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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 the 1940s; 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.
Today the production of THC-O acetate is raising concern among some in the state-licensed cannabis industry. A highly-flammable compound called acetic anhydride is added to THC molecules to generate the molecule.
The process involves a series of extractions that begin with hemp, the low-THC cannabis plant 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.
Consumers don’t call THC-O the “spiritual cannabinoid” for nothing. Since the human body can absorb THC-O acetate at higher levels than conventional THC—in other words, it has a higher bioavailability—it delivers a more potent experience.
Anecdotally, Leafly reports that THC-O induces similar effects to a small dose of a psychedelic drug like LSD: It makes the consumer euphoric and drastically increases sensory perception.
Some consumers report that vaporized THC-O takes longer to kick in than other cannabinoids, from 20 minutes up to an hour.
It’s potent, so go slow.
Stephens is likewise worried that adverse reactions to THC-O acetate could have larger repercussions for the legalization movement.
“My biggest fear,” he said, “is it just takes that first overdose to cause the equivalent of a satanic panic or whatever you want to call it.”
Overconsumption of traditional cannabis has never directly caused death in humans.
With a compound three times as potent as delta-9 THC, however, there’s a risk of consumers imbibing too much and suffering through some unpleasant THC-O 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.
Will THC-O show up on a drug test?
Yes, THC-O acetate will probably show up on a drug test. FlorBiz, a company that sells THC-O products, points out that it may be even easier to detect because of its potency.