What is THC-O?


Move over, delta-8 — there’s a new cannabinoid on the scene. 

And this one’s more powerful than ever. If you have questions like “what is THC-O?” or “is THC-O legal?” then we have good news: you’re in the right place! Keep reading to get all your questions answered in our THC-O guide. 

  • What is THC-O?
  • What is THC-O-Acetate?
  • How THC-O is made
  • What is THC-O distillate?
  • Is THC-O legal?
  • THC-O: potential health benefits
  • How to experience THC-O

What is THC-O?

THC-O is a cannabinoid, just like CBD or THC. THC-O can also be derived from legal hemp flower.

But that’s about where the similarities end. THC-O is a variation of THC, and it might just be the most psychoactive natural cannabinoid of all! Researchers call it “the psychedelic cannabinoid.” And studies show that it’s up to three times stronger than ‘regular’ THC. [1

Since it’s produced from legal, low-THC hemp, THC-O has quickly become a favorite product of consumers who don’t live in pro-cannabis states. 

What is THC-O-Acetate?

THC-O acetate is simply the full name of THC-O. This cannabinoid is also sometimes called delta-O THC. Let’s take a quick look at this unique cannabinoid’s history before getting into its potential health benefits.  

You might be surprised to hear that THC-O was actually discovered a long time ago. The United States military started studying the compound back in 1949. They discovered it reduced muscular twice as quickly as ‘regular’ THC. 

From there THC-O layed low for roughly 30 years. Then, in 1978, the DEA discovered an illicit THC-O lab in Florida. This lab had been supplying THC-O to buyers and sellers 

Throughout the United States. 

How THC-O is made

How is THC-O produced? By combining acetic anhydride and delta-8 THC. This sets off a chemical reaction that produces pure delta-O THC acetate.

THC-O production requires trained chemists and a sterile lab. Why? Because acetic anhydride is a highly flammable, volatile compound. The process of adding it to delta-8 THC requires a series of complex steps:

  • Hemp flower is extracted to produce a hemp extract
  • Delta-8 THC is fractionally ‘pulled’ out of this extract
  • Delta-8 is combined with acetic anhydride in a timed-released reaction
  • This reaction produces THC-O acetate

While THC-O is produced from hemp, many experts nonetheless view it as semi-synthetic. “THC-O acetate is what's called a semi-synthetic derivative, or analogue. Through a chemical process using a very toxic chemical called acetic anhydride, you can turn some of the delta-9 THC into THC-O acetate, ” cannabis expert and neurologist Ethan Russo explains. “The process of making THC-O acetate is inherently dangerous [...] this is something that’s got to be done in a technical lab with a vacuum hood [with] no exposure to humans.”

And THC-O becomes even more dangerous if you try to produce it yourself. Take it from us: if you want to try this cannabinoid, buy it from a trusted source, don’t DIY it! 

A growing number of THC-O manufacturers are agreeing with Dr. Russo’s warnings. “[...] Don’t try to make THC-O on your own,” says Honest Marijuana Company. “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 [...] to do something that a lab can do better and safer.”

If delta-O THC is produced the right way, however, the final product is a viscous amber liquid that looks almost like motor oil. This distillate product can be enjoyed via tinctures, edibles, and vapes. 

What is THC-O distillate?

THC-O distillate is simply a concentrated, distilled version of THC-O/THC-O acetate. Its consistency and feel is much like delta-8 or CBD distillate

In other words,  THC-O distillate can be a little sticky and difficult to work with. You may want to store it in your fridge or freezer prior to enjoying — that way it’ll be a little less viscous.  When kept in this form THC-O can be easily added to vape cartridges. 

Is THC-O legal?

That depends on who you ask! For now, however, THC-O appears to be fully legal. THC-O products are currently being sold online by a variety of manufacturers, and the FDA hasn’t prohibited this — so far. 

THC-O product manufacturers say that their products are protected by the 2018 Federal Farm Bill. This bill, passed by Congress in 2018, deems every hemp-derivatives cannabinoid besides ‘regular’ THC permissible under federal law.  

Some experts feel that THC-O will follow the federally legal path of delta-8, however, which has been outlawed in some states due to its psychotropic properties. [3

Other experts claim that THC-O is illegal already. They cite 1986’s Federal Analogue Act as proof; this Act claimed that any analogs or homologs of THC are also schedule 1 substances. [4] Yet this very same argument could be used against CBN or delta-8 THC. Only time will tell if THC-O remains federally legal in the long run. 

THC-O State laws 

Some states have already taken steps towards banning delta-O THC products. States that are less friendly towards medical cannabis are more likely to ban delta-O in the future. And even if legislators in any given state do ban THC-O, they’re essentially playing a game of whack a mole — a new hemp-derived cannabinoid is likely to take its place!  

Other states are opting for a more nuanced approach by going after unlicensed THC-O manufacturers and letting licensed producers do their thing. This approach is only logical, as unlicensed producers are the ones responsible for low-quality THC-O products. 

THC-O international laws

Hemp derivative THC-O is currently semi-legal in the US and most other parts of the Western World. Britain and New Zealand are two exceptions: the cannabinoid is federally legal in these nations. 

Meanwhile in Canada, THC-O may not be expressly described as a prohibited compound, but it’s still hard to find. The case is the same in many parts of Europe. 

THC-O: potential health benefits

Despite having been studied since 1949, THC-O remains a little mysterious to this day. Not many high-quality studies have taken the time to actually understand this substance. What we know for sure is that THC-O is super strong — beyond that, the research has been conflicting. 

 This caveat aside, let’s look at some of THC-O’s most likely qualities.

