The Murky Waters of THCA: Examining Recent Developments in Tennessee's Hemp Industry

The Murky Waters of THCA: Examining Recent Developments in Tennessee's Hemp Industry

The world of hemp products, particularly those containing THCA, has been a subject of much debate and legal gray areas across the United States. Tennessee is no exception. While hemp itself was legalized in the state in 2014, the legality of THCA flower, a product with potential psychoactive properties, remains a complex issue. Recent developments have further muddied the waters, making it crucial for consumers and businesses to stay informed. At Gold Spectrum, we pride ourselves on transparency and providing our customers with all the information they need to make informed decisions. 

This article delves into the recent changes surrounding THCA flower in Tennessee. We'll explore the current legal landscape, analyze the proposed rule changes by the Tennessee Department of Agriculture (TDA), and discuss the potential implications for consumers and businesses within the state's hemp industry.

Understanding THCA and its Legal Status in Tennessee

First, let's establish a baseline understanding of THCA. Tetrahydrocannabinolic Acid (THCA) is the precursor to THC, the psychoactive compound found in marijuana. While THCA itself isn't psychoactive, when heated through processes like smoking or vaping, it decarboxylates and converts into THC.

Tennessee, like many other states, legalized hemp in 2014, defining it as cannabis sativa containing no more than 0.3% THC by dry weight []. This distinction is crucial. Hemp, with its low THC content, is primarily cultivated for industrial purposes like fiber production and CBD extraction.

The legal status of THCA flower hinges on how it's classified. Some argue that as long as the flower's total THC content, including THCA, stays below the legal limit of 0.3%, it falls under the definition of hemp.  However, others contend that since THCA readily converts to THC, it should be considered a controlled substance.

This ambiguity has created a situation in which the THCA flower has existed in a legal gray area within Tennessee. Businesses have emerged selling THCA products, while authorities still need to establish clear guidelines on their legality.

For businesses that grow or sell THCA flower, regulation brings several benefits to the table. Escaping the legal ambiguity currently surrounding THCA flower would give structure and stability to retail sales, easing the tension that can come with selling a product that is still ill-defined in its legal status. Simply put, if the rules are clearly laid out, then businesses know how to operate within them. Furthermore, regulation could help create a standard of quality across the board that makes it easier for consumers to purchase with confidence and knowledge. The more we can define THCA flower, and how it’s regulated, the more informed customers will be when deciding what and where to purchase. Regulation would help quality, and above-board products would stand out above imitations or other quasi-legal replicants. 

Senate Bill 378 and the TDA's Proposed Rule Changes

In July 2023, a significant development emerged with the passing of Senate Bill 378. This bill aimed to tighten Tennessee's hemp industry regulations, granting the TDA the authority to establish specific rules for hemp products.

The TDA's proposed rules, released in late 2023, focus on the concept of "Total THC" to differentiate between hemp and marijuana. These rules suggest that all hemp products, including flower, must contain less than 0.3% total THC by dry weight. This approach effectively bans THCA flower because, even if the starting flower falls below the 0.3% limit, the presence of THCA can push the total THC content above the legal threshold once it decarboxylates.

The proposed rules have sparked debate within the state's hemp industry. Proponents of THCA argue that the proposed regulations are overly restrictive and stifle innovation within the hemp market. They point out that THCA itself isn't psychoactive and that consumers should have access to a broader variety of hemp products.

Opponents, on the other hand, express concerns about the potential for THCA flower to be misused and create a readily available source of psychoactive material. They argue that the proposed rules are necessary to maintain a clear distinction between hemp and marijuana and uphold public safety.

Blanket prohibition of hemp products based on “Total THC” does indeed restrict innovation and development within the industry. 

“At Gold Spectrum, we pride ourselves on educating our customers about our products and what goes into them. Hemp is a complex plant with many potential benefits still unknown to us, and it is only through research and analysis that we can continue to advance the hemp industry and discover new ground,” says Zack Green, CEO.

Simplifying consumable hemp into broad classifications like “Total THC” and prohibiting it based on speculative misuse is a disservice to the nuances of the plant itself and all the individual components that make it beneficial to many consumers.

Current Status and Potential Implications

As of March 27, 2024, the TDA's proposed rules are still under review. The Tennessee Attorney General's Office must approve them before they take effect. This process could take several more months, leaving the legal status of THCA flower in limbo for now.

If the proposed rules are implemented, they will have significant implications for Tennessee's hemp industry. Businesses currently selling THCA flower would likely need to adjust their product offerings or face potential legal repercussions. Additionally, consumers seeking THCA products would no longer have access to them within the state.

While regulating THCA flower can certainly help create consistency and better quality control amongst products offered, it should be done so in a way that accounts for the complex nature of the hemp industry itself. To advance the hemp industry and continue creating economic growth for Tennessee businesses, we must consider the impacts of outright prohibition and how it hinders development. As the hemp and cannabis markets continue to grow nationally, we should strive also to innovate and develop accordingly to bring regulated and controlled products to consumers who enjoy them. 

The potential economic impact of these changes is also a point of discussion. The hemp industry in Tennessee has shown promise for growth, and the ban on THCA flower could stifle that progress. However, the potential public safety benefits of clear regulations also need to be considered.

The Road Ahead: Navigating Uncertainty

The future of THCA flower in Tennessee remains uncertain. The ongoing review of the TDA's proposed rules creates a wait-and-see situation for both businesses and consumers. Here are some key takeaways:

  • The legal status of THCA flower in Tennessee has needed to be clarified.
  • Senate Bill 378 and the TDA's proposed rules aim to introduce a "Total THC" approach, potentially banning THCA flower.
  • The proposed rules are still under review, and the final decision will impact the state's hemp industry and consumer access to THCA products.
  • Regardless of the final outcome, staying informed about developments is crucial for businesses and consumers alike.

Potential Solutions and the Path Forward

The current situation surrounding THCA flower in Tennessee highlights the need for a clearer legal framework for hemp products nationwide. Here are some potential solutions to consider:

  • Federal Legislation: Establishing clear federal guidelines on hemp and its derivatives, including THCA, would provide much-needed clarity for all states. This could involve setting a national standard for "Total THC" or establishing separate regulations for THCA flower.
  • State-Level Advocacy: Advocacy efforts by industry groups and consumers can influence the finalization of the TDA's proposed rules. Providing well-researched arguments and highlighting the potential economic benefits of a regulated THCA market could be impactful.
  • Consumer Education: Consumers seeking THCA products should be aware of the current legal uncertainties and the potential risks associated with purchasing products from unregulated sources. At Gold Spectrum, we provide COAs for all of our products and pride ourselves on transparency.

Ultimately, navigating the future of THCA in Tennessee requires a multi-pronged approach. Federal legislation, state-level advocacy, and responsible consumer behavior can all contribute to a more stable and transparent hemp market in the state.

At Gold Spectrum, we believe that it is also crucial for businesses to hold themselves accountable for upholding the quality standards and regulations to ensure the safety of their consumers.


The recent developments surrounding THCA flower in Tennessee represent a microcosm of the ongoing debate about hemp regulations across the United States. While the future remains uncertain, staying informed, advocating for clear regulations, and prioritizing consumer safety will be critical factors in shaping the future of the state's hemp industry.


Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.