Yes. THC-O is legal in South Dakota pursuant to HB 1008, passed in 2020, which legalized hemp and hemp-derived products in the state. South Dakota's HB 1008 was adapted from the 2018 Farm Bill. However, HB 1292 makes it illegal to sell or purchase a product intended for human consumption containing Delta-8 THC-O if the buyer is under the age of 21.
THC-O, THC-O acetate, or THC acetate is a novel cannabinoid often derived from hemp. Unlike THC, which can be extracted from hemp like CBD, THC-O is synthetically produced. The synthesis involves the use of acetic anhydride, a colorless liquid with applications in plastics, fibers, pharmaceuticals, and explosives. THC-O’s creation process begins by extracting Delta-8 or Delta-9 THC from hemp, followed by the combination of the extracted substance with acetic anhydride to yield the final product.
Although users report THC-O as safe for consumption, there is not enough scientific evidence to back up such claims. Research continues to explore the properties of THC-O, with indications that the compound delivers stronger effects (pain, stress relief, and increased appetite) than naturally occurring THC compounds. However, these heightened effects may come with an increased likelihood of experiencing side effects such as a drop in blood pressure, grogginess, and disorientation.
The anecdotal superior potency of THC-O is believed to be a driving factor for the demand for the synthetic cannabinoid. CBD sellers often sell THC-O products in the form of wax dabs, oils, gummies, tinctures, and vapes.
No. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has officially declared novel cannabinoids derived from hemp, such as THC-O, as illegal. This stance was made public in February 2023 following the efforts of cannabis attorney Rod Kight. Seeking clarification on the DEA's interpretation of the Controlled Substances Act regarding THC-O, Kight received a response affirming that THC acetate, being obtained synthetically and not falling within the definition of hemp, is considered a "controlled substance".
This distinction is crucial as the 2018 Farm Bill, legalizing hemp production nationwide, prompted the emergence of products containing various cannabinoids derived from hemp. Unlike Delta-8 THC and Delta-9 THC, which occur naturally in hemp, THC acetate does not. Terence L Boos, Chief of the DEA’s Drug and Chemical Evaluation Section, emphasized that since THC acetate can only be synthetically obtained, it is excluded from the definition of hemp, categorizing it as a controlled substance.
This clarification follows a 2022 decision by the U.S. 9th Circuit court affirming that Delta-8 THC products are considered "hemp" and are thus legal under the 2018 Farm Bill.
While THC-O's effects may take 30 minutes or longer to kick in and last only a few hours after consumption, its metabolites usually remain in the body for several weeks after use. When THC-O is used, enzymes in the liver break it down into 11-hydroxy-THC and other metabolites. While a large portion of these metabolites will be eliminated from the body after a few days, some will linger on for weeks and may be detectable by a drug test. Factors that may impact how long THC-O stays in the body include:
THC drug tests are specifically designed to identify THC metabolites and cannot distinguish between its various naturally occurring cannabinoids or synthetic compounds. These tests are typically conducted using blood, urine, saliva, and hair follicle samples.
In the case of a urine test, THC-O may be detectable between 3 and 30 days after use, with the detection window varying based on the frequency of use. Blood samples can reveal the presence of THC metabolites for up to 36 hours after consumption, and in the case of heavy users, the detection window may extend up to 3 weeks after use. Saliva tests have a detection window of up to 30 days for THC compounds. Hair follicle tests, which have the longest detection period, can detect THC-O use up to 90 days after last use.
Delta-8 THC, while not as popular as Delta-9 THC, is a naturally occurring cannabinoid in hemp plants. It is commonly used to experience the milder versions of the effects induced by Delta-9 THC. However, individuals looking for strong euphoric effects from THC use often opt for THC-O over Delta-8 THC. Anecdotal reports suggest THC-O is upwards of six times stronger than Delta-8 THC.
Besides the euphoria levels produced by Delta-8 THC and THC-O, there are other differences in their respective experiences. THC-O is widely reported to provide a spiritual experience that borders on being hallucinogenic in nature. Alternatively, Delta-8 THC users rarely report any type of hallucinogenic or spiritual experience.
THC-O, while a relatively new entrant to the cannabis market, actually has a lengthy history in the United States, as it was used in the 1940s in military experiments. In contrast, Delta-8 THC was not studied until much later.
Delta-9 THC is a naturally occurring compound found in both marijuana and hemp. In contrast, THC-O is a hemp derivative that can only be made in a laboratory through a chemical process. Hence, THC-O is the acetate ester form of Delta-9 THC.
Anecdotally, THC-O is reported to have more potent effects than Delta-9 THC, with many claiming it is at least three times more potent. The distinguishing effect of THC-O is its psychedelic properties. THC-O users have noted experiencing visuals such as those experienced when using psilocybin. However, like any cannabinoid, the effects produced by both compounds can vary from person to person.
THC-O can be blended with Delta-9 THC, Delta-8 THC, or cannabidiol to create a specialized formula and target certain experiences when used. Some manufacturers take the formulation process further by incorporating terpenes to develop even more complex effects.
Note that while THC-O is legal in South Dakota, Delta-9 THC is only legal for patients registered under the South Dakota medical marijuana program. It is illegal to use Delta-9 THC recreationally in the state.