Heard about THC-O, the newly popular, potentially psychedelic cannabinoid, and want to learn more about it (and decide whether to try it)? Then you’re in the right place.
There are a variety of myths surrounding THC-O – a result of limited scientific research and clever marketing by companies.
In this article, we’ll cover the science (and science fiction) behind THC-O, discuss the effects it gives, and talk about how to use it safely.
What is THC-O and Where Does It Come From?
THC acetate ester( THC-O) is a synthetically produced cannabinoid.
First, CBD (cannabidiol, a naturally-occuring cannabinoid in the hemp plant) is converted to delta 8 THC. Then, the delta 8 is converted to THC-O by combining it with acetic anhydride, a chemical compound.
Acetic anhydride is, by itself, a hazardous substance, but the resulting THC-O is completely safe to use, assuming you do so correctly – more on that in the “How to Safely Use THC-O” section.
Hemp-derived THC-O is made from delta 8 THC that’s been extracted from hemp, a type of cannabis plant that’s been bred to contain less than 0.3% THC by dry weight.
Depending on where you live, you may have also come across products containing THC-O that’s been derived from marijuana – again, a type of cannabis, but without any restriction on the percentage of THC it contains.
Is THC-O Legal?
The legality of THC-O is complicated. Originally, it was developed to give cannabis users a way to get the effects of delta 9 THC (from weed), but in a way that is legal – THC-O is not THC.
Under the 2018 Farm Bill, cannabinoids derived from hemp are federally legal in the United States (although certain states have restricted their sale and use). Most companies, people, and even lawmakers assumed that THC-O was a derivative of hemp.
However, the DEA has since confirmed that THC-O is not a hemp derivative, since it doesn’t naturally occur in hemp, and is thus a controlled substance.
In February 2023, a prominent cannabis attorney, Rob Kight, published a blog post in which he showed correspondence with the DEA confirming that THC-O was indeed a controlled substance.
This means that THC-O is illegal on the federal level.
However, some brands are still carrying THC-O products online, meaning that sellers may not have been threatened with action from the DEA – at least not yet (we no longer sell THC-O online, as of February 2023).
Although THC-O has been deemed illegal, for information purposes, below are lists of states where THC-O was and was not legal, prior to the DEA’s letter in February 2023.
States Where THC-O is Legal
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
States Where THC-O is Illegal
- New York
- Rhode Island
Is THC-O Actually Psychedelic?
One of the reasons THC-O has become popular is because of its purported psychedelic effects. Many people and companies compare its effects to those of psilocybin (mushrooms).
However, scientists have wondered if this is actually the case, or if marketing hype and the placebo effect are to blame. A study done in July 2023 suggests it may be hype (or at least, some of it).
Researchers with the University of Buffalo, in New York, conducted a survey of over 300 participants, all of whom has used THC-O. The researchers asked the participants to indicate the degree to which they felt various sensations when using THC-O, including altered sense of time and hallucinations.
Of those surveyed, 79% responded that THC-O is not psychedelic, or is only mildly so. This seems to indicate that for most people, THC-O will not render any sort of psychedelic effect.
Anecdotal reports of THC-O use are very mixed. Some users say that it is slightly similar to mushrooms, while others posit that it has no psychedelic effects at all.
Overall, it seems that THC-O will not render significantly psychedelic experiences for most people who use it – however, it may render these effects for some.
Interestingly, the survey also found that the most common sensations reported with THC-O were relaxation, euphoria, and pain relief. Clearly, then, THC-O has some benefit, even if not as a psychedelic substance.
THC-O Effects & Strength: How Does It Make You Feel?
Like many other forms of THC, THC-O is psychoactive and will get you high.
For most people, THC-O renders effects of euphoria and relaxation. It may also render psychedelic, mushroom-like effects for some users (although as we covered, these effects aren’t predictable).
The effects of THC-O are actually similar to those of delta 9 and delta 8 THC, but noticeably stronger. THC-O is roughly 3 times as strong as delta 9, and roughly six times as strong as delta 8.
Some users also report that THC-O has strongly sedative properties, and that after taking it, they feel like falling asleep.
How Long Does it Take for THC-O to Kick In?
