Maryland THC Overview

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What Is THC?

THC is an abbreviation for tetrahydrocannabinol. It is a psychoactive compound. THC is the primary chemical compound in cannabis that causes a ‘high,’ otherwise known as euphoric effects, when someone consumes cannabis. It is the most abundant chemical ingredient, also known as a cannabinoid, in the marijuana plant.

When it interacts with the body, THC can produce varying feelings. Some of these feelings are pleasant, while others are not. THC's benefits include helping treat cancer, sleep disorders, migraines, chronic illnesses, and PTSD. It also helps in relieving inflammation, insomnia, nausea, and vomiting. Depending on the THC dose and a consumer's body system and tolerance, high-THC cannabis products can produce common effects like dizziness, red eyes, drowsiness, anxiety, increased heart rate, and dry mouth.

Both marijuana and hemp have THC, although at varying levels. Generally, hemp contains lower amounts of THC than marijuana. Some cannabis products can have as high as 30% THC, which is why they often intoxicate consumers. In Maryland, hemp products must contain less than 0.3% THC concentration to be considered legal, in compliance with the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018, commonly known as the 2018 Farm Bill. Different variations of THC, known as isomers, exist. These include:

  • Delta-9 THC - This is the most commonly known form and isomer of THC. It causes intoxicating effects when used but also has some therapeutic benefits
  • Delta-8 THC - This is less intoxicating than delta-9 THC. It may be natural (cannabis produces small amounts of natural delta-8 THC) or synthetic. Delta-8 THC is the second most known isomer of THC. Hemp-derived delta-8 THC is legal in Maryland
  • Delta-10 THC - This isomer of THC is made exclusively via synthesis and not produced naturally by cannabis
  • Delta-6A (10A) THC - This isomer of THC is made by further isomerizing delta-10 THC using certain catalysts
  • Exo-THC - Also called delta-9,11-THC, Exo-THC is a byproduct created during the synthesis of THC


Is THC Legal in Maryland?

Hemp-based delta-8 THC is legal in Maryland, provided the delta-9 THC concentration does not exceed 0.3% in compliance with the 2018 Farm Bill. Currently, a person has to be a qualified medical marijuana patient with a Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission ID card to purchase high-THC marijuana legally in the state. However, with the recent approval of Question 4, a legislatively referred ballot question, Maryland residents will by, July 1, 2023, be able to legally possess and cultivate cannabis with up to 750 mg of THC for personal recreational use.

How Much THC is in Weed?

An analysis of the National Center for Natural Products Research (NCNPR) on weed samples seized by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) in 2021 revealed an average THC level of 15.34%. According to the report, weed THC levels increased steadily from an average of 3.96% in 1995 to 15.34% in 2021. According to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, the amount of THC present in a weed sample measures its potency.

While the amount of THC in weed has changed since 1960, the 2018 Farm Bill restricts the amount of THC in legal hemp in the United States, including Maryland, to 0.3% or less. In other words, hemp-based products do not have enough THC to intoxicate consumers like cannabis. Between 1960 and 2021, several studies have shown that the amount of THC in weed has gone from 0% to an average of 15% to 20% in 2022. This implies that the potency levels of cannabis have risen over the last four decades. Some marijuana products contain as high as over 25% THC concentration. Several factors determine the THC potency of weed, including the following:

  • Part of the plant used
  • Method of cultivating the plant
  • Product type
  • Stability
  • Sampling

In the United States, most strains of cannabis products sold in dispensaries in states that have legalized recreational marijuana contain over 20% THC. Generally, Sativa strains have higher levels of THC than Indica and hybrid strains. Popular weed strains and flowers and their average THC levels include:

  • Blue walker - 26.7%
  • Pacman OG - 29%
  • Grease monkey - 31%
  • Banana kush - 27%
  • Durban kush - 26%
  • Chocolate OG - 26%
  • Yoda OG - 19.5%
  • Tropicana - 20%
  • Burkle - 22.5%

