THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is one of the numerous cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. Due to its psychoactive properties, THC often produces ‘high’ sensations by activating brain cell receptors. THC’s analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties make it suitable for treating chronic pain and conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis. Some negative effects associated with THC consumption in Montana include anxiety, paranoia, and memory loss.
Hemp and marijuana, which are two varieties of Cannabis sativa, contain different amounts of THC. According to the Montana Hemp Law, THC in hemp must not exceed 0.3% on a dry-weight basis. On the other hand, marijuana, which is legal for medical and recreational use in Montana, may contain more than 3% THC and can be as high as 35% THC in marijuana-infused products. Generally, THC can exist in different forms (isomers) despite having the same chemical structure. Common THC isomers include delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the main psychoactive component of cannabis, and delta-10-THC. Other THC isomers are delta-8-tetrahydrocannabinol (delta-8-THC) and tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV). These compounds have similar properties to delta-9-THC but may have slightly different effects on the body.
Hemp and marijuana, which contain THC, are both legal in Montana. All hemp products must contain no more than 0.3% THC, according to the state’s hemp program. Hemp-derived CBD oil and other hemp products containing the legal THC amounts are legal for Montana residents. However, common THC isomers such as delta-8 and delta-10 are still listed under Montana’s Schedule 1 controlled substances. Medical patients licensed by the Cannabis Control Division (CCD) can use marijuana-derived THC products to treat certain debilitating conditions. Marijuana products containing higher amounts of THC are legal only for persons above 18 years. The Adult-Use Marijuana Law in Montana also mandates that all marijuana products must not exceed 35% THC, while topical products must not contain above 6% THC.
THC potency in marijuana can be as high as 35%, while hemp must not contain more than 0.3% THC as required by the 2018 Farm Bill. Marijuana concentrates, THC oil, and THC distillate contain up to 90% THC. The psychoactive effects from these high-THC products occur instantly and last longer. The THC potency of weed was not this high in the past. Analysis published by the National Institute on Drug Abuse revealed that marijuana samples seized by the DEA in 1995 had only 3.9% THC, while the average marijuana sample in 2021 had up to 15% THC. The increase in THC potency over the years may be attributed to new cultivation techniques, technologies, and demand for high-THC products. Today, some marijuana products have as high as 30% THC. Examples of these marijuana strains, which are common in Montana, are:
Afghan Kush - 20% THC
Blue Dream - 21% THC
White Widow - 25% THC
Gorilla Glue - 31% THC
Banana Kush - 20% THC
Be aware that some marijuana product labels in Montana may show the THCA level, which is not the same as the THC level. THCA (tetrahydrocannabinolic acid) and THC are both cannabinoids found in dried marijuana flowers. The difference between THCA and THC is the carboxylic acid attached to THCA. Smoking, vaporizing, or heating raw marijuana flowers converts THCA to THC. Apart from THCA, there are several other types of THC compounds found in marijuana. These include:
Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA)
Hemp-derived and marijuana-derived THC are legal in Montana, with different restrictions placed by the Cannabis Control Division. According to the 2021 Montana Code Annotated § 80-18-101, hemp containing no more than 0.3% THC is legal. Montana residents can buy and sell approved hemp products such as hemp seed, grain, hemp flower, and hemp fiber through the Hemp Marketplace. Other hemp derivatives like hemp hearts and hemp seed oil are available across the state but are not under the regulation of the Department of Agriculture.
Medical patients licensed by the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services can use marijuana-derived THC products without THC limits. However, such patients must purchase prescribed marijuana from only state-licensed dispensaries, according to MCA § 16-12-515. Minors can also have access to weed under the state’s medical marijuana program, provided they have their parent/legal guardian’s consent. After the passage of Voters Initiative 190 in 2020, Montana residents above 18 years began buying all forms of marijuana products with no more than 35% THC. The law permitted adults to purchase up to 1 ounce of cannabis at a time. Licensed dispensaries already functioning in the state began selling dried cannabis flowers, marijuana edibles, topicals, and other marijuana-derived THC products in January 2022.
Generally, THC products above 35% are considered high in Montana and illegal except for CCD-licensed medical patients. Hemp and other low-THC products with less than 0.3% THC are considered safe with less intoxicating effects. According to MCA § 61-8-1002(d), Montana motorists must not operate a vehicle with more than 5 ng/mL of THC in the bloodstream.