If you inhale THC-O through a vape, preroll, or dab rig, it will take effect in around 20 minutes. In oil form, THC-O will work in about 30 minutes, and in edible form, about 1-2 hours.
THC-O’s onset times are noticeably longer than most other cannabinoids, psychoactive and not – for example, you’ll feel delta 9 within 3-5 minutes of vaping or smoking it.
This is due to THC-O’s nature as a “prodrug” – a substance that doesn’t become active until it enters the body. Contrast this to delta 8 or delta 9 which, when heated (as in a vape or preroll), turn from their acidic forms into their active forms, which render the psychoactive and other effects.
Since THC-O has to be processed through the body before it becomes active, it takes longer to begin having an effect.
How Long Does the High from THC-O Last?
Although the duration of the THC-O high will vary based on the product you use and the dosage you take, a good benchmark is 3-8 hours.
How Long Does THC-O Stay in the System?
Your body needs quite a bit of time to metabolize THC-O, and it varies depending on how often you use it and how much you use.
If you’ve taken a single THC-O edible or vaped it a couple of times, it will pass through your system in about 2 weeks.
However, if you use THC-O regularly, it may take 30 days or longer for your body to clear it.
How Does THC-O Compare to Regular THC?
THC-O and delta 9 THC (the THC in weed) are fairly similar in the nature of the effects they have to offer. However, on average, THC-O is about 3 times more potent than delta 9.
THC-O also may render psychedelic effects (for some) that delta 9 won’t.
Risks & Side Effects of THC-O
Although THC-O can provide a powerful alternative to other psychoactive cannabinoids, it isn’t without it’s downsides. Here’s what you need to know.
Risks of Inhaling THC-O
Although THC-O isn’t harmful by itself, it may be harmful if consumed through an inhalable method, such as vapes, flower, or dab rigs.
THC-O is the acetate ester form of THC. It’s created by combining THC (usually delta 8) with acetic anhydride.
Studies have shown that THC-O, when exposed to heat, can produce ketene, a toxic gas that can cause serious lung injury.
The same is true for any acetate ester form of a substance that’s exposed to heat – it’s not inherent to THC-O.
We urge you to exercise caution when buying and using inhalable THC-O products, or any other product made with an acetate form of a cannabinoid.
Side Effects of THC-O
If use THC-O, you may experience side effects, including:
- Dry mouth and eyes
- Low blood pressure
- Changes in perceived color and brightness
Potential Benefits of THC-O
THC-O’s effects make it beneficial for a handful for therapeutic uses, such as:
- Sleep — As delta 9 THC has shown benefits for sleep, and THC-O is stronger than delta 9, THC-O may promote restful sleep. Anecdotal evidence suggests that THC-O may help users sleep more quickly and stay asleep longer.
- Mental relaxation & mood boosting — THC-O’s psychoactive effects make it beneficial for promoting mental calm and relaxation.
- Pain and inflammation — Anecdotal evidence suggests THC-O may have therapeutic potential for various types of pain, and the survey that we discussed earlier found that many THC-O users reported this as a benefit.
- Psychedelic effects — This can either be a benefit or a detriment, depending on what you prefer. Anecdotal evidence suggests that for some people, THC-O may provide a psychedelic experience similar to “magic mushrooms.”
How to Safely Use THC-O: Best Products
If you want to use THC-O, but you’re uncertain about doing so due to the potential downsides that it has, we’re going to discuss how to use it safely – namely, which types of products may be unsafe.
Edibles, such as gummies and candy, let you get the therapeutic benefits of THC-O without any potential risks to your lung health. Edibles also allow for predictable, consistent dosing, so you don’t have to worry about using the wrong amount or taking too much.
THC-O oil products combine THC-O “extract” (remember, THC-O can’t be directly extracted from hemp) with carrier oils.
THC-O oils are a good option if you need to take very precise dosages, as you can measure your dose down to the drop with the metered dropper.
Proceed with Caution if Using Vapes, Flower, or Dab Rigs
Vaporizers (vapes) let you inhale THC-O as a vapor. THC-O flower products are simply hemp flower sprayed with THC-O distillate. THC-O dabs, a concentrated cannabis product, can be inhaled through a dab rig.
These inhalation methods are viable options for smoking or vaping delta 9 THC or similar cannabinoids. However, we advise you to be very cautious when using them with THC-O, which is the acetate form of THC.