The THCA levels found on cannabis product labels directly correlate to the products' THC levels. THCA (tetrahydrocannabinol acid) is THC in raw form in cannabis, and it is not psychoactive in its natural state. However, when exposed to heat, such as when smoking cannabis, THCA is converted to regular THC through a process called decarboxylation. As a result, when consumers find a high THCA level on a marijuana product label, they should expect the product to have a correspondingly high THC level. Weed contains different types of THC compounds, some naturally occurring, while others are synthetic. They include:

  • Delta-9 THC - Delta-9 THC binds to the CB1 receptors in the brain and nervous system to produce mind-altering effects. Despite being a psychoactive compound, delta-9 THC also has some therapeutic uses. It is the most abundant THC compound in cannabis
  • THCV - THCV is short for tetrahydrocannabivarin, a type of THC that does not cause mind-altering effects in low doses. However, consumers can get intoxicated if used in high doses. THCV is developed as a byproduct of THCA breakdown when decarboxylated (heated). Unlike some TCH compounds that stimulate appetite, THCV suppresses a person’s appetite when consumed
  • THCC - THCC is an abbreviation for tetrahydrocannabiorcol, a THC compound that naturally occurs in male cannabis plants. It is not a psychoactive cannabinoid, but some studies have suggested THCC may seriously relieve some types of pain
  • Tetrahydrocannabiphorol (THCP) - THCP is another THC compound that causes intense and euphoric feelings when consumed. Its binding affinity for CB1 receptors in the human body is beyond that of delta-9 THC, which is responsible for its high psychoactivity
  • Delta-7 THC - THC seems to help relax the body but does not appear psychoactive. It is a synthetic form of THC developed by manipulating the chemical structure of delta-9 THC structure in a succession of chemical reactions. Delta-7 THC is not being produced on a commercial scale yet because research into it is still limited
  • Delta-8 THC - Delta-8 THC is formed when delta-9 THC gets old and is exposed to oxidation. It accounts for an insignificant percentage (less than 1%) of the marijuana plant. As a result of the small amount that naturally occurs in cannabis plants, many of the delta-8 THC products available in the United States are developed by converting delta-9 THC and CBD through a chemical process
  • Delta-10 THC - This synthetic THC compound is developed in labs because the marijuana plant has it in only low traces

Maryland THC Laws 2024

Recreational marijuana was in November 2022 legalized in Maryland through Question 4, a legislatively referred ballot question (via HB 837 and SB 833), effective July 1, 2023. Medical cannabis has been legal in the state since 2014. Under the state's medical marijuana laws, only qualifying patients with certain debilitating medical conditions can legally access marijuana-derived THC. Typically, patients may only purchase 120 grams of dried cannabis flower or 36 grams of a cannabis-based THC product in a 30-day period. Notwithstanding, a healthcare provider may certify a qualifying patient for less or more of the standard amount.

With the recent legalization of recreational marijuana, Maryland residents will, by July 1, 2023, be able to use marijuana-based THC products for recreational purposes. Question 4 would allow adults 21 years and older to legally possess up to 1.5 ounces of marijuana, 12 grams of cannabis concentrates, and marijuana containing no more than 750 mg of THC for recreational uses. Also, Maryland complies with the 2018 Farm Bill and permits residents to legally use hemp-derived THC products whose THC contents do not exceed 0.3%. As a result, hemp-based products with no more than the legal limit of THC are available in Maryland dispensaries and other retail shops. Residents can also purchase them online.

What is the Legal Limit for THC While Driving in Maryland?

There is no legal threshold of THC while driving in Maryland. Anyone caught drugged driving commits a misdemeanor and, depending on the situation, may face a jail sentence, among other severe consequences. It is even illegal for medical marijuana patients with Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission ID cards (MMCIC) to drive stoned. Driving under the influence (DUI) of marijuana in Maryland is considered a violation of Section 21-902(d)(1) of the state's Statutes Text. With the recent legalization of recreational marijuana in Maryland, cannabis will become much more regulated, and arrests for DUI of marijuana will probably go up.

As outlined in Question 4, beginning July 1, 2023, only marijuana products containing no more than 750mg of THC would be considered legal in Maryland. Anyone who possesses a cannabis product with over 750 mg of cannabis risks up to six months of incarceration and/or up to a $1,000 fine. As the 2018 Farm Bill requires, hemp-derived THC products may only contain up to 0.3% THC concentration. Otherwise, it is illegal.

