What Is THC-O? Is It Safe & How Does It Compare?


Two studies show that heating THC-O can cause the formation of ketene, a dangerous lung toxicant, through thermal degradation. The danger is not from cannabis or vaping, but from the interaction of heat with the acetate form of chemicals, including THC. It’s uncertain if the amount of ketene produced by vaping is immediately dangerous, but lung damage could occur from repeated small exposures. It’s recommended to avoid vaping or smoking THC-O or any acetate form of cannabinoids, and seek non-inhaled options like THC-O gummies and tinctures instead.

Read our news article: A Recent Study Links Vaping THC-O Acetate to Lung Disease

If it seems like there has been a ton of new cannabinoids since 2018, it’s because there has been! The 2018 farm bill accidentally revolutionized cannabis and THC-O is the newest cannabinoid on the block.

THC-O is a synthetic cannabinoid made by extracting and synthesizing delta 9 THC from hemp plants. THC-O is much more potent than delta-9 THC—or regular THC for short. There are currently very few pieces of legislation spelling out whether or not THC-O is legal in many states.

Let’s find out what THC-O is and if it’s safe for regular use—and compare it to good old-fashioned THC!

TRĒ House Delta 8 Gummies with HHC & THC-O – 2:1

TRĒ House Tropic Mango D8 Gummies with HHC + THC-O

TRĒ House Tropic Mango D8 Gummies with HHC and THC-O offer a perfectly balanced combination of cannabinoids for a relaxing mildly trippy high. Infused with a refreshing mango flavor, each gummy contains 20mg of Delta-8, 10mg of HHC, 2mg THCO, and 3mg of CBD per gummy.

What Is THC-O?

Let’s start with the basics and clear up some misconceptions about THC-O. For starters, it’s pronounced THC-”oh” and is spelled with the letter “O” and not the number “0.” If you want to get technical, THC-O is actually O-acetyl-Δ9-THC, but it’s just way easier to say “THC-O.”

THC-O is made in a laboratory by taking regular delta-9 THC and treating it with some pretty harsh chemicals. Those chemicals bind delta-9 THC with acetate and create THC-O.

Research into this subject is still very new, but it looks like THC-O has a higher bioavailability than other forms of THC. This means that it is easier for the body to use THC-O which leads us to our next big point.

THC-O is much more potent than other types of THC. It is roughly three times as potent as regular, delta-9 THC. THC-O has been called the “psychedelic cannabinoid” or even “the spiritual cannabinoid” for its borderline hallucinatory effects.

You can find THC-O popping up in many of the same places we saw delta-8 THC popping up a year ago. The legal gray area around delta-8 THC is clearing up which leaves THC-O ready to take its place in the hemp byproduct market.

What Is THC-O? Is It Safe & How Does It Compare?

What Are The Effects Of THC-O?

There are few things we need to talk about when it comes to the effects of THC-O. THC-O has a reputation for causing nearly psychedelic effects, but it also takes longer to kick in than other types of THC.

You probably already gathered that THC-O is pretty powerful. Fans of THC-O have reported that it has effects similar to low doses of psychedelics like LSD. Individuals tend to experience a powerful state of euphoria as well as heightened sensory perception.

There have also been individuals who have reported that THC-O has caused hallucinatory effects. This would be consistent with THC-O acting like a mild psychedelic.

Strangely, despite its increased potency, THC-O takes longer for its effects to settle in than other types of THC. While a hit from a good Delta 9-thc flower will be felt nearly instantly, some have reported that THC-O takes somewhere between twenty minutes to a full hour before its effects start to kick in.

Keep in mind that this might be because of how people are using THC-O. Tinctures and edibles that contain THC-O will take longer to affect the body than vapes.

In short, THC-O has the effects of a mild psychedelic, but it does take much longer to affect the body than other types of THC.

Will THC-O Show Up In A Drug Test?

THC-O will show up in a drug test that is looking for THC. There is also a good chance that THC-O will be easier to detect than delta-8 or delta-9 THC due to its increased potency.

If you’re worried about passing a drug test, you should avoid THC-O.

Is THC-O Safe?

There are three big things to consider when it comes to the safety of THC-O. The first is that THC-O is still very new which means we don’t have a strong understanding of its short and long-term effects on the body, THC-O is also poorly regulated which means quality can vary greatly from batch to batch, THC-O is also made under some dangerous conditions which makes it unsafe to create on your own.

Because THC-O is so new, there’s less research into how it affects the body. Research into Delta 9-THC is very well established. We have a very strong understanding of how THC affects the body in both the short and long-term.

THC-O is much newer and our understanding of this synthetic THC is still developing. This means that there might be unforeseen risks with using THC-O when compared with Delta 8 or Delta 9-THC.

THC-O also has a legal gray area. This means it’s not well regulated which has the unintentional side effect of creating safety issues.

This means that you need to research your THC-O supplier very carefully. You want to ensure that they’re giving you a pure product that isn’t contaminated with leftovers from the manufacturing process.

