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What is THC O?
Tetrahydrocannabinol-O-acetate, sometimes called THC O acetate, or even THC O, is a synthetic cannabinoid that is derived from legal hemp. It's gaining in popularity because it is three times more potent than potent weed. Sometimes called the "spiritual cannabinoid" or the "psychedelic cannabinoid," THC O delivers hallucinations that live up to its nicknames. THC O does not appear naturally in the hemp plan; it is made through a difficult and dangerous process in a lab.
There are no regulations on and no oversight of the making or selling of THC O. The lack of regulations on the THC O market means that it's flooded with products of dubious quality.
According to Leafly, even though most people's awareness of THC O acetate is relatively new, it's been around since the 1940's. The US Military began studying it back then as a possible non-lethal weapon that could incapacitate people, and found that it eroded dogs' muscle coordination twice much as conventional THC.
Making THC O acetate
Creating the synthetic compound is a dangerous and complicated process. Max Savage Levenson at Leafly writes, "To generate the molecule, a highly-flammable compound called acetic anhydride is added to THC molecules. The process involves a series of extractions that begin with hemp, the low-THC cannabis plant that was made federally legal by Congress in the 2018 farm bill. First, CBD is extracted from raw hemp. Then delta-8 THC is extracted from the CBD. Finally, acetic anhydride is added to the delta-8 THC molecules to make THC-O acetate." 1
All of this requires expert knowledge and expensive machinery. It's a similar process to making heroin out of morphine.
James Stephens, a cannabis expert, told Leafly that around 10-15% of a THC O product is "unknown substances" and this is very dangerous. He said that products like this on the market threaten the cannabis legalization movement overall. “My biggest fear,” he said, “is it just takes that first overdose to cause the equivalent of a satanic panic or whatever you want to call it.” There have been no overdose deaths associated with traditional cannabis.2
Is THC O safe?
Not enough research has been done on THC O to safely say whether it is safe or not. As with all unregulated products, the onus is on the consumer to do their due diligence. It's crucial to review third party lab tests and COAs for your THC O; unfortunately, these tests are few and far between in the industry.
THC O acetate takes anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour to kick in. Because of the potency of THC O and the lag in time between taking it and feeling the effects (an edible could easily take hours to take effect, for example), there's a significant risk that a novice user might feel compelled to take a second dose in the interim and overdose.
What are the benefits/side-effects of THC O?
There is so little research into THC O that there is really no consensus about the benefits of the cannabinoid. Any information about medical benefits is purely anecdotal. Because it is a THC analog THC O shares many of the same benefits that THC has. It helps ease pain and stress. It also helps support a healthy sleep cycle.
But for recreational users, the benefit is the "high" and the psychoactive effects. This can lead to introspection, expanded consciousness, heightened creativity, and relaxation.
There are some side effects to THC O. Some are relatively harmless and to be expected from this kind of product: grogginess, lethargy, dizziness. Some are more troubling: vomiting, diarrhea, and seizures.
Is THC O legal?
THC O exists in a grey area insofar as its legal status is concerned. The Farm Bill of 2018 would suggest that because it is derived from hemp, it should be legal However, there's also the Controlled Substances Act enacted in 1986 that treats any chemical "substantially similar" to a controlled substance as a controlled substance, and THC O is "substantially similar" to THC.3
Things to know about THC O acetate
THC O is more likely to show up on a drug test than naturally occurring Delta 9 THC because it is so potent.
THC O products are most often found in the forms of vape cartridges, tinctures, and gummies. You can buy them at head shops and boutique smoke shops and online.
Like Delta 8 THC, you can thank a surplus of hemp and the continued criminalization of marijuana for the rising popularity of THC O. The surplus of hemp means that producers could keep the prices of Delta 8 and THC O acetate low. Sales of these products are legal (for now) in states where weed sales are not.