THC can show up on different drug tests such as urine, blood, hair, and saliva tests in Montana. However, detecting the amount of THC through any of these drug tests depends on the type and amount of THC products consumed. For instance, the probability of THC showing up on a drug test is generally higher for marijuana-derived THC compared to hemp-derived THC. This is because hemp contains only trace amounts of THC, while dried marijuana flowers may have as high as 35% THC.
Another factor that will determine if THC will show up on a drug test is how often it is consumed. Generally, THC stores up in the body until the metabolic process is complete, even after the psychoactive effects have worn off. Therefore, a person consuming marijuana constantly for days is more likely to test positive to a drug test than a person who consumes THC once a week. A person’s body metabolic rate will also determine if THC will show up on a drug test or not.
The consumption method of THC products is also a major determinant in drug tests. Consuming THC through smoking or vaporizing leads to quick absorption into the bloodstream, resulting in rapid effects with a high probability of immediate detection. On the other hand, consuming THC through edibles leads to slower absorption and delayed effects. Thus, it may take some days after consuming edibles before THC can show up on drug tests. Some drug tests are more sensitive than others, and so will affect the detection window.
The duration of THC in the body depends on the metabolic rate, which is different for each person. THC metabolism starts after the consumption of THC products. The bloodstream carries the psychoactive cannabinoid through the lungs (if inhaled) or through the intestine (if eaten) and delivers it to the liver. Enzymes in the liver break down THC into different chemical compounds, including THC-COOH glucuronide, which exits the body through urine, saliva, hair, or sweat.
Urine tests, which are common among other drug tests in Montana, can detect THC for up to three days in persons who use marijuana once. For moderate consumers, THC may stay in the body for up to 7 days, while the detection period in frequent users may last more than 15 days. THC often remains in the bloodstream for up to 12 hours for regular consumers. However, blood tests may detect THC after 7 days of use in chronic marijuana users. Saliva tests have a shorter detection window (within 24 to 72 hours after use) than urine or blood tests but are also less invasive to administer. Hair tests can reveal THC after 90 days of last use.
THC oil is a concentrated form of THC typically extracted from marijuana flowers and buds. Depending on the cannabis plant from which THC oil was extracted, the percentage concentration often ranges between 50% to 90% THC. Another oil extracted from the cannabis plant is CBD oil, which has a different chemical composition and effects. Unlike THC oil, CBD oil contains small amounts of THC, typically less than 0.3%. Due to its low THC content, CBD oil does not produce mind-altering effects, while THC oil gets consumers ‘high.’
Most individuals extract THC oil from the cannabis plant, hemp, or marijuana, by using carbon dioxide under high pressure. Other producers use solvents like ethanol, butane, or alcohol to dissolve the THC from the cannabis plant. Afterward, the solvent is evaporated, leaving the concentrated THC oil. THC oil is commonly available in vape pens, vape cartridges, and e-cigarettes. Capsules, edibles, and gummies also contain THC oils. Generally, due to its high THC amount, THC oil is illegal for Montana residents except for medical patients licensed by the Cannabis Control Board. Meanwhile, there is no restriction for buying and consuming CBD oil in Montana.
THC distillate is the purest and most concentrated form of THC extracted from the marijuana plant. Although THC oil and THC distillate are made from the same plant, the psychoactive effect created by THC distillate is stronger than THC oil. THC distillate, which often contains more than 90% THC, is thicker than THC oil. THC distillate is usually produced using cannabis distillation equipment to isolate pure cannabis extract from other cannabinoids, such as terpenes. Once distilled, the golden amber-colored THC distillate is odorless and flavorless.
While THC distillate is created to remove all other cannabinoids except THC, CBD distillate is produced to eliminate all other cannabinoids leaving the purest form of CBD. THC distillate contains very high THC, which is why it may produce high psychoactive effects. Like THC oil, THC distillate is available in vape cartridges and edibles in Montana. It is also possible to use THC distillate orally by adding a small drop under the tongue.
Delta-9 THC products derived from hemp or marijuana are legal in Montana and available for sale in state-licensed dispensaries. Some dispensaries sell their products online and get them delivered to consumers who order. The following THC products are sold in Montana dispensaries:
Dried cannabis flower
Marijuana-infused edibles and gummies
Marijuana concentrates and hashish
Marijuana capsules and tinctures
THC suppository and transdermal patch