What is THC-O?

by Kat Austin January 17, 2022 12 min read

What is THC-O? - Vida Optima™

With Delta-8 and Delta-10 products flying off the shelves, hemp manufacturers are eager to introduce a new THC isomer, THC-O acetate. This new psychoactive hemp product has a unique appeal—it’s supposedly more potent than other hemp-derived THC products.

But what is THC-O? Is it comparable to other legal THC products? And most importantly, is it actually legal to buy?

We’ll break down everything you need to know about THC-O’s effects, safety, where to buy it, and more. Lets jump in:

Looking for legal THC you can buy online? Check out our Elev8 Collection.

Table of Contents
What is THC-O?
How is THC-O Made?
What are THC-O’s Effects?
Will THC-O Get You High?
How Long Does a THC-O High Last?
Can You Build a Tolerance to THC-O?
Will THC-O Make You Fail a Drug Test?
Does THC-O Have Any Health Benefits?
How is THC-O Used?
Is THC-O Legal?
Is THC-O Synthetic?
How Should You Store THC-O?
Does THC-O Have Side Effects?
Conclusion: What is THC-O?
Frequently Asked Questions

Key Takeaways

  • THC-O is a hemp-derived THC that's more potent than traditional THC products.
  • It is more accessible than Delta-9 because it is federally legal, and it may provide similar, but stronger psychoactive effects.
  • THC-O research is limited, but it’s thought to have benefits and risks that are similar to traditional THC.
  • It’s important that the THC-O products you buy are well made and free of potential contaminants, like pesticides and solvents.

What is THC-O?

THC-O acetate (called THC-O for short) is an analog to Delta-9-THC, meaning that it’s molecular structure is almost identical to traditional THC products. In other words, it gets you high just like good ole classic THC, but it’s being made from legal hemp material, which means it’s legal to buy and sell in many U.S. states.

A model comparing the molecular structure of Delta-9, Delta-8, and THC-O-Acetate

Here’s the kicker: Research has found THC-O to be about three times more potent than traditional THC products. As you can probably imagine, cannabis consumers across the nation are feeling a bit bewildered, excited, and skeptical of this new and trendy THC analogue.

Just like other phytocannabinoids, THC-O can interact with the endocannabinoid system, a neuromodulatory system that's responsible for maintaining homeostasis and regulating many important bodily functions. The way that phytocannabinoids interact with the endocannabinoid system is the reason that certain cannabinoids, like CBD and THC, are well known for having potential health benefits. More research is needed to understand how THC-O may impact general wellness, but researchers have every reason to believe that it could have some therapeutic potential of its own.

Read more about cannabinoids to learn more.

How is THC-O Made?

To make THC-O, manufacturers must first make Delta-8-THC from hemp-derived CBD extract through an isomerization process. Then, Delta-8 can be transformed into THC-O by introducing acetic anhydride.

Afterwards, the solution is refined to remove any unwanted materials or leftover chemicals. After a proper refinement period, the result is a potent THC-O extract that's clean and safe to consume.

It's important that this process is only carried out by experienced cannabinoid manufacturers. Acetic anhydride is incredibly corrosive and dangerous to handle without the proper equipment, so you should never try to make THC-O at home. This is also why it's important to only buy THC-O products from a reputable, trustworthy source.

What are THC-O’s Effects?

While Delta-8 and Delta 10 are both thought to have milder effects and traditional THC, THC-O’s effects are much more potent. In general, the high is described as uplifting, not sedating, and may result in some pretty potent euphoria. Some people describe the high as borderline hallucinogenic, but it's unclear the dosage used to reach these effects.

Typically, THC-O is meant to be taken in smaller, manageable doses in order to provide a mild to moderate euphoric experience. Expect some of the same effects you'll get from traditional THC, like some delayed coordination and reaction time, which means that it's unsafe to drive or operate machinery after taking THC-O products.

Will THC-O Get You High?

To put it frankly, yes, THC-O has potent psychoactive effects that will cause you to feel high. It’s important that you understand your THC limits and take dosing slowly.