When exposed to heat, acetate forms of substances produce ketene, a chemical that can cause serious lung injury. For this reason, consider using an oil or edible product when taking THC-O.
THC-O Dosage: How Much Should You Take?
As THC-O is so powerful, we recommend starting with a very low dosage.
You can use this formula to calculate your dosage precisely:
(0.025) x (your body weight in lbs.) = your daily THC-O dosage in mg.
You’ll notice that this dosage formula will put out a very small number – but as THC-O is powerful (3x stronger than THC), it’s important to start slow.
As you go, you can gradually adjust your dosage up and down based on how you feel.
Will THC-O Show up on a Drug Test?
As THC-O is a THC analog, it will show up on a drug test.
Tests screen for THC due to its presence in marijuana, and drug tests can’t tell the difference between THC from a legal hemp product and THC from marijuana.
If you are regularly drug tested at work or for another reason, we suggest abstaining from THC-O and instead opting for a broad spectrum or isolate CBD product that doesn’t contain THC.
Cannabinoids Similar to THC-O
If on the off-chance that you’ve read this article and decided THC-O isn’t the way to go, here are other, similar cannabinoids you can try.
Delta 9 THC
Delta 9 THC is the cannabinoid that people are referring to when they say “THC” – it’s popular because it’s the psychoactive component in weed. However, it’s also popular in hemp-derived form.
Apart from being just one-third as potent, delta 9 has similar effects to THC-O, minus the potential psychedelic sensations.
No weak, ineffective, or potentially dangerous products here. Only high-strength, American-made delta-9 products that have been 3rd-party lab tested.
Delta 8 THC
Delta 8 THC, like delta 9, naturally occurs in hemp. However, it’s produced in a lab for use in products, because it only occurs in very small amounts.
Delta 8 offers effects of euphoria and relaxation as delta 9 does, although it’s only about half as strong (making it 6 times weaker than THC-O).
No more weak, ineffective, and potentially dangerous products. It's time for high-strength, American-made delta-8 THC products that have been 3rd-party lab tested.
Hexahydrocannabinol (HHC) is a cannabinoid that naturally occurs in hemp. It’s similar in effect to delta 8 THC, but it’s about 50% stronger (for reference, HHC is three-fourths as strong as delta 9, while delta 8 is half as strong as delta 9).
As with delta 8, many HHC users report that it’s less likely than delta 9 THC to cause anxiety or paranoia.
No more of those weak, ineffective, and dangerous products. It's time for something better. Discover our high-strength, American-made, lab-tested HHC edibles.
Conclusion: A Powerful Cannabinoid
THC-O is still very new to the world of cannabis and hemp, and more research on it is needed to explore its effects and therapeutic potential. There are also major concerns about its safety when used in inhalable forms.
And as of February 2023, THC-O may be federally illegal in the US, making the purchase and use of it impossible, or at best, risky.
At the time of writing (September 2023), Congress is currently working on a revised farm bill – we can only wonder whether THC-O will be legal as a result. In the meantime, we have hemp-derived delta 8 and delta 9 to enjoy.
THC-O: Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some questions customers frequently ask us about THC-O.
What is the difference between THC-O and regular THC?
Whereas THC is a naturally occurring cannabinoid in the cannabis plant, THC-O is a synthetic cannabinoid that has to be created from delta 8 THC. THC-O is roughly 3 times more potent than THC.
What is a THC-O high like?
Most THC-O users describe the experience as a powerful high, with feelings of euphoria and relaxation. Some users also note that THC-O produces psychedelic-like, borderline hallucinogenic effects, similar to those of mushrooms (psilocybin).
Is THC-O better than delta 9?
Although THC-O is roughly 3 times more potent than delta 9, the cannabinoid you prefer will depend on what you’re looking for. Delta 9 is naturally-occuring in hemp, while THC-O has to be synthetically produced. While THC-O’s powerful effects are ideal for recreational use, delta 9 is able to render the classic head high effect.
Is THC-O stronger than delta 8?
Yes. THC-O is roughly 6 times as potent as delta 8 THC. In addition to the feelings of euphoria and relaxation that it gives, THC-O may also create slightly psychedelic, hallucinogenic effects for some users.