What is THCo? 5 Things To Know

The hemp industry has seen massive growth, thanks to popular cannabinoids like Delta 8, Delta 10, and HHC. But there's another compound that's been quietly gaining attention- THCo. Many questions surround this cannabinoid. What exactly is it? Is it legal? Is it safe? Why isn't it found in any of our products? If you want to learn more about this lesser-known compound, you're in the right place. We'll explain all this and more; including why you should definitely think twice before smoking or vaping it.

1. What Is THCo?

THCo is short for tetrahydrocannabinol acetate or THC-O-Acetate. While it might seem like a new kid on the block, the truth is that THCo has been around for decades. In fact, the military is rumored to have first used it in the 1950s as part of an experiment to test whether it could incapacitate enemy soldiers. But THCo isn't your average cannabinoid. Unlike Delta 8 or Delta 10, which occur naturally in hemp, THCo is a synthesized cannabinoid. It is psychoactive and three times stronger that standard THC, also known as Delta-9-THC.

What Is THCo- How Is It Made?

We mentioned that THCo isn’t naturally occurring in either hemp or cannabis. So if one can't extract it from these plants, then how do you make it? The process of making THC-O-acetate is quite arduous. It takes a lot of specialized equipment and involves using flammable chemicals. It is literally impossible for you to do at home, so you don't need to worry about taking notes. 

THCo is a synthesized cannabinoid. It can be made through a process called acetylation. Extractors typically derive CBD from federally legal hemp, then chemically convert it into Delta 8 THC. After this, acetic anhydride (a high-inflammable and colorless liquid used to make fibers, plastics, and dyes) is then added to the Delta 8 THC molecules to create THCo Acetate. Like other isolated cannabinoids we’re familiar with, it can be used to make products like vape cartridges, and disposable vapes. Interested in using these? Keep reading to find out why that’s not a good idea. 

2. THCo’s Psychedelic Effects

Since THCO is reportedly three times stronger than Delta 9 THC, you might guess that its effects will be the same but just more potent right? Well, not quite. While Delta 9 THC is known for producing a "high" that's associated with feeling giddy, sleepy, and introspective, THCO takes things to a whole new level. Those who have tried it over the years have reported that it can produce a psychedelic experience, taking you on a mind-bending "trip" that's more similar to the intoxication associated with psilocybin.

But that's not all that sets THCO apart from other cannabinoids. Unlike Delta 8 or Delta 10, which can produce effects almost immediately after inhalation, THCO acts as a prodrug in the body. This means that it has to be processed by the liver to be activated, just like THC edibles, so its effects are delayed.

3. THCo Vs Delta 8

While many consider both THCO and Delta 8 to be cannabinoids, they still have distinctions between the two. To provide a clearer understanding, we’ll go over some of the differences between THCO vs Delta 8.

  • Delta 8 THC occurs naturally in hemp and cannabis plants, whereas THCO does not.
  • THCO is reportedly 3 times more potent than Delta 8
  • Delta 8 THC provides similar effects as THC (Delta 9) but milder
  • THCO users describe its effects as more psychoactive and psychedelic.

4. Is THCo Legal?

Since the enactment of the 2018 Farm Bill, hemp and all its derivatives like Delta 8, Delta 10, and HHC became federally legal. As researchers delve more into cannabinoids, THCO gained traction in the industry. However, since THCO deosn't naturally occur in hemp, it is federally prohibited.

It was never explicitly made illegal through legislative action, but it is considered a Schedule I controlled substance in the United States under the federal Controlled Substances Act. This means that the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) considers THCO to have a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use. Therefore, possession, use, and distribution of THCO may be subject to criminal prosecution under federal law. As soon as it became federally banned, many responsible brands discontinued their production on all THCO products. 

5. Is THCo Safe?

Apart from the fact that THCO is federally prohibited, there’s another factor to consider before smoking or vaping THCO- its safety. A recent study by the Journal of Medical Toxicology shows that when enough heat is applied to THC-O, thermal degradation can cause the formation of a dangerous lung toxicant called ketene. Ketene, a highly reactive chemical compound, finds use in various industrial processes like plastic production. However, it is also a potent lung irritant, and can cause a range of respiratory symptoms, including coughing, wheezing, and difficulty breathing. 

It isn’t necessarily the compound by itself that’s dangerous, but the heat it's subject to. Heating the acetate form of various chemicals, including THC, can create ketene. It’s not certain if the amount of ketene produced by a vape cart is enough to create immediate danger to the user, but it’s possible. It is also possible that repeated small exposures to it can cause lung damage. Based on this research, we highly advise cannabis users to steer clear of vaping or smoking any acetate form of cannabinoids, including THCO. According to the study, THCO products can be safe when taken orally, like with THCO gummies and tinctures. But THCO could be dangerous if smoked or vaped.

Back in 2019, there were cases of lung injuries from vaping, which the CDC called "Evali". People caused this by adding vitamin E actetate to illegally produced cannabis products to dilute the THC oil. Heating and vaporizing vitamin E acetate can also produce ketene, which is likely what caused the lung injuries. This study warns that THCO acetate products could cause another EVALI outbreak. The one that occurred in 2019 caused 68 deaths and 2,807 hospitalizations.

Final Thoughts

THCo is a powerful compound that has recently emerged in the cannabis industry. While it may offer an intense psychedelic experience, the risks associated with consuming it, especially in vape or smoke form, far outweigh the benefits. As with any cannabinoid product, we encourage you to exercise caution and only purchase from reputable sources. Mellow Fellow is a trusted brand that provides Delta 8, Delta 10, HHC, and other high quality cannabinoids as well as premium blends for tailored experiences. Our products are PhD Pharmacist formulated and PhD Chemist derived. They undergo rigorous testing to ensure the highest quality and safety standards, so you can rest assured that you're getting the best of the best. What are your thoughts on the DEA deeming THCO as a Schedule 1 substance? Let us know in the comments. As always, stay mellow!

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  • This article even says the DEA lists other derivatives such as HHC as illegal… https://www.forbes.com/sites/dariosabaghi/2023/02/16/delta-8-and9-thc-o-are-controlled-substances-dea-says/

    Tim on

  • Maybe but it’s still listed on their site https://mellowfellow.fun/blogs/learn/how-to-find-the-best-thc-p-vapes-on-the-market
    Seems to me the market is changing faster than people can keep up

    Tim on

  • To the person who commented previously, they actually pulled all their THCO stuff moooonths ago.

    Kay James on

  • If THCO is dangerous to vape why do you have vapes with it there?

    Beverly on

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