Typically, smaller amounts of THC-O can be used to create an enjoyable, euphoric experience compared to the dosage often used for other THC products. THC-O is most commonly used recreationally because of it’s potent, uplifting effects, but it’s possible that it also provides some therapeutic benefits similar to traditional THC products.

A woman smoking THC-O concentrate from a rig, a method that has fast-acting effects.

How Long Does a THC-O High Last?

As with all forms of THC, the amount of time that a THC-O high lasts mainly depends on body weight and dosing method. Your metabolism affects how long certain substances stay in the body, and different forms of THC-O are metabolized at different rates.

For instance, when you take a digestible form of THC-O, you can expect the effects to be slow to take effect, but the effects may last four to six hours, which is longer than most dosing methods.

Inhaled methods, like smoking or vaping THC-O may produce near instant effects, but the effects could be shorter lived, usually lasting between two and four hours.

Sublingual absorption falls somewhere in the middle, the effects may take about 30 minutes to kick in, but could last three to five hours.

In general, everyone's experience with THC-O will differ, so it's best to try out THC-O in a comfortable environment where you don't have a strict time frame.

Can You Build a Tolerance to THC-O Effects?

Researchers are still working out the details on THC-O and how it can affect tolerance, but the answer is likely yes, THC-O will build tolerance similar to other THC products.

Just like other forms of THC, THC-O metabolizes into 11-hydroxy-THC in the body, which is the body’s primary THC metabolite. Since it's this metabolite that creates THC tolerance, THC-O will likely contribute to cross tolerance with other forms of THC.

In fact, because THC-O is more potent, it's likely that it could build tolerance more quickly, but the actual difference in time frames is likely negligible and depends on other unique biological factors. Of course, we always recommend scheduling regular tolerance breaks as a part of a healthy THC dosing routine.

Will THC-O Make You Fail a Drug Test?

Because THC-O converts to 11-hydroxy-THC in the body just like other forms of THC, it will trigger the same positive drug test results. This is because most drug tests do not look specifically for Delta-9-THC or cannabis constituents, but instead look for THC metabolites.

That means that even though THC-O may be legal in your area, it will appear on a drug test just like traditional THC products, and it can be difficult to prove which form of THC you've consumed.

To understand more about how this works, read about how Delta-8 shows up on drug tests.

Does THC-O Have Any Health Benefits?

Because research regarding THC-O’s effects on the body is very limited, it's unknown whether or not THC-O has unique health effects. Still, researchers do know that it interacts with the body similarly to traditional THC products, so they suspect that it will provide many of the same health benefits when used at mild to moderate doses.

Because it is so much more potent, it is more commonly chosen for recreational effects. Still, it does interact with the body’s Endocannabinoid System, a regulatory system known to impact functions like appetite, pain signalling, mood, and more. With that in mind, researchers are speculating whether THC-O can provide some of the following benefits similar to other hemp-derived THC products:

  • Relief from pain
  • Energy boost
  • Lifted mood
  • Increased appetite
  • Nausea reduction
  • Stress relief
  • Overall euphoria

How is THC-O Used?

THC-O is still new and can sometimes be difficult to find in today's hemp market. Of course, THC-O concentrate can be used in a similar manner to other THC extracts to create different dosing styles, which means there are many different types of THC-O products available.

Still, finding a wide variety of products, potencies, flavors from a trustworthy, high quality hemp manufacturer can prove challenging for now. You definitely need to verify the quality of a product before you make a purchase, which means looking for third-party test results. With new formulations rolling out everyday here are some of the THC-O products you may be able to find:

Vida Optima THC Edible


THC edibles can come in many different forms, like traditional digestible edibles and sublingual style edibles.

Traditional edibles, like gummies and baked goods, are chewed and swallowed which means they need to be processed by digestion. This type of edible may take over an hour to take effect, but the slow rolling effects can be long lasting, which is a benefit to therapeutic users.

Sublingual style edibles like hard candies and chews, are meant to melt in your mouth so that the THC can be absorbed by the mucus membranes. This allows THC to be absorbed directly into the bloodstream, resulting in fast acting effects. In fact, sublingual style edibles can take effect in 15 to 30 minutes, although the effects may not last quite as long as traditional edible products.

