September 09, 2022 10 min read

THC-O is a new hemp-derived cannabinoid that stands out from the crowd thanks to its highly potent psychoactive effects. In fact, experts have found THC-O to be about three times more potent than traditional THC products, and cannabis consumers are feeling a mix of excitement and curiosity as they prepare to try it out. One important question stands between every consumer and their first THC-O dose–Where is THC-O legal?

We'll clear up any questions about THC-O's legality below, and give you some pointers on how to make sure that the THC-O products you buy are both legally and safely made.

Looking for legal THC-O? Check out our Elev8 Collection.

Table of Contents
Is THC-O Federally Legal?
Is THC-O Legal in Every State?
Is THC-O a Controlled Substance?
What Affects THC-O State Legality?
Does the FDA Regulate THC-O?
Did the DEA Make THC-O Illegal?
Will THC-O Make You Fail a Drug Test?
How THC-O Products are Legally Made
Can Law Enforcement Identify THC-O?
How to Purchase Safe, Legal THC-O
Where to Buy THC-O Near You

Key Takeaways

  • THC-O is federally legal, but it isn’t legal in every state.
  • Even if THC-O is legal in your state, the quality regulations may be low.
  • You need to thoroughly check products to make sure that they meet stringent quality and legal standards before you buy.
  • Even though THC-O is legal, it may be confused for Delta-9-THC, so you need to use it responsibly.
A model of the THC-O molecule, a natural derivative of federally legal hemp material.

Is THC-O Federally Legal?

Technically, 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 0.3% Delta-9-THC.

Some states, however, disagree with this federal ruling and have created their own laws to address these new THC products. 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.

Is THC-O Legal in Every State?

THC-O is not necessarily legal in every state, but it is currently 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, but you still need to verify legality at the state level.

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. Here is the current THC-O status in each US state:

  • Alabama:Legal
  • Alaska:Possibly illegal
  • Arizona:Possibly illegal
  • Arkansas:Possibly illegal
  • California:Legal
  • Colorado:Possibly illegal
  • Connecticut:Legal
  • Delaware:Possibly illegal
  • Florida:Legal
  • Georgia:Legal
  • Hawaii:Legal
  • Idaho:Possibly illegal
  • Illinois:Legal
  • Indiana:Legal
  • Iowa: Possibly illegal
  • Kansas:Legal
  • Kentucky:Legal
  • Louisiana:Legal
  • Maine:Legal
  • Maryland:Legal
  • Massachusetts:Legal
  • Michigan:Legal
  • Minnesota:Legal
  • Mississippi:Possibly illegal
  • Missouri:Legal
  • Montana:Possibly illegal
  • Nebraska:Legal
  • Nevada:Legal
  • New Hampshire:Legal
  • New Jersey:Legal
  • New Mexico:Legal
  • New York:Possibly illegal
  • North Carolina:Legal
  • North Dakota:Legal
  • Ohio:Legal
  • Oklahoma:Legal
  • Oregon:Legal
  • Pennsylvania:Legal
  • Rhode Island:Possibly illegal
  • South Carolina:Legal
  • South Dakota:Legal
  • Tennessee:Legal
  • Texas:Legal
  • Utah:Possibly illegal
  • Vermont:Possibly illegal
  • Virginia:Legal
  • Washington:Legal
  • West Virginia:Legal
  • Wisconsin:Legal
  • Wyoming:Legal

It's important to note that hemp laws are ever changing, and any of the laws above can change at any time. Always check your current state laws before purchasing THC-O near you. You need to be sure that the THC-O is legally made and sold, and that you only carry it through states where THC-O is legal.

Is THC-O a Controlled Substance?

No, THC-O is not classified as a controlled substance by federal law thanks to updated hemp laws. According to Section 12619b of the 2018 Hemp Farming Act, tetrahydrocannabinols in hemp are specifically exempt from scheduling. That means that THC-O that is made from legal hemp material is not a controlled substance by federal law, but keep in mind that some states may categorize it differently.

