Since cannabis is still illegal at the federal level, getting your hands on THC in states where cannabis is still illegal is a huge hurdle. In 2018, the US farm bill passed and placed hemp-derived cannabinoids like delta-8 THC into a legal gray area where they are technically federally legal. Since the passage of this law, alternatives to THC have become increasingly popular. One of the latest cannabinoids to emerge as an alternative to THC is THC-O, known as the most potent legal THC alternative on the market. Here’s everything you need to know about it.
What is THC-O?
THC-O, also known as THC-O-acetate, is the new alternative to THC. It is similar to delta-8 THC since it is synthesized from other cannabinoids and found in trace amounts in hemp plants. It is much more like delta-9 THC, although it must be metabolized (or consumed) before it can take effect.
To make it, delta-8 THC molecules are chemically modified to replace the hydroxyl group of THC with an acetyl group. Changes in the membrane permeability and fat solubility of the molecule facilitate its absorption and utilization. While delta-8 THC appears to be less potent than delta-9 THC, THC-O appears to be more potent than both.
THC-O is inactive and offers no pharmacological activity on its own, which is why you must eat it for its effects to manifest. Like edibles, THC-O binds to CB1 receptors in endocannabinoid systems to cause intoxicating effects. However, since it has to be eaten, it looks edible and will take 45 minutes to an hour to take effect.
Ultimately, THC-O is still pretty new, so we don’t know much about it. It can be purchased in many places, but there isn’t much information about its full range of effects, possible side effects, or how it works in the body.
What is its strength?
Since THC-O is relatively poorly researched, there isn’t much research on it and we have to rely on anecdotes from people who have used it. Most people say that THC-O is noticeably more potent than delta-9 THC, up to two or three times more potent. Many people compare it to a low dose of a psychedelic because it offers an intense high for the mind and body that is stronger than most edibles. This quasi-psychedelic effect is very different from the euphoric effects of THC.
Is it safe to use?
THC-O was first discovered in the 1940s and has been studied for its effects in dogs. However, almost no research has been conducted on humans. That said, it was only recently synthesized from delta-8 THC, so there is no regulation like other hemp-derived THC alternatives and isomers.
Isolating THC-O requires hazardous chemicals and leaves many possible sources of contaminants in the final products during the process. Since they are unregulated, you may find synthetic byproducts, unnatural isomers created by accident, or other residues of toxic solvents, acids, or bleaching clays in isolated THC-O outside of laboratories.
Unregulated cannabis derivatives are generally not tested for these solvents or the general population. Given its strength and delayed effects, it is possible to have an unpleasant experience with it. Unregulated derivatives have also caused serious health problems in the past.
That said, as a cannabinoid itself, it interacts with our endocannabinoid systems and resembles cannabis. Although there is a significant risk in using unregulated products, it is not dangerous. If you decide to try it, eat it like food and start with a low dose. Always be patient and wait up to two hours for the effects to kick in before taking another dose.
Is THC-O legal?
THC-O is not derived from cannabis or hemp and is made in a laboratory. Its legal status is currently questionable. It can be synthesized from delta-8 THC, which is found in hemp, making it legal under the Farm Bill. However, it can also be synthesized from the delta-9 THC found in cannabis, which is federally illegal. Right now, it exists in a legal gray area. Technically, it’s legal, but as it gets more calls, chances are that will change. If in doubt, always check state and local regulations when consuming cannabis products.
Even though THC-O is very strong and looks like a psychedelic, it does not occur naturally in hemp or cannabis. Since it’s unregulated, there’s no way to tell if the THC-O product you’re buying from the store is safe or pure. THC-O is largely untested in humans, so there are no studies to determine if it is 100% safe to use. If you want to try THC-O, start with a low dose and wait.
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