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Updated on September 7, 2022
5 min read

THC-O Acetate - Effects, Legality & Risks

What is THC-O?

According to the National Library of Medicine, THC or tetrahydrocannabinol is the primary psychoactive component and one of the 113 cannabinoids in cannabis.1

THC-O, sometimes called THC-O Acetate, is a synthetic cannabinoid (as opposed to a naturally occurring cannabinoid). This means it’s lab-created and not a natural part of the hemp plant. 

It’s created through a highly specialized process using a highly flammable compound known as acetic anhydride. 

Manufacturers combine this compound with Delta-8 THC, a naturally occurring substance from the hemp plant. As a result, THC-O or hemp-derived THC-O is created.

THC-O products include:

  • Gummies
  • Tinctures
  • Capsules
  • Pre-rolls
  • Vape cartridges

It’s a semi-legal option for people living where cannabis isn’t legal.

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Is THC-O Stronger Than Delta-8?

Yes, THC-O is significantly stronger than Delta-8. It’s also stronger than regular THC.

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What are the Effects of THC-O?

Effects of the drug vary from user to user, but some people report a psychedelic experience when using THC-O. Some have compared it to small doses of LSD. THC-O can produce feelings of euphoria and increased sensory perception.

Less-desirable side effects include:

  • Anxiety 
  • Dizziness
  • Hallucinations
  • Paranoia
  • Sedation
  • Seizures
  • Vomiting

Is THC-O Safe to Vape?

THC-O is relatively new. Health experts recommend users proceed cautiously, especially when vaping, until more is known about the drug.

Vaping THC-O activates a chemical process that isn’t fully understood. It’s impossible to say whether or not it’s safe at this time.

The Risks Involved with Using THC-O

There are little to no THC-O regulations or manufacturing standards. It’s important to do as much research as possible before using THC-O. 

Manufacturers claim THC-O is all-natural, but synthetic chemicals are always used in its production. It’s nearly impossible to know the chemicals used in the manufacturing process. Users can never be sure how potent it is before use, nor do you know how your body might react to the substance.

It’s also important to understand that there’s a delayed-onset of psychoactive effects with THC-O. 

Depending on the format and how much someone ingests, it can take hours to feel the full effects. This puts people at risk of thinking they need more of the drug to feel its effect. They take a second dose and end up taking way too much.

Will THC-O Show Up on a Drug Test?

Yes, there is a good chance THC-O will trigger a positive drug test result. 

Most drug tests look for 11-hydroxy-THC. This is produced when you ingest any form of THC/Delta. These substances all trigger the same metabolic response in your body. 

THC-O might not trigger the response at the same rate as other THC metabolites. It could actually occur at a higher rate. So you might test positive if you’ve used the drug within the last 30 days. 

There is very little scientific research on how the body metabolizes THC-O. This is one of the greatest risks of consuming THC-O. Many people think it’s legal or “not a big deal” when there is a significant risk of failing a drug test for several weeks after using it. 

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Is THC-O Actually Legal?

There are no specific federal or state laws against THC-O. Currently, Its legal status is somewhat confusing and up for debate.

2018 Federal Farm Bill

Manufacturers claim the drug is legal because its production is protected under the 2018 Federal Farm Bill.2  However, many people familiar with the drug, including some who sell it, consider it “barely legal.”

This bill separated hemp and other low-concentration derivatives from the legal definition of marijuana in the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). The bill made cannabis products with no more than 0.3 percent THC legal.

Some believe that THC-O fits this description, making it legal. However, it could also be illegal because the drug combines natural and synthetic materials. Under the Farm Bill, synthetically derived THC remains a Schedule I substance.

1986 Federal Analog Act

Others believe hemp-derived THC is illegal because of the 1986 Federal Analog Act.3 This law states all substances analogous to Schedule I drugs qualify as Schedule I drugs.

THC-O has never been officially listed as a Schedule I drug under the CSA. But based on a 2021 letter from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), delta-8 THC synthetically produced from non-cannabis materials is a controlled substance.4 Based on this, it would follow that THC-O is also considered illegal.

It’s difficult to say whether or not THC-O is legal to use. However, since drug tests don’t differentiate between the various forms of THC, it’s better to be safe than sorry. You’ll be unable to prove that you’ve used a legal form of the drug if you test positive. 

THC-O is the Semi-Legal Psychedelic Cannabinoid

Because there’s a gray area regarding the legality, many consider THC-O a semi-legal drug. It’s derived from federally legal hemp. And unlike other forms of THC, it produces borderline hallucinatory effects.

Some consider THC-O to be the most legal option for those who want a psychedelic drug experience. This is especially true in states where consumers cannot legally purchase traditional THC/delta products. 

Summary

THC-O is a completely synthetic cannabinoid. It produces a hallucinatory or psychedelic high, similar to low-dose LSD. The drug is derived from a legal, natural form of hemp. However, it’s considered a synthetic drug because of the manufacturing process. 

Like all drugs, there is a risk involved in using it. This includes taking a large dose due to the slow onset of effects. 

THC-O might also produce unwanted side effects, including anxiety, seizures, and vomiting. THC-O is detectable on most drug tests and is considered “barely legal” by most people.

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Updated on September 7, 2022
7 sources cited
Updated on September 7, 2022
  1. Ng, Terence, and Vikas Gupta. “Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).” PubMed, 2022.
  2. US Forest Service. “The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (2018 Farm Bill).” www.fs.usda.gov, 2016.
  3. US Department of Justice. “Controlled Substance Analogue Enforcement Act of 1986: The Compromising of Criminalization | Office of Justice Programs.www.ojp.gov, 1988.
  4. Yahoo Finance. “US DOJ-DEA Clarifies Its Position That Hemp-Derived Delta 8 THC Is NOT Illegal.” www.finance.yahoo.com, 2021.
  5. National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Cannabis (Marijuana) DrugFacts.” www.nida.nih.gov, 2019.
  6. Harvard Health. “Medical Marijuana: Facts about Cannabis, THC, and CBD.” www.health.harvard.edu.
  7. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. “Cannabis (Marijuana) and Cannabinoids: What You Need to Know.” www.nccih.nih.gov, 2019.

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