Speaking of manufacturing, THC-O is made using some pretty nasty chemicals. While these can be filtered out from a final product, they are too dangerous for home use. This means you won’t be making THC-O at home like you could with other hemp extracts.

What Is THC-O? Is It Safe & How Does It Compare?

What Is In THC-O?

Okay, we’re going to have to get into some chemistry to figure out what is “inside” of THC-O. If you want the quick answer, THC-O is your core THC molecule bonded to another chemical which increases its potency.

THC-O is made by forming an ester of THC using acetic anhydride. This chemical, acetic anhydride, is incredibly dangerous outside of lab conditions. Combining acetic anhydride and THC creates an ester bond by connecting the alcohol group acetic anhydride to the carboxylic group THC.

In short, there’s nothing in your THC-O besides “THC-O-acetate.”

Another way to look at this question is to ask “What is in my THC-O vape?” Your THC-O products could be pure, or they can contain impurities from the manufacturing process. These impurities can cause health problems which is why it is important to always find high-quality THC-O.

Is THC-O Legal?

The legal status for THC-O is in a very gray area. While the 2018 farm bill made hemp byproducts, like CBD and Delta 8 THC, legal in markets across the country, it only did so on a provisional basis. One way to look at this is that these compounds extracted from hemp plants snuck in under the radar through a loophole in the 2018 Farm Bill.

This has caused something of a problem for people looking to enjoy these new hemp extracted compounds. We’ve already seen state governments start to crack down on Delta 8 THC while leaving other cannabinoids largely untouched.

It seems that the only consistent element of which cannabinoids get targeted is how close they are to delta-9 THC. This means that THC-O could be on shaky grounds when it comes to a legal status.

In fact, there are already some states that are making it more difficult to acquire these hemp extracts and synthetic THC variations.

Current THC-O Laws

THC-O is currently federally legal and legal in 38 states. There are states that limit the use of cannabinoids that were made legal under the 2018 farm bill. Here are a few states that restrict THC-O usage.

  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Delaware
  • Idaho
  • Iowa
  • Mississippi
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • Utah

These states each have their own legal restrictions on THC-O and you should always check your local laws when it comes to new types of THC.

There’s another important factor we need to consider when it comes to THC-O legality. The DEA has already signaled that they will be going after synthetic cannabinoids like THC-O.

In 2020, the DEA announced a revision of the 2018 Farm Bill that changed part of their stance towards hemp products. A key part of this change was in how these products are produced.

Because THC-O is produced in a lab and is synthesized from multiple chemicals rather than just extracted, the DEA is likely to consider it a “synthetic drug” for law enforcement purposes.

What’s the takeaway? THC-O is currently mostly legal in most of the United States, but there is a good chance that THC-O will become illegal as it goes under increased scrutiny from the DEA and state legislators.

How Does THC-O Compare To Other Forms Of THC?

There are two big differences when it comes to THC-O. It all comes down to THC-O being synthetic and much more powerful than other forms of THC.

We’ve already had some experience with delta-8 THC which is kind of like delta-9 THC’s little brother. It’s got a milder effect. THC-O is the opposite.

THC-O hits much harder than THC. This is because of the chemical makeup of THC-O. It’s just easier for the body to use THC-O than it is for the body to use delta-9 or delta-8 THC.

This means THC-O has a stronger effect than other forms of THC. It’s considered to be roughly 3 times as strong as delta-9 THC.

THC-O is also synthetic. While extracting delta-9 THC is something you can do at home, synthesizing THC-O involves flammable and even explosive chemicals. THC-O should only be synthesized by experts in professional labs who have some serious skills and equipment.

What Is THC-O? Is It Safe & How Does It Compare?

How To Enjoy THC-O

THC-O is still very new on the market which means that there isn’t a lot of solid research into how it affects the body and how best to use it. However, there’s one thing that we can say for certain.

Because THC-O is 3 times more powerful than traditional THC, you should take it much more easy with THC-O than with your regular cannabinoid usage. THC-O is powerful and it packs much more punch than THC.

Start your THC-O low and take it slow. It’s better to get less effect than you want than to accidentally go overboard and have a rough time with this powerful version of THC.

THC-O—What You Need to Know

THC-O is a synthetic cannabinoid that is made by binding acetate to delta-9 THC. The legal status of THC-O is in a gray area and is similar to many cannabis byproducts like CBD and delta-8 THC. THC-O is also three times stronger than regular THC which means you should take it easy with this new cannabinoid.

Let us know what your THC-O experience has been like and check out our other blogs to stay on top of the latest news in the world of hemp, cannabis, and cannabinoids.

Jules Martinez
Jules Martinez
Jules Martinez, co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of our vaping site, brings a decade of expertise in vaping, CBD, and cannabis. His comprehensive knowledge and editorial rigor ensure high-quality, accurate content, positioning us as a trusted resource in the community.

Related Articles

Best Vapes

Learn More About Vaping