What is THC-O Acetate? And Why is OMMA Saying It’s Dangerous?

B Le Grand

Last issue we covered Delta-8 in our education corner. This edition, the new hype is THC-O acetate. There are over 500 cannabinoid compounds in the cannabis plant and it’s sister plant hemp. THC-O is another cannabinoid hitting the mainstream bringing new information to light. 

THC-O is three times more psychoactive than delta-9 THC. THC-O and Delta-8 are usually made from hemp, and fall within a gray legal area. It is so much more potent than THC, its effects border hallucinatory. Some consumers of THC-O claim a more spiritual high.

The United States military conducted experiments on non-lethal incapacitating agents as early as 1949. Researchers tested THC-O on dogs. They had concluded that THC-O eroded dogs’ muscle coordination twice as much as conventional delta-9 THC.

To manufacture THC-O from hemp, CBD is converted to delta-8 or a similar THC compound. Then Acetic Anhydride  is added. It becomes THC-O acetate (O-acetyl-Δ8-THC). The finished product is a thick brown distillate oil that you can vape or ingest. It is a “prodrug,” meaning the cannabinoid compound is not activated until it has been metabolized. So it takes 20-30 minutes for the user to feel it’s effects. 

Warning: Do not try this at home! Acetic Anhydride is highly corrosive and flammable. It puts health, safety, and the environment at risk unless made in a highly-controlled laboratory environment. 

It is also possible that toxic additives like vitamin E acetate are being used in the manufacturing of THC-O oil as well. Which is why OMMA is issuing notices to patients and processors about THC-O. Part of the risk posed is that consumers may be unaware of which isomer is present in commercial products.

With the passage of the 2018 US Farm Bill, easing restrictions on the cultivation and production of industrial hemp, THC-O-acetate has become increasingly available. THC-O can also be produced from the extracts of psychoactive strains of cannabis in states where it’s permitted, in which case the product will be primarily O-acetyl-Δ9-THC. 

Concerns have also been raised about the lack of safety data or quality control testing given the limited history of human use and potentially toxic chemical reagents used during manufacture. The legality issue is also complex and varies between jurisdictions.

In the United Kingdom, THC-O-acetate is categorized as a Class A drug. In the United States, THC-O-acetate is not scheduled at the federal level, but it could be considered an analog of THC, in which case the purchase, sale, or possession could be prosecuted under the Federal Analog Act.

OMMA’s official warning advisory issued October 18, 2021 states: “This manufactured THC compound is NOT a medical marijuana product and has been shown to be very harmful when added to other THC-containing products, causing side effects such as seizures, difficulty speaking, and vomiting. Reports of these dangerous side effects are increasing, which is why our QA lab, Metis, is diligently monitoring for this substance and other THC analogs. Metis has confirmed the presence of this chemical compound in a concentrate by the name of Platinum OG Sugar (BA#-POG-062421).”

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