What Affects THC-O State Laws?

There are several factors that come into play when determining whether THC-O is legal in one state or another. In order for THC-O to be legal in any state, the state’s laws must:

  • legalize hemp using a definition similar to the one used by federal law. The definition may include varying quantities of Delta-9-THC, but must include hemp derivatives like cannabinoids, isomers, and salts of isomers.
  • Remove hemp-derived THC from the Controlled Substances list in the state, or otherwise remove hemp-derived THC from the state’s list of prohibited substances.

Local hemp laws may also regulate the way that THC-O is made and sold, even if it defaults to federal law to determine overall legality. Some ways that state laws may differ from federal laws include:

  • Licensing and Manufacturing Specifications: Part of each state's responsibility within the legal hemp market is submitting a hemp agriculture plan to the USDA for approval. This USDA hemp plan submitted by each state must include information about the licensing process for hemp growers, as well as the testing procedures that the state will use to ensure hemp material is below the federal threshold for delta-9-THC content. These licensing laws don't typically affect consumers directly, but they can affect the availability and quality of THC-O in your state.
  • Seller Limitations: As we mentioned, some states require sellers to be licensed before they can distribute hemp or Delta-8 products. In other states, anyone can sell hemp products so long as it is made according to legal guidelines. Typically, seller laws don't affect consumers unless there are age limits in place in your particular state.
  • Possession Laws: There are generally no possession limits in place for hemp products, but this could vary by state and should be considered before purchasing large quantities of THC-O products.
  • Ingredient and Formula Restrictions:THC-O itself could be legal, but some states have bans on certain ingredients or formulations. For instance, some states ban raw forms of hemp, so THC-O hemp flower would be illegal. Others may ban hemp in edible form, so you may not be able to find THC-O gummies or other edibles.

Does the FDA Regulate THC-O?

To date, the FDA has not implemented regulations for federally legal hemp products. That means that although THC-O is currently legal with no regulation, its legal status could change abruptly once the FDA implements regulations. It's unlikely that the FDA will make any cannabinoid derived from hemp illegal as a whole, but it could change regulations regarding how hemp products are made, labelled, or sold, which could make any specific formulas illegal.

A federally legal THC-O vape pen and source hemp material

This lack of regulation currently allows a wide range of hemp formulas to be made and sold, and also poses some potential safety risks for consumers who don't know how to verify the safety of THC-O products (which we will touch on more below). In other words, just because a product is legal doesn't mean that it's safe, and you should carefully research the quality of hemp products before you buy them.

Did the DEA Make THC-O Illegal?

The United States Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) is technically in charge of regulating cannabinoids, but they haven’t had much to say since the hemp laws were updated in 2018. Some people saw the recent DEA Interim Final Rule as clarification that hemp-derived THC was classified as synthetic cannabinoid and was therefore illegal, but this is a misunderstanding.

It’s true that the Interim Final Rule states that all synthetically derived cannabinoids are illegal, regardless of classification or source. But THC-O isn’t synthetically derived, rather it’s derived by “isomerization.”

The rule also states that:

“This interim final rule merely conforms DEA’s regulations to the statutory amendments to the CSA that have already taken effect, and it does not add additional requirements to the regulations.”

In other words, the only purpose of these new rules is to help align the Controlled Substances Act with the rules that were already carved out by the 2018 Farm Bill. The DEA did not place any new restrictions on THC-O and it is still legal in the U.S.

Will THC-O Make You Fail a Drug Test?

Many experts believe that although THC-O is different from the more common THC products made from hemp, it may still turn into 11-hydroxy-THC in the body. Most common drug tests don't look for THC itself, rather they look for this THC metabolite. That means that although THC-O is technically legal, it will likely trigger the same positive drug test result as other THC products. In other words, 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 “Will THC-O Show Up On a Drug Test?

