Novel Intoxicating Cannabinoid THC-O Declared Illegal by the DEA

By | Updated on February 15, 2023

Evidence Based 3

According to the DEA, tetrahydrocannabinol acetate ester (THC-O) is a controlled substance and therefore illegal. THC-O is one of the latest intoxicating cannabinoids made from CBD. It’s available in both delta-9 and delta-8 forms, similar to regular THC.

The news was published by a lawyer who was concerned about the proliferation of potentially unsafe THC-O products and emailed the DEA to find out its stance. On February 13 he got the following reply:

Delta-9-THCO and delta-8-THCO do not occur naturally in the cannabis plant and can only be obtained synthetically, and therefore do not fall under the definition of hemp…. Thus, delta-9-THCO and delta-8-THCO meet the definition of “tetrahydrocannabinols,” and they (and products containing delta-9-THCO and delta-8-THCO) are controlled in schedule I by 21 U.S.C. § 812(c) Schedule I, and 21 CFR § 1308.11(d).

Feb. 13, 2023 DEA Letter

THC-O is much more potent than regular THC (about 2-3 times) and does not naturally occur in cannabis or hemp plants. It’s also potentially unsafe because of the chemicals used in its production, with one recent study suggesting that THC-O may cause vaping-related lung illness

THC-O products have grown fairly popular over the last year, with vendors arguing they’re legal because they’re derived from hemp. It’s often compared to delta-8 THC, another intoxicating cannabinoid that’s synthetically made from hemp-derived CBD and considered federally legal.

But the key difference is that delta-8 THC occurs naturally in small amounts in hemp plants, whereas THC-O does not. That’s why the DEA has previously stated that it does not consider delta-8 THC a controlled substance. 

Nonetheless, THC-O is currently being sold by dozens of vendors online, so it doesn’t look like the DEA is doing much to enforce its stance. 

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