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.
Gleb is a freelance writer from Vancouver, Canada specializing in CBD and cannabis. He’s read thousands of studies on CBD and other supplements, helping him translate complex science into plain language. Gleb has tried and reviewed dozens of CBD brands and products, written third-party testing reports, and knows the CBD industry inside and out. When not writing, he likes to kickbox, travel, and tell everyone how awesome intermittent fasting is.