produced by THC after the actual compound has already left your system. But here are some issues. Most drugs’ metabolites are water-soluble, meaning they’ll be excreted relatively quickly. THC-COOH, however, is fat-soluble, meaning its exit from the system is extremely slow. In other words, there’s no definite formula for determining how long THC stays in your system, and the same goes for THC-COOH. The amount of time depends on a myriad of factors, including your diet, your exercise routine, and how often you smoke marijuana. One study found that THC can last over three months in your system, which might make it seem like a non-starter to even try to pass a drug test.

But there’s a reason people chug 32 ounce bottles of Gatorade back-to-back when they remember after a weekend of bong rips that they have a drug test in 24 hours. Most drug tests have a threshold for determining whether or not you’re clear. Typically, tests count a concentration of THC above 50 ng/mL (nanograms per milliliter) as positive, and anything below that is negative. Unfortunately, there’s no way to tell what that actually means, but it does mean that you can game it.