January 10, 2022 Meet THC-O, a hemp compound 3x stronger than THC.

Meet THC-O, a hemp compound 3x stronger than THC.

THC-O, also known as THC-O acetate, is a CBD hemp-derived compound that’s three times stronger than normal delta-9 THC.

In recent months, a synthetic compound derived from hemp called THC-O acetate—often referred to simply as THC-O (pronounced “THC oh”)—has quickly gained popularity among Americans who don’t have access to legal cannabis. 

THC-O products are increasingly popular in states where consumers don’t have access to legal cannabis.

THC-O’s appeal lies in its potency and its legal status. Research has found that it’s roughly three times stronger than conventional THC. It has been called “the psychedelic cannabinoid” for its borderline hallucinatory effects. Because it’s derived from federally legal hemp, THC-O products are becoming increasingly popular in the states where consumers don’t have access to legal, state-licensed delta-9 THC products. 

While THC-O products like vape carts and tinctures are available for purchase online, both their legal status and their safety remain unproven. 

What is THC-O?

Although many of us only recently heard about THC-O, the US military began studying its effects as long ago as 1949; they observed it eroded dogs’ muscle coordination twice as much as conventional delta-9 THC.

Typically, acetic anhydride is added to delta-8 THC to produce delta-O acetate.

THC-O didn’t appear on the DEA’s radar until nearly 30 years later. In 1978, DEA agents discovered a clandestine lab in Jacksonville, Florida, had combined a cannabis extract with acetic anhydride. But over the following 10 years, THC-O did not enter the illicit market. Since it didn’t seem to be a growing problem, the federal drug agency declined further investigation into the unusual compound. 

More on hemp-based THC derivatives

What is delta-8? Now, meet delta-10? Here’s what the experts say

Don’t make THC-O at home

“The process of making THC-O acetate is inherently dangerous,” the renowned cannabis researcher Dr. Ethan Russo recently told Hemp Grower. “This is something that’s got to be done in a technical lab with a vacuum hood [and] no exposure to humans.”

If you want to use delta-O, always buy, never DIY.

Some THC-O retailers have echoed Russo’s warnings on their own websites. “Please don’t try to make THC-O on your own,” cautions the Honest Marijuana Co., an online seller of THC-O products. “The process requires special equipment and advanced training to get right. And volatile, flammable, and explosive chemicals are necessary. It’s not worth your life (or your home or your eyebrows) to do something that a lab can do better and safer. If you want to use THC-O, always buy, never DIY.” 

Is THC-O safe to consume?

A lack of research and a profound lack of regulation based on actual data means that mysteries about THC-O acetate are prevalent.

Beyond its potency, researchers have concluded that THC-O acetate is a “prodrug,” meaning that the compound is not activated until it has been metabolized. It takes about 20 to 30 minutes to kick in.

What’s in these products?

With any vape cartridge sold outside a state-licensed cannabis system, there’s always a concern about potentially toxic additives mixed into the cannabis oil. These thinning agents have caused serious health problems in the past, and there’s nothing to prevent unregulated companies from adding them without informing consumers. 

It’s potent, so go slow

Overconsumption of traditional cannabis has never directly caused a death in humans. With a compound three times as potent as delta-9 THC, however, there’s a risk of consumers imbibing too much THC-O and suffering through some unpleasant effects. Of course, high-potency cannabis concentrates like dabbing oil, wax, and shatter have been legally sold for many years—so the risk of a bad trip with THC-O is all relative. 

Well, it depends who you ask. “That’s actually hard to say.” 

As for Bearly Legal Hemp Company, their name says it all.

But that argument could be similarly used to argue against the legality of delta-8 THC, or perhaps even CBD. It all depends on where the line between “analogous” and “non-analogous” is drawn. 

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