Is THC-O Legal in North Carolina?


Is THC-O Legal in North Carolina?

The legality of THC-O in North Carolina remains a gray area as of early 2024. Before February 2023, the state relied on the 2018 Farm Bill on the legality of THC-O, which made hemp products containing no more than 0.3% Delta-9 THC legal to sell. However, a recent statement by the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has clarified to a North Carolina attorney that THC-O is not hemp and is illegal. The possibility of codifying this into law soon makes using or selling THC-O in North Carolina legally murky.

What is THC-O?

Tetrahydrocannabinol-O-acetate (THC-O) is a synthetic analog of THC. Although a cannabinoid, THC-O is not naturally occurring in the hemp plant. It is produced in the lab through a series of chemical syntheses. The first step is to extract CBD (cannabidiol) from the hemp plant and then convert the CBD to Delta-8 THC. Afterward, Delta-8 THC is mixed with acetic anhydride, a highly flammable solvent, to eliminate all flavonoids and terpenes. The result is a scentless and bland compound known as THC-O-acetate. THC-O is psychoactive. Although still largely under-researched, first-hand users of THC-O say it produces a "high" that is about three times stronger than the conventional THC.

Due to its strong potency, THC-O can induce intense feelings of relaxation, euphoria, and heightened sensory perception. Many users have also reported psychedelic experiences after consuming it. When overconsumed, THC-O's borderline hallucinatory effects can result in an unpleasant experience and, in extreme cases, drug-induced psychosis. THC-O-based products are mostly available as oils, tinctures, vape pens, edibles, and flowers. However, because of the limited research on THC-O, there are widespread concerns about its safety for human consumption. Most users consider it safe if taken in moderate doses. Nevertheless, THC-O-infused products contain potentially toxic chemicals like acetic anhydride, which, when vaped or smoked repeatedly for a long time, can cause lung damage. This suggests that edible THC-O products are safer for human consumption.

Is THC-O Legal Under Federal Law?

No. THC-O-acetate is now banned under federal law following the clarification made by the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in February 2023. The legalization of hemp by the 2018 Farm Bill and the many interpretations of the bill resulted in the sudden commercialization of THC-O-based products. Many had assumed that synthetic hemp products were also legal since hemp and its derivatives are legal under federal law. However, the DEA has clarified that THC-O is a Schedule I controlled substance under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) in a letter to Rod Kight, a North Carolina attorney.

The DEA noted that Delta-8 THC-O and Delta-9 THC-O fall within the definition of THC because they have similar chemical structures as compounds found in the cannabis plant. However, it argued that none of these cannabinoids occur naturally in the cannabis plant but can only be obtained synthetically. As a result, the DEA concluded that THC-O is not hemp-derived and is not excluded from control by the 2018 Farm Bill. It is, therefore, considered a controlled substance. This determination reaffirms that any synthetic compound not found naturally in the cannabis plant is a Schedule I controlled substance, even if they have a similar chemical structure and pharmacological activities as THC.

How Long Does THC-O Last in the Body?

The effects produced by THC-O after consumption can last for several hours, depending on the dose and the method of consumption. In most cases, it takes between 3 to 8 hours for these effects to clear out of the user's body. However, when THC-O is broken down in the body, it leaves a metabolite known as 11-hydroxy-THC, which can remain in the body for several weeks after the last use. The actual length of time the metabolite stays in the body depends on factors such as frequency of use, the user's body metabolism, and body fat percentage.

Can You Fail a Drug Test From Using THC-O?

Yes. THC-O users can fail drug tests because the compound metabolizes in the body the same way as Delta-9-THC to form 11-hydroxy-THC. Standard drug tests detect such metabolites, so the chances of a person testing positive for THC-O in a drug test are high. Depending on several factors, blood tests can detect THC-O in the body for between 36 hours and 48 hours after consumption, while saliva tests can detect it for 3 to 4 days. Urine tests can find the presence of THC-O in the body for up to 30 days after the last use. The hair follicle test has the longest detection window; it can detect THC-O metabolite in the user's system for up to 90 days.

THC-O vs Delta-8

Delta-8 THC is a naturally occurring cannabinoid in the hemp plant, even though it exists in low concentration. On the flip side, THC-O is a synthetic derivative produced by acetylating the Delta-8 THC compound found naturally in hemp. While these two cannabinoids have psychoactive properties, THC-O has been gaining widespread attention for its intense psychoactivity. It is said to be at least four or five times stronger than Delta-8 THC, and this enhanced potency can cause an altered perception of time and space, a deep sense of euphoria, and sometimes hallucinations. In contrast, Delta-8 THC produces gentle and uplifting effects, providing a milder and clear-headed "high". It presents a good alternative for anyone looking for a less intense psychoactive experience.

THC-O can potentially help lower stress, increase appetite, reduce pain, ease anxiety, and curd inflammation. However, taking it in large quantities may lead to increased heart rate, sedation, anxiety, problems with coordination, and headaches. Similar to THC-O, Delta-8 THC can help users with improved appetite, pain relief, reduced inflammation, and better sleep quality. However, consuming it in large doses can cause side effects like fast heart rate, lethargy, dry mouth, dry eyes, and impaired coordination.

THC-O vs Delta-9

Delta-9 THC is a natural cannabinoid in the hemp plant, unlike THC-O, which can only be produced synthetically. While both compounds are psychoactive and can get users high, THC-O is reported to be about three times more potent than Delta-9 THC. Potential benefits of using Delta-9 THC include pain and inflammation management, relaxation, feelings of euphoria, increased appetite, and neuroprotection. Similarly, THC-O has the potential to lower stress, stimulate appetite, ease anxiety, and reduce nausea and vomiting. On the flip side, abusing both compounds has severe side effects. For instance, intake of too much THC-O can lead to dizziness, anxiety, a drop in sugar level, confusion, and paranoia. The downsides of Delta-9 THC include dry mouth, dry eyes, sedation, feelings of unease, and low blood pressure.

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