  • THC-O is a ‘prodrug,’ meaning its metabolites are more powerful than it is
  • THC-O may exert more of a ‘body high,’ causing sedation and couch-lock 
  • THC-O may be 2-3+ times stronger than ‘regular’ delta-9 THC
  • THC-O may relieve inflammation and pain
  • THC-O may stimulate appetite
  • THC-O may relieve insomnia

According to cannabis chemist James Stephens, you need to be working with high-quality THC-O to experience these benefits.  “If you’re using low-quality extract material and low-quality reagents you bought online from Alibaba [...] you’re likely to get way less pure of a product than if you’re using clean reagents and do a lot of downstream purification steps,” Stephens explains to Leafly. [5

Other things to know about THC-O include:

  • It appears to be relatively safe, with no known overdoses or hospitalizations (the same can’t be said of alcohol, coffee, or even water!)
  • Its effects appear to be transient, disappearing once things have been fully metabolized
  • It appears to be safer than fully-synthetic homologs like spice or K2

THC-O’s side effects — and how to avoid them! 

THC-O’s strength means it also comes with a wide variety of potential side effects. The compound’s most common side effects include: 

  • Nausea 
  • Vomiting 
  • Dizziness
  • Lethargy/sedation
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Serotonin dysregulation

High doses of delta-O THC can be so sedating that they verge on being incapacitating. Users report feeling very lethargic, the point of being unable to communicate or go through their daily activities. If you’re looking for a cannabinoid that will boost your cognitive function and increase your productivity, this one probably isn’t it! 

Thankfully, many of THC-O’s side effects appear avoidable. Here are some tips and tricks that should help you get the milder effects you’re looking for:

  • Order your delta-O THC from a trusted source
  • View your product’s lab tests to determine how much delta-O is in each serving
  • Don’t use THC-O if you have underlying conditions like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder
  • Start with a very low dose of around 1-2 milligrams
  • Don’t mix THC-O with alcohol
  • Don’t mix THC-O with pharmaceuticals
  • Don’t mix THC-O with other psychotropic/psychedelic drugs
  • Use THC-O in the presence of trusted friends or family, especially at first! 

Do we carry THC-O products?

While our online Black Tie CBD shop carries a wide variety of hemp-derived compounds, we don’t yet carry THC-O. Why not? Because we believe that nature knows best! Natural cannabinoids like delta-8, CBD, and CBN are plenty powerful enough — there’s really no need to resort to using semi-synthetic cannabinoids.  

If you’re looking for something powerful, consider opting for our delta-8 THC products. These products provide the power of ‘regular’ THC without the side effects. 

How to Use THC-O

If you’re a seasoned cannabis plant connoisseur who still wants to try THC-O, however, then keep reading. This next section is for you! In it we’ll take a look at some of the most common THC-O products. 

THC-O oils/tinctures

Tinctures are one of the most effective cannabinoid delivery methods. When it comes to experiencing THC-O, they’re probably the safest delivery method, too. 

THC-O distillate

Distillate is one of the most common forms of THC-O. Its thick, sludgy consistency makes it ideal for smoking or vaping. Just be warned that THC-O distillate can be overwhelmingly strong. 

THC-O vapes 

While THC-O vape pens are a new and novel product, we recommend avoiding them for now. It’s currently unclear whether or not THC-O vape carts come laced with harmful additives like vitamin E acetate (the ingredient responsible for “vape lung disease” a few years ago). 

THC-O gummies

THC-O gummies might seem fun and playful, but use caution: they can still be extremely strong. That being said, this delivery method might be perfect for users who want to experience delta-O in a streamlined, convenient form. Gummies also make dialing in your ideal dose easy. 

Summing things up

THC-O isn’t a new cannabinoid — it’s been around for over half a century — but its modern resurgence is what convinced us to give it some newfound attention. Along with other THC analogs, delta-O’s popularity is on the rise! 

We get that these analogs can seem exciting, even exotic, to new users. So while we aren’t going to explicitly tell you not to consume THC-O-acetate, we’ll just say this: start slow, respect the compound, and buckle up for what could be a wild ride. 

Here you can read THC-O Certicate of Analysis.


What is THCO?

When THCA is exposed to heat or ultraviolet light, it begins a process called decarboxylation. THCA turns into THC through this process and THCO is the leftover product. THCO is not psychoactive in its own right like THC because it has already been converted from THCA. 

Is THCO acetate safe?

Some THCO acetate products claim to be THC-free. THCA is not psychoactive and THCO does not cross the blood-brain barrier, so no high occurs when THCO is consumed. However, heating THCO with acetic anhydride produces THCA acetate. The same process of converting THCA to THC using heat or ultraviolet light can be done with THCO acetate. THCA Acetate is psychoactive and users may obtain the high they seek by smoking THCA acetate.

How is THC-O Acetate made?

THCO and THCA both exist naturally on the cannabis plant. THCA is converted to THC when it is exposed to heat or ultraviolet light, and THCO is produced as a byproduct of the decarboxylation process. THCO can be isolated from THCA through extraction and purified; THCO can then be acetylated to produce THCA acetate. THCA Acetate is psychoactive and can be further purified by extraction.

How is THCO used?

THCO has many possible applications because THCO does not have its own psychoactive effect, but THCA does. To make THCA active as a drug, THCO molecules from THCA must be removed, THCA must be exposed to heat or ultraviolet light, and THCA molecules must be added back. THCO can then be used as a filler for pills because THCO has the same chemical makeup as THA but is inactive and weighs less than other binders like vegetable oil. 

Is THCO legal in the USA?

Currently, THCA and THCO are unregulated and uncontrolled substances, but THCA may soon become a controlled substance under the Federal Analogue Act. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) published an intent to temporarily place THCA into Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act for one year due to serious safety concerns about THCA. 


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