How THC-O Products are Legally Made

Technically, THC-O can be extracted directly from the hemp plant similarly to the method used to extract CBD material. Of course, THC-O is usually present in quantities below 1%, which can make for an expensive and wasteful extraction process.

To remedy this issue and make THC-O more affordable and accessible, most manufacturers use a process called isomerization. This process involves exposing cannabinoids to an acid in order to force the molecules to rearrange. "Isomers" are molecules that have all of the same molecular components, just arranged in a different order. That means that the isomerization process doesn't add or subtract anything, it merely shifts one cannabinoid into another.

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.

THC-O flower and hand rolled joints, a consumption method that's legal in many states where THC-O is legal

Can Law Enforcement Identify THC-O?

So, THC-O is legal, but how can you prove that you have legal cannabinoids if your products are seized by law enforcement? Law enforcement officers may have products sent off to a lab to be tested, and the lab will be able to differentiate between different types of cannabinoids.

This is why it’s so important to choose products that have been lab tested and to view those final lab tests for yourself. Then, you can be confident that your products will present as legal cannabinoids even when tested by law enforcement officers.

How to Purchase Safe, Legal THC-O Products

After learning more about THC-O’s legality, you may be ready to try a dose for yourself. Before you get started, check out the following tips for buying high-quality, safe, legal THC-O products online.

Check Your State Laws

Before you buy THC-O products, whether you’re shopping online or in stores, familiarize yourself with state laws. You need to make sure that THC-O is legal, that all of the ingredients and formula style is legal (for instance, if edible/smokables are legal), and that its legal to transport them (either across towns or states). Hemp laws are subject to change, so check frequently to avoid any issues.

Check the Hemp Source

In order for THC-O to be legal, it needs to be made from industrial hemp. That means that the original hemp material must contain less than 0.3% Delta-9-THC and must be grown under one of the states’ hemp pilot programs.

In order for THC-O to be safe, it needs to be made from high-quality (preferably organic) hemp that is grown without the use of pesticides or other harsh chemicals. The hemp quality has everything to do with the quality of the extract, so don’t skip this step.

Investigate the Manufacturing Process

Before you choose a hemp brand, dig a little deeper into their manufacturing process. Some things that matter include the extraction techniques used to pull the original hemp extract from the plant material and how experienced the manufacturer is with the isomerization process used to make hemp THC products.

Just keep in mind that THC-O is not regulated by the FDA, so you need to make sure that the brand you choose to buy from is legit.

Check for Third Party Lab Tests

Finally, look for the third party lab tests for the product you intend to buy. A good hemp brand will always provide third party lab tests for every product batch. Take the time to review these tests. They should verify the information given on the label, like the cannabinoid content and potency, as well as the absence of contaminants, like heavy metals, pesticides, mold, and more.

Use THC-O Responsibly

Although THC-O may be legal, it still looks, smells, and act a lot like traditional THC products. Plus, many places have restrictions on substance use or smoking in public areas. Since it may be difficult for law enforcement to tell the difference in THC-O and traditional cannabis products, you should use consideration when choosing where you dose. You also should not use THC-O before driving, operating machinery, or any other task that would be unsafe to do while not sober.

Vida Optima Elev8 THC-O Vape

Where to Buy THC-O Near You

Local laws may impact THC-O availability in your area, and hemp regulations are still inconsistent across the country. There are, of course, some hemp-friendly, well-regulated states where THC-O can be found in local stores.

Luckily, you aren’t limited to the THC-O products near you. The USPS has declared that hemp products are legal to ship through the mail, so you may be able to find better quality products when you buy them online. At Vida Optima, our hemp-derived THC products comply with all parameters of the Hemp Farming Act of 2018. We can also help answer questions about THC-O before you buy, or you can read “What is THC-O? to learn more.

Check out our Elev8 Collection to find hemp-derived THC products that ship to any area where THC-O is legal.

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