With cannabis still illegal on a federal level, getting your hands on THC in states where cannabis is still illegal is a huge obstacle. In 2018, the US Farm Bill passed and placed hemp-derived cannabinoids like delta-8 THC in a legal gray area where they’re technically legal on a federal level. Since this law passed, THC alternatives have become more and more popular. One of the latest cannabinoids to appear as a THC alternative is THC-O, known as the strongest legal THC alternative on the market. Here’s everything you need to know about it.
What is THC-O?
THC-O, also known as THC-O-acetate, is the newest alternative to THC. It’s similar to delta-8 THC since it’s synthesized from other cannabinoids and found in minute trace amounts in hemp plants. It’s much more similar to delta-9 THC, though it needs to be metabolized (or eaten) before it can take effect.
To make it, delta-8 THC molecules are chemically altered to replace the THC hydroxyl group with an Acetyl group. Changes to the molecule’s membrane permeability and fat solubility make it easier to absorb and use. While delta-8 THC feels less potent than delta-9 THC, THC-O feels more potent than both.
THC-O is inactive and offers no pharmacological activities on its own, which is why you must eat it for its effects to take hold. Like edibles, THC-O binds to CB1 receptors in the endocannabinoid systems to cause intoxicating effects. However, since it needs to be eaten, it feels like an edible and will take 45 minutes to an hour to kick in.
Ultimately, THC-O is still pretty new, so we don’t know a whole lot about it. It can be purchased in many places, but there isn’t much information out there on its entire range of effects, possible side effects, or how it works within the body.
How strong is it?
Since THC-O is relatively undocumented, there isn’t a lot of research on it, and we have to rely on anecdotes from people who have used it. Most people say that THC-O is noticeably more potent than delta-9 THC, up to two or three times more powerful. Many people compare it to a low dose of a psychedelic as it offers an intense mind and body high that is stronger than most edibles. This near-psychedelic effect is much different than the euphoric effects of THC.
Is it safe to use?
THC-O was first discovered in the 40s and was studied on its effects in dogs. However, almost no research has been conducted on humans. With that said, it’s only recently been synthesized from delta-8 THC, so there is no regulation of it, like other hemp-derived THC alternatives and isomers.
Isolating THC-O requires dangerous chemicals and leaves many possible sources of contaminants in the final products during the process. Since they’re unregulated, you may find synthetic byproducts, unnatural isomers created by accident, or other residuals from toxic solvents, acids, or bleaching clays in THC-O isolated outside of laboratories.
Unregulated cannabis derivatives are usually untested for these solvents or the population in general. Given it’s strength and its delayed effects, it’s possible to have an unpleasant experience with it. Unregulated derivatives have also caused severe health concerns in the past.
That said, as a cannabinoid itself, it interacts with our endocannabinoid systems and feels like cannabis. While there’s a significant risk in using unregulated products, it isn’t unsafe. If you decide to try it, eat it like an edible and start with a low dose. Always be patient and wait up to two hours for the effects to kick in before taking another dose.
Is THC-O legal?
THC-O isn’t derived from cannabis or hemp and is made in a lab. Its legal status is currently questionable. It can be synthesized from delta-8 THC, which is found in hemp, making it legal under the farm bill. However, it can also be synthesized from delta-9 THC found in cannabis, which is illegal federally. Right now, it exists in a legal gray area. Technically it’s legal, but as it catches more mainstream appeal, there’s a good chance that will change. If you’re unsure, always check state and local regulations when consuming cannabis products.
Even though THC-O is very strong and feels like a psychedelic, it doesn’t occur naturally in hemp or cannabis. Since it’s unregulated, so there’s no way to know if the THC-O product you buy from the store is safe or pure. THC-O is largely untested in humans, so there are no studies to determine whether or not it’s 100% safe to use. If you want to try THC-O, start with a low dose and wait.
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