Trending Topics: What is THC-O?

By Liam Noonan

9/22/21

You’ve heard of plain old THC, CBD, and even Delta-8, but now there’s a completely different cannabinoid getting some buzz. THC-O, or THC-O-Acetate, is a lab-made variation of the naturally forming compound that is Delta-9 THC (regular THC). 

There’s a lot of mystery and misinformation surrounding THC-O and it is currently advertised by most producers as 300x more powerful than regular THC. We do know that this compound is a precursor to Delta-8 and therefore can be isolated and added to products like vapes or edibles. 

Continue reading to learn more about what THC-O is, how it feels, whether or not it is federally legal, and if it is generally believed as safe to consume.

What Exactly is THC-O Acetate?

As mentioned above, THC-O is a hemp-derived compound that is gaining substantial buzz in the cannabis industry. With that being said, THC-O Acetate is a synthesized cannabinoid meaning you cannot purely extract the compound from the cannabis plant. Some choose Delta-8 and Delta-10 for their more mild psychoactive highs, but THC-O offers quite the opposite. 

As mentioned, THC-O is rumored to be 3 times more potent than classic THC. Yep, you heard that right, THC-O is supposedly 300% more potent than Delta-9 THC! This means you’ll get a much more intense high and some report effects closer to psychedelics like psilocybin than regular old weed. Proponents of this controversial compound praise it for the potential for deep introspection and maybe even therapeutic benefits. 

While most haven’t heard of it before, THC-O has been in use since around 1950 when it was used in experiments with dogs suffering from Ataxia. These researchers concluded that THC-O exacerbated the Ataxia symptoms by inhibiting coordination of muscle movements.

How is THC-O Made? 

THC-O extraction is a lengthy and expensive process that should never ever be attempted at home. It’s impossible because you need commercial-grade equipment and doing it DIY is extremely dangerous. On the other hand, the legality around the compound remains in a sort of grey area. 

THC-O is derived from Tetrahydrocannabinolic Acid (THCA), which is the precursor to THC before it is decarboxylated. Manufacturers produce the final THC-O product using a blend of compounds like sulfuric acid and acetic anhydride, which is why it has to be designated as synthetic. Heat is then applied to the mixture of chemicals to create a reaction that alters the THCA molecules to make them more potent. 

How Does THC-O Make You Feel? 

The effects of a THCO will be similar to that of cannabis, but more intense. As mentioned above, THCO is known as “the psychedelic” cannabinoid for its high that mimics that of psilocybin. Some of the most common effects include full body buzz, spiritual thoughts, immersiveness, and relaxation. Users tend to opt for THCO when seeking relief for symptoms like anxiety, insomnia, and pain. THC-O may also be a good option for medical patients with heightened THC tolerance. 

Keep in mind that the enhanced potency may be desirable and useful, but the side effects can be heightened as well. These can include a high that is way too intense, headaches, dry mouth, and plenty more. Therefore, it’s important to proceed with caution when trying and dosing THC-O for the first time. 

Is THC-O Legal? 

The legality of THC-O remains in a sort of limbo gray area. Most state laws don’t provide any specific rulings on THC-O, but it remains (for the most part) legal yet fairly unregulated. Even though it is characterized as synthetic, the compound is most commonly derived from legal hemp. This is why you may be able to order it online or purchase it in States where THC isn’t legal yet.

This legality is thanks to the 2018 Farm Bill, which was a federal act passed by Congress that defined hemp as “All derivatives, extracts, cannabinoids, isomers, acids, salts, and salts of isomers, whether growing or not, with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol concentration of not more than 0.3 percent.” 

Matthew Guenther, Founder of the American Cannabinoid Association, claims that this distinction as a derivative makes it completely legal under the current wording of the law. However, Guenther also notes that certain States can define different rulings on the compound.

There aren’t any federal regulations setting the minimum age required to purchase THC-O, but there are several state regulations mandating that consumers must be 21 years or older to purchase. 

Is THC-O Safe? 

More research and studies need to be done before we can definitively say whether or not THC-O is completely safe or at least just as safe as THC. With that being said, many believe the main safety risks come from a lack of third-party testing and unlicensed products like vape cartridges that could contain contaminants or heavy metals.

To make sure you get safe and regulated products, we suggest checking the manufacturer’s website and looking into how they source and test their products. On the other hand, legitimate products should also have QR codes or batch numbers that you can use to look up the company’s test results.

Summary 

The legality of THC-O is confusing and a mix of opinions from within the cannabis industry further complicates things. As the industry matures and more research is done, THC-O may become a lasting and profitable cannabinoid, but the jury is still out.

Further government rulings and action could halt production in its tracks or bring it back underground. One thing is clear, all form of cannabis is in high demand at the moment and THC-O is just another way producers are trying to fill that need.

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