You may not be posing the above question because most people haven’t heard of THC-O. Even fully dedicated cannabis connoisseurs. But THC-O is making headway.

This could be due in part to the negative attention delta-8 THC – its distant cousin – has received in recent months. In fact, delta-8 has been flagged by the DEA and rendered illegal in some cannabis-legal states.

THC-O is more likely gaining popularity though because it’s derived from federally legal hemp and delivers some pretty potent psychoactive components. This makes it all the more appealing in states where cannabis is still illegal.

So Just What Is THC-O?

We’re so glad you asked. There’s a lot of chemistry involved, so we’ll break it down into the simplest terms.

THC-O is an analog of delta-9 THC, which is considered the conventional THC you’ve been consuming all this time. To generate a THC-O molecule, an extremely flammable compound called acetic anhydride is added to regular THC molecules. It goes through a process involving a series of extractions that start with the hemp plant – NOT the marijuana plant.

CBD is first extracted from the hemp plant. From there, delta-8 THC is extracted from the CBD. Then the extracted delta-8 THC molecules are added to acetic anhydride. And voilà, you have THC-O acetate.

The processing strips away all of the terpenes and flavonoids to produce an extremely powerful THC isolate that lacks flavor and aroma. THC-O takes longer to kick in than traditional THC. But once it does, its effects are around three times more potent.

The high is different too.

At very low doses, it feels similar to delta-9 THC but more like mescaline. Go just beyond that threshold and you’ll likely experience a more intense and altered headspace with very psychedelic qualities. At high doses, you could become incapacitated.

THC-O Is Promising for Medicinal Applications

The legality of THC-O in the United States is a huge grey area. Some consider it legal since it’s derived from hemp and not marijuana. But because it’s processed in a lab to create something with psychedelic and even hallucinogenic effects, it could easily be considered a Schedule 1 drug.

With such questionable potency, many question why they would even want to use it if regular THC does the job. So yeah, it’s probably best to avoid it at this time. It does seem to hold some promise for medical purposes though.

Since every person has a unique biological makeup, it’s possible that THC-O could stimulate the cannabinoid receptors in some people who appear to have a resistance to regular THC. Thus, where a THC pill or oil may not deliver relief from pain or anxiety for them, THC-O could be a viable alternative.

THC-O Is Also Known As ATHC

Another way to refer to THC-O is ATHC. So if you want to avoid THC-O, one thing you have to be careful of is not to confuse ATHC with THCA.

THCA stands for tetrahydrocannabinolic acid. It is the parent molecule of THC and the A stands for acid. THCA converts to THC through decarboxylation and occurs naturally in raw cannabis.

With ATHC however, the A stands for acetate. And that acetate makes all the difference. Not only does it indicate that this compound was created in a lab (like ALL THC-O), but it’s the acetate that makes the THC so much more powerful.

So keep an eye on the placement of the A. If it’s before the THC, whether upper or lower case, it’s best to avoid it.

Trying to Stay on Top of Cannabis News?

If you hadn’t heard of THC-O before reading this article, you are far from alone. It’s really tough to keep up with everything that’s happening in this quickly and wildly evolving industry.

So to stay in the know with the latest in cannabis news, regularly check back with our blog. As cannabis marketing and PR specialists, it is essential we stay up to date.