Will THC Show Up on a Drug Test?

Yes, but THC showing up on a drug test in Maryland depends on many factors. These include how a person uses weed (smoking or ingestion) and the frequency of use. Generally, ingested cannabis tends to stay longer in the body system than smoked weed, while more frequent use increases the time taken by the body system to eliminate it. The dosage and potency of the weed taken also determine whether THC will show up on a drug test. Highly potent weed contains higher THC concentration and typically stays longer in the body system. Also, higher doses of THC are retained much longer in the body than when consumed in smaller doses.

Another factor determining where a drug test will detect THC is a person's BMI (body mass index). A person's BMI will determine how their body can process and metabolize THC in weeds. While eating healthy and exercising may help (not drastic), there is little a person can do to speed up the elimination of THC metabolites in the body. The body system typically needs time to break down THC completely.

How Long Does THC Stay in the Body?

Although the "high" experienced by marijuana users in Maryland may not last beyond 6 hours, the THC in weed and its metabolites stays in the body for much longer. How the body processes and eliminates THC depends primarily on the mode of consumption.

After a person inhales/smokes weed, THC and its metabolites travel into the bloodstream quickly via the lungs as opposed to ingested weed. When consumed orally, body tissues and organs, like the body fat, heart, and brain, absorb THC. Those that travel to the liver are metabolized, where about 20% leave the body via urine, and over 65% are excreted through feces. Over time, body tissues release the THC stored in them back into the bloodstream for eventual elimination by the liver. Generally, fatty tissues accumulate THC faster than it (THC) can be metabolized, the reason THC can show up on a drug test long after a person consumes it.

How long THC remains detectable in a person's system in Maryland varies and largely depends on the sample used for the drug test as outlined below:

  • Blood test - Up to 12 hours
  • Saliva test - Up to 24 hours
  • Urine test - Up to 30 days (depending on how frequently a person consumes THC)
  • Hair test - Up to 90 days

What Is THC Oil?

THC oil is obtained using various extraction methods to extract THC and other useful cannabinoids from the marijuana plant. THC oil can cause a high. Depending on how it is made, THC oil may even be more potent than conventional cannabis flowers. CBD oil and THC oil are different. CBD oil is extracted from hemp and has high levels of cannabidiol (CBD). In contrast, THC oil is particularly formulated to contain high levels of THC and is primarily extracted from marijuana.

Decarboxylating cannabis flowers is the first step to making THC oil. This process involves heating the flowers, which helps convert THCA into THC. The decarboxylated weed is mixed with carrier oil and water and then heated for a few hours. After cooling, strain the oil and discard the plant material (weed). While ingesting THC oil in Maryland is safe, it is better to begin low and go slow when consuming it. Generally, THC oil is used to make infused beverages, topical salve, and prepare medical meals and homemade edibles.

What Is THC Distillate?

THC distillate is a refined form of THC derived from marijuana. It is highly potent and can intoxicate consumers. During distillation, each cannabinoid in cannabis vaporizes at a different temperature, eliminating everything from plant lipids to terpenes and capturing those vapors and the cannabinoids in them. This process leaves a highly purified end product known as THC distillate. While THC distillate is made from marijuana, CBD distillate is made from hemp.

Users can ingest THC distillate or vaporize it and inhale the vapors. THC distillate is a common ingredient in many commercially available cannabis edibles. However, using products with THC distillate in Maryland requires caution because its high potency is unmatched by most other THC concentrates.

Where to Buy THC in Maryland

Currently, Maryland residents may only buy hemp-derived THC products with no more than 0.3% THC legally from retail shops around the state and even online. Qualified and registered medical marijuana patients in the state can purchase marijuana-based THC products from cannabis dispensaries. Available THC products in the state include beverages, cereals, beer, gummies, and dietary supplements. Following the recent legalization of recreational cannabis in Maryland, residents who are 21 years and older would, by July 1, 2023, be able to purchase cannabis-based THC products in the state.

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