What is THC-O? Is it Safe? Legal?

Medically reviewed by Alexander Tabibi, MD
July 3, 2021
THC-O formula neon, THC-O, THC-O-acetate, tetrahydrocannabinol, THC, Delta 8 THC, Delta 10 THC
THC-O formula neon, THC-O, THC-O-acetate, tetrahydrocannabinol, THC, Delta 8 THC, Delta 10 THC

Hemp-derived THC-based cannabinoids are in real demand these days, with D8 being the most sought-after among users. But, there is another substance which was destined to be a success: THC-O

So though it is a highly-potent compound and  it is distinctive in a way that makes it behave unlike other hemp-derived substances it has now shown to be unsafe when vaped or inhaled. 

What Is In THC-O?

To get the answer to the question “What is THC-O?”, let’s dive into chemistry for a bit. It starts with tetrahydrocannabinol acid (THCA), the raw precursor to  THC we are all familiar with. THCA is simply THC that has yet to be decarboxylated or “activated” through heat application. 

THCA is combined with acetic anhydride and sulfuric acid to be converted into THC-O before it’s heated in a controlled manner to radically change its molecular makeup, thus converting it into THC-O-acetate or simply THC-O. It is crucial that oxidization is avoided, as the instability of the cannabinoid can quickly degrade when exposed to oxygen.

So, to be short, your THC-O product has nothing more than THC-O-acetate. Or it is better to say should have nothing more. As long as its production is not yet regulated robustly, choosing high-quality products is essential to avoid getting goods with impurities from making processes that can harm your health. 

Needless to mention that making THC-O yourself is highly not recommended: its manufacturing process requires a background in chemistry and involves caustic materials. 

THC-O: Possible Effects

THC-O is not only psychoactive, but it’s a psychedelic substance that is more commonly compared to psilocybin than marijuana. A small number of those who have used THC-O-acetate in the past have given it its nickname, the “spiritual cannabinoid,” because its unique psychoactive properties are far more intense than those associated with Delta 8, Delta 10, and even Delta 9 THC. It can cause a hallucinogenic trip that users of the cannabinoid have described as spiritually cathartic and awakening. That being said, many people find it extremely worthwhile due to the positive experience that can result from taking it.

Is THC-O Safe?

Since THC-o is a young substance, and it is a synthetic substance in that it is relatively young and untested. However recent data suggests that First and foremost – THCO SHOULD NOT BE COMBUSTED, VAPED OR INHALED. Weed.com does not sell smokeable or THCO vapes as data suggests this has caused death in the vaping the scandals. 

  1. Its legal status is not cleared. Hence, the manufacturing process is not regulated correctly, leading to the absence of manufacturing standards. Choosing a high-quality, well-tested product is crucial here.
  2. There is not so much research to get definite answers to: “What is THC-O?”, “How is it affecting us?”
  3. Being synthetic, it might result in some unforeseen long-term effects, and as it is relatively young, too little time has passed to get to some of these conclusions.

Taking into account everything mentioned above, there is no 100% certainty that THC-O is entirely safe or what effects it has. It should certainly be avoided in smokeable forms. 

Will THC-O Show Up In A Drug Test?

Unfortunately, there has been little research on THC-O, but it will most likely cause a failed drug test. 

As a synthetic prodrug, it is most possibly metabolized like other cannabinoids and will be most possibly shown on a drug test.

The legal status of hemp-derived substances is not always 100% clear. Since the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, hemp and hemp-derived products have been considered federally legal as long as they contain 0.3% or less D9 THC. And overall, some substances can get targeted because of their resemblance to D9. At the same time, synthetic analogs of THC are prohibited under the Federal Analog Act.

Thus we have THC-O made from hemp-derived THC but with a potency higher than D9 and made synthetically – these are the factors that put it into the gray zone. Federally, for now, it is legal, but some states apply additional regulations and restrictions regarding substances like THC-O.

THC-O — What Do You Need to Know

Now, you have the answer to “What is THC-O?” and having a complete picture is what matters. THC-O is certainly an intriguing cannabinoid and one that’s so distinct from delta-8 THC, which is now extremely popular. THC-O, because of its potency, should be used only by those who already have a high tolerance for other cannabinoids’ psychoactive effects.