One primary benefit to edibles is that they are pre-measured, pre-portion doses, which makes them great for regular users or therapeutic users who want to take some of the work out of their dosing routine. Plus, they taste great and come in a variety of different flavors and potencies.

Read our THC Edibles Buyer’s Guide to learn more.


Vaporizers are a popular dosing method for all cannabis and hemp products because they take effect almost instantly and make it easy to stack small doses until you reach your desired effects.

Vaporizers are the top choice for people looking for fast acting therapeutic benefits, but they also make a portable dosing option for when you're on the go. Often, vaporizers use a technique called strain profiling to create THC-O products modeled after different sativa indica and hybrid strains.

Our Elev8 Disposable THC Vapes contain a precise combination of Delta-8 and THC-O, so you get balanced, smooth effects. Choose from our Hybrid, Sativa, or Indica varieties. 

To learn more, read our THC Carts Buyer’s Guide.

A woman holding a jar full of THC-O flower


THC-O flower is rare but that's not to say that it can't be done. THC-O flower is made similarly to Delta-8 flower, where Delta-8 distillate is sprayed onto CBD-rich hemp flower to create a dosing experience that is aromatic and has fast acting effects. Many people enjoy THC-dosed hemp flower, but it may be a while before THC-O flower is widespread across the market.


Dabs are a form of concentrate that are generally vaporized using a dab rig. Because THC-O is difficult to produce, concentrates are not the most popular form of THC-O products. Still, if you do happen to find THC-O dabs, just know that the doses are incredibly concentrated, and THC-O is already much more potent than traditional THC products, so you'll want to use your concentrate materials sparingly until you have a good understanding of your dosing threshold.

Is THC-O Legal?

Technically, yes, THC-O is a legal hemp derivative according to federal law, but that doesn't necessarily mean that it's legal everywhere. The Hemp Farming Act of 2018, or the bill that officially legalized hemp in the US, includes a clause in section 12619b that specifically addresses tetrahydrocannabinols in hemp. This portion of the bill suggests that any THC that can be naturally derived from legal hemp material, which includes hemp and all of its cannabinoids, isomers, salts, extracts, and other derivatives, is considered to be a legal hemp product, so long as it contains less than 3% Delta-9-THC.

The DEA and FDA are still ironing out the details behind federal hemp laws, but some states have already put a nail in the hemp-derived THC coffin. Just like some states have banned Delta-8-THC derived from hemp, many of the same states do not allow THC-O to be manufactured and sold within the state. Still, hemp-derived THC products may be accessible to consumers across the country who are shopping online.

THC-O and Delta-8-THC are generally lumped under the same hemp-derived THC laws, so you can read more about Delta-8 laws by state to learn about the THC-O laws in your state.

A jar of THC concentrate and THC-O flower, two popular THC-O dosing methods.

Is THC-O Synthetic?

Many people suggest that hemp-derived THC products are synthetic because of the way that they are made from CBD and other hemp extracts. While it is true that THC-O is "made" from another version of hemp extract as opposed to being naturally extracted, it would be incorrect to classify it as a "synthetic cannabinoid."

Let us explain:

Synthetic cannabinoids are generally lab-made from a series of chemicals not derived from natural plant material. In fact, the most popular synthetic cannabinoids contain no hemp or cannabis material at all and are entirely synthesized from other non-hemp chemicals to look and act like natural cannabinoids.

Alternatively, Delta-8, Delta-10, and THC-O are all natural cannabinoids that can be found in raw cannabis material without any manipulation.

However, because the THC content of legal hemp material (the kind of cannabis material that is federally legal in the US) is so low, manufacturers utilize a different method for extracting it in usable quantities. This method is called “isomerization,” and it merely refers to a process of transforming one natural hemp cannabinoid into another. In other words, THC-O is not a synthetic cannabinoid, rather it is a natural THC analogue. It is made from natural, hemp-derived CBD extract and contains no extra chemicals.

