In recent months, a synthetic cannabinoid derived from hemp known as THC-O acetate—commonly abbreviated as THC-O has rapidly acquired popularity among Americans who lack access to legal cannabis.

The attractiveness of THC-O stems from its potency and legal status. It is almost three times as potent as regular THC, according to research. Furthermore, it has been dubbed “the psychedelic cannabinoid” due to its hallucinogenic properties. Due to the fact that THC-O is derived from federally authorized hemp, it is gaining popularity in states where consumers do not have access to legal, state-licensed delta-9 THC products.

And with delta-8 THC, its popular cousin, becoming prohibited in several states and blacklisted by the DEA, THC-O will increase even more its popularity.

While THC-O goods such as vape carts and tinctures are available for purchase online, their legality and safety have not been established.

What exactly is THC-O?

While many of us are only now learning about THC-O, the US military began exploring its effects in 1949, observing that it affected dogs’ muscle coordination twice as much as regular delta-9 THC.

THC-O, on the other hand, is not a naturally occurring cannabinoid (like THC and CBD). To synthesize THC-O in a laboratory requires some rather complex — and volatile — chemistry. This method removes all other helpful chemical components (terpenes and flavonoids), leaving just a highly concentrated THC isolate with no taste or smell.

Currently, several stakeholders in the state-licensed cannabis industry are worried about the emergence of THC-O acetate. To create the molecule, THC molecules are mixed with acetic anhydride, a highly flammable chemical.

The process starts with hemp, a cannabis plant with a low THC content that Congress authorized on a federal level in the 2018 farm bill. To begin, CBD is extracted from raw hemp. After removing the CBD, delta-8 THC is obtained. Finally, acetic anhydride and delta-8 THC molecules are joined to produce THC-O acetate.

Due to the associated health hazards, experts advise that this procedure should be performed only in a controlled laboratory.

Is THC-O a toxin that should be avoided?

Due to a dearth of study and a severe absence of data-based regulation, THC-O acetate remains shrouded in mystery.

Apart from its potency, researchers found that THC-O acetate is a “prodrug,” which means it is not activated until it is digested. It takes approximately 20–30 minutes for it to take effect.

The addition of the acetate molecule to the basic THC molecule accomplishes one significant factor: it strengthens the THC molecule. In other words, THC-O is very psychoactive and therefore you should use it carefully.

What ingredients are contained in these items?

Many vape carts with THC-O contain approximately 15% of unknown chemicals. This means it can be potentially harmful as these additives can negatively impact our health.

There is always the risk of potentially hazardous chemicals being added to the cannabis oil in any vape cartridge provided outside of a state-licensed cannabis system. These thinning compounds have previously been connected to significant health risks, and there is nothing to prevent unregulated businesses from introducing them without notifying customers.

Is THC-O legal in the United States of America?

Producers of THC-O acetate products assert that they are protected under the 2018 farm bill, as the molecule originated from federally permitted hemp plants. However, its legal status remains unclear, and many cannabis producers don’t know whether TCH-O is legal or not.

Although some experts feel the substance is legal, others believe it is not. They reference the 1986 Federal Analogue Act, which declares that any chemical comparable to a Schedule I narcotic — in this case, conventional THC — qualifies as a Schedule I drug in its own right.

As is the case with delta-8 and delta-10 THC, products containing THC-O fall in between hemp (which is legal in the United States) and cannabis (which is not). State regulators and lawmakers are now engaged in a whack-a-mole game with the growing number of hemp-derived chemicals, banning novel compounds in order to make room for additional derivatives.

Cannabis authorities in legal adult-use countries typically overlook these hemp-derived compounds since they fall beyond the scope of their stringent regulatory oversight. Local law enforcement and public health authorities are addressing more severe problems, including violent crime and the coronavirus epidemic.

Meanwhile, some state-licensed cannabis companies in legal states are worried that unauthorized hemp-derived THC products are undercutting their market and tarnishing the cannabis industry’s image with potentially dangerous goods.

Until THC-O and other hemp derivatives are regulated by states, individuals must weigh the risks and benefits of these drugs for themselves.