The legal ambiguities surrounding THC analogs have precipitated a rise in the popularity of certain cannabinoids in recent years. Consequently, interest in a little-known compound called THC-O-acetate has exploded recently.
This rare cannabinoid, which is said to be three times more potent than THC, supposedly produces psychedelic-like effects. However, with little verifiable data on its properties, large gaps remain in our knowledge of this enigmatic substance.
What is THC-O-Acetate?
As the name suggests, THC-O-acetate shares a chemical structure with THC, but has an acetate group attached to it. According to some sources, this added feature allows the compound to penetrate certain barriers in the digestive tract and brain, thus enhancing its effects.
Technically speaking, THC-O-acetate is a metabolic prodrug, which means that it only becomes psychoactive after being metabolized. In this case, the body must “de-acetate” the molecule by removing the acetate group to enhance the compound.
Much of what we know about THC-O-acetate comes from research conducted by the US military between 1948 and 1975. In an attempt to determine whether the molecule could be weaponized as a non-lethal disabling agent, Army researchers measured its effects in dogs. The results suggest that it affects muscle coordination twice as much as normal THC.
However, data regarding the effects of THC acetate in humans are quite scarce. According to some sources, the compound is 300% more potent than THC and generates trippy experiences similar to those of psychedelics. However, this has not been widely substantiated.
This lack of information is largely due to the fact that THC acetate is not easy to manufacture and is not readily available. The creation of the molecule involves the use of highly corrosive, flammable and explosive solvents, which must be handled under laboratory conditions. The result is a heavy brown oil without terpenes, flavonoids or other cannabinoids, that is, without taste or aroma. As it must be metabolized to become psychoactive, the cannabinoid can take up to 30 minutes to produce its effects.
What is the difference between THC-O and THC?
The easiest way to compare the two is by comparing the images of the molecules:
I’m not a scientist either, so don’t worry if it doesn’t have to make a lot of sense. The differences will become clear when you see this image of the THC-O molecule:
On the THC molecule, you will see an ‘OH’, and on the THC-O molecule notice the ‘O’ and the new set of connecting lines. Those lines are the acetate molecule. It is this addition that makes it special and increases its strength.
This small molecule of acetate can increase the strength of THC by 300%.
Is THC-O-Acetate Legal?
Like many similar compounds, THC acetate is in a legal gray zone, especially in the United States. This confusion is mainly due to the Farm Bill, which legalized hemp in 2018. Since THC-O-acetate can be made from hemp, it can be considered legal under certain interpretations of the law.
The compound can be created by extracting CBD from hemp and converting it to delta-8-THC. Finally, an acetate group must be added, which gives rise to THC-O-acetate. Whether or not this makes the substance legal is a matter of debate, as other laws state that all synthetic THC analogs must be prohibited.
However, in the UK the situation is different, as not only is recreational cannabis totally illegal, but the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016 broadly prohibits all unapproved compounds. As such, THC-O acetate is automatically illegal without the need for a specific law against it.
However, legal loopholes aside, the substance is unlikely to become widespread in the short term, as difficulties in manufacturing make it impractical.