Recently, the DEA issued a declaration that THC-O, Delta-8 and Delta-9 are all illegal and considered Schedule I controlled substances. This news has rippled through the cannabis community, leaving many with questions about the legality of products containing this compound.
THC-O, also known as tetrahydrocannabinol oxidase, is a compound derived from the cannabis plant. Although the compound does not cause a “high” like traditional THC, it does contain psychoactive properties. This has prompted many consumers to turn to THC-O as an alternative to traditional THC.
Delta-8 THC and delta-9 THC both exist naturally in the hemp plant, whereas THC acetate (also known as THC-O) does not.
Terence L Boos., chief of the DEA’s Drug and Chemical Evaluation Section wrote, “It can only be obtained synthetically, and therefore do(es) not fall under the definition of hemp,” THC acetate is a “controlled substance.”
The DEA’s clarification follows a U.S. 9th Circuit court decision last year that found delta-8 THC products are “hemp” and thus legal under the U.S. 2018 Farm Bill.
In 2022, Rob Kight, a North Carolina based cannabis attorney, prompted the DEA to address and clarify its stance by writing a letter to them.
Rob Kight said, “I have been concerned about the proliferation of THC acetate ester (THCO) for a while. It has always been my view that THC-O is a controlled substance under federal law. Although it can be made from cannabinoids from hemp, THC-O is not naturally expressed by the hemp plant. It is a laboratory creation that does not occur in nature, at least not from the hemp plant.”
Unfortunately, the DEA’s stance on THC-O has put this chemical compound back into illegal territory even contradicting a statement they made last year that Delta-8 is legal under the Farm Bill as long as it was derived from hemp. Now they are saying that it doesn’t matter how it was derived or where it came from, it’s all illegal.
This declaration has been met with criticism from many in the cannabis industry, others see it as an important step towards battling abuse of the substance. THC-O has been found to be especially dangerous if overdosed or when paired with certain drugs, such as alcohol. Declaring the substance to be illegal helps to protect users from potential harm.
Despite the DEA’s statement, THC-O is considered legal in some states. In states that have legalized marijuana, THC-O is often still included in formulations for sale in dispensaries. Legality for THC-O, Delta-8 and Delta-9 varies state by state.
It is clear that the issue of THC-O’s legality is far from settled. In the meantime, however, users must be aware that the DEA still considers it an illegal substance. For those looking for an alternative to traditional THC, there are still options available; it is just important to be aware of the associated risks and make educated decisions to avoid negative consequences for consumers and licensees alike.