What You Need to Know About “THC-O”

Mary Ekundayo

Posted by Mary Ekundayo on 11/24/2023 in Medical Marijuana


When the word cannabis comes up, two major substances come to mind: cannabidiol (CBD) and delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). While CBD is known for its medicinal properties, THC is responsible for that high effect you feel from consuming marijuana. There’s a growing list of over 100 other cannabinoids that have been produced from the weed plant. One cannabinoid that has sparked a lot of conversation in recent times because of its psychedelic effect is THC acetate ester (THC-O). In this article, we bring you all you need to know about this new substance in one place. Follow closely till the end so you don’t miss any details. 

THC-O: Background Information and the 2018 Farm Bill 

The legalization of cannabis in many US states has paved the way for all kinds of cannabidiols in the market. The challenge with these different varieties popping up so quickly is that they have not been well studied, so there might not be sufficient information on them. Also, there are a lot of complications and concerns about newly developed cannabis products.

The director of state campaigns and public policy at the American Trade Association of Cannabis and Hemp, Chris Lindsey, said, “These hemp-derived intoxicants came into the marketplace through the back door, and now states are trying to figure out how to respond.”

The 2018 Farm Bill legalized the growing of hemp federally and is held responsible for unintentionally creating a loophole for cannabis manufacturers to leverage. Hemp is defined as marijuana with less than 0.3% THC. As such, many producers have marketed numerous CBD products as supposed pain relief or sleep aids.

According to Daniel J. Kruger, the lead author of the study done on THC-O-acetate, the bill “opened up entirely new markets for cannabis companies and created a sort of gray market pathway.” Explaining how THC acetate ester came into the market, he said, “It’s kind of like the Wild West. There’s a huge demand for CBD products, and companies have jumped in to supply this demand. Of course, they want to make a product that will stand out and get attention.” 

What Is THC-O and Where Does It Come From?

THC-O is a cannabinoid that is synthetically derived from CBD. The naturally occurring CBD obtained from the hemp or marijuana plant is first converted to delta-8 THC. Delta-8 THC is then combined with a chemical compound called acetic anhydride to get THC-O. 

THC acetate ester is believed to be more intoxicating than other THC forms like delta-8, delta-9, and delta-10. This is because it forms a stronger bond with the cannabinoid receptors in the body. As of now, THC-O is available in regular cannabis forms like oils, vapes, flowers, and edibles.

What are the Effects of THC-O?

THC-O is psychoactive, so it’ll make you feel high, euphoric, and relaxed. It can also cause pain relief and strong sedation. Depending on how you consume the substances, you can begin to feel the effects between 20 minutes (by vaping) and about one hour (with edibles).

THC-O usually takes longer to become active compared with other cannabinoids. This is because it is a prodrug. Meaning it can only become active when it has been processed through the body. Once its effects kick in, it can last for three to eight hours.

The Side Effects of THC-O

THC-O is known as a powerful psychoactive cannabinoid. However, it has its side effects. The major danger with THC-O comes from smoking it. When the substance is heated, it can degrade to a toxicant called ketene, which is dangerous to the lungs. It’s generally advised that cannabis users do not vape any acetate-based cannabinoid.

Other forms of consuming THC-O, like gummies or tinctures, do not pose any health risks. However, side effects like dry mouth and eyes, sleepiness, disorientation, lightheadedness, and low blood pressure can occur.

Is THC-O Legal?

According to the DEA in February, THC-O is not a naturally occurring substance in hemp. It’s classified as a controlled substance and is labeled illegal by the Federal government. However, before the announcement in 2023, companies, lawmakers, and other people believed THC-O was gotten from hemp.

Before the announcement, THC-O had already been legalized in states like California, Florida, Louisiana, Illinois, and Texas. However, in states like Alaska, Delaware, Idaho, New York, and Rhode Island, the substance is illegal. As a cannabis user, it’s best to be informed of the legal status of THC-O in your state so you’re not breaking any law 

Is THC-O Stronger Than THC?

The first thing that differentiates THC-O from THC is that THC occurs naturally in the marijuana plant, while THC-O is synthetically manufactured. In reality, there isn’t much study available that compares the potency between these two substances. However, users have allegedly reported that THC-O as a psychedelic is three times more intoxicating than regular THC.

One study done by the University at Buffalo has proven the psychedelic claims to be exaggerated. For the study, about 300 people were asked to describe their experience under the influence of THC-O. The most common response was that the substances caused moderate euphoria, relaxation, and pain relief. Very few people had an absolutely mystical experience. 

Daniel Kruger, the study’s lead author, attributed the alleged psychedelic effects of THC-O to three possibilities. It was either due to contaminants, a typical moment of an intense high, or a consequence of the users’ expectations based on what they read or heard.

To Wrap It All Up

THC-O is known to be a powerful psychoactive substance. As a result, you should start small when using it to avoid any side effects. However, remember that more research needs to be done to explore its effects and possible therapeutic value.

For now, it is safer to stay away from inhaling this cannabinoid because of the toxic ketene that is released when heated. Also, it is best to buy your THC acetate ester from a trusted retailer to prevent buying contaminated products. Always ensure your safety by confirming the content of any THC-O product you’re consuming.

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