THC-Oby JOSHUA BELLAND
What is THC-O?
Although many of us only recently heard about THC-O, the United States began studying its effects as long ago as 1949; they deemed it to be twice as potent 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.
Today the production of THC-O acetate is raising concern among some in the state-licensed cannabis industry. To generate the molecule, a highly-flammable compound called acetic anhydride is added to THC molecules. The process involves a series of extractions that begin with hemp, the low-THC cannabis plant that was made federally legal by Congress in the 2018 farm bill. First, CBD is extracted from raw hemp. Then delta-8 THC is extracted from the CBD. Finally, acetic anhydride is added to the delta-8 THC molecules to make THC-O acetate.
Experts say this process should only be done under controlled laboratory conditions, due to the health risks involved.
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.