Many reputable law firms have argued that delta-8 does not fit the DEA’s description for a “synthetically-derived” cannabinoid, although not many have touched on other THC products. Still, Delta-8 and THC-O are both made using similar methods and are both natural tetrahydrocannabinols as well.

A fully grown hemp bud just before processing where it is turned into THC-O flower

How Should You Store THC-O?

Just like all hemp extracts, it's important that you store THC-O out of direct sunlight in an airtight container. We recommend that you keep all Vida Optima products in a cool, dry place in order to ensure the best possible shelf life.

Does THC-O Have Side Effects?

There hasn't been much research in the way of identifying THC-O's potential drawbacks or risks, but many experts assume that the risk profile is incredibly similar to traditional THC.

The most significant risks come from the possibility of getting low-quality, contaminated products.

Keep in mind that the hemp industry is still widely unregulated, and many manufacturers are not proficient at making these trendy new THC products. The process for making THC-O is dangerous, and if all of the residual chemicals are not carefully removed, the final product could be unsafe.

In the case that you do have a safe product, some potential side effects still apply to all THC products, like:

  • Headaches
  • Increased heart rate
  • Dry mouth
  • Red eyes
  • Increased thirst
  • Hunger
  • Tiredness

These side effects are mild and usually rare, but the risk increases when using large quantities or incorrect dosages. For that reason, we always recommend that new THC users dose slowly and carefully while they feel out their dosing threshold.

Conclusion: What is THC-O?

THC-O-Acetate, or THC-O for short, is a THC analogue similar to Delta-8 or Delta-10 with extremely potent effects. Some consumers suggest that the effects are almost psychedelic, which makes it a delicacy in the newly formed hemp market. Thanks to its natural hemp source, it’s federally legal and legal in many U.S. states, which means it's far more accessible than traditional cannabis products.

Vida Optima Delta-8 + THC-O vape

For now, THC-O is not widely accessible in many different dosing forms. It’s difficult to make properly, so it's important that you source from trustworthy hemp manufacturers that provide third-party lab tests for every batch. If you're interested in trying THC-O, we also recommend that you take dosing slowly and feel out the effects of this highly potent THC product in order to ensure a safe, positive experience.

Looking for THC-O products you can buy online? Check out our Delta-8 + THC-O Disposable Vape.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is THC-O legal in every state?

Not necessarily, but it is legal in most states. If the THC-O products are made from legal hemp material, then they are legal by federal law thanks to the Hemp Farming Act of 2018. Still, every state has the right to create their own hemp laws, and some have specifically banned hemp-derived THC products, including Delta-8 and THC-O.

How long does it take for THC-O to kick in?

The duration of time you will need to wait to feel THC-O’s effects depends on the dosing method used. For instance, sublingual absorption usually takes around 30 minutes, inhalation can provide instantaneous effects, and digested products may take 60-90 minutes to kick in.

How do you make THC-O?

The process used to make THC-O is complicated and should only be carried out by a qualified chemist. To make THC-O, cannabinoid technicians expose Delta-8-THC to acetic anhydride in order to transform it to THC-O-Acetate. Then, all unwanted chemicals are removed and only THC-O extract remains.

How will I feel when I use THC-O?

THC-O is stronger than most other forms of THC and will produce significant psychoactive effects that can be intense if you have a low tolerance or use high doses. Some consumers suggest that the experience is very uplifting, energizing, and that the effects can last a bit longer than Delta-8 products.

What is the potency of THC-O?

It’s hard to say exactly, but some research has found THC-O to be around three times as potent as traditional THC (Delta-9-THC). Pay close attention to the potency of each individual product you buy and start with a smaller dose than you may be used to to feel out the effects.

Is THC-O a synthetic cannabinoid?

Technically, THC-O is a semi-synthetic derivative that is made from Delta-8, but it doesn’t match the definition for a synthetic cannabinoid by DEA guidelines. A synthetic cannabinoid, like K2 or Spice, typically contains no hemp material and is not made from other cannabinoids. Instead, synthetic cannabinoids are fully synthesized from other chemicals. That’s not the case for THC-O, so it’s unfair to classify it as a synthetic cannabinoid.

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