Is THC-O Legal in Indiana?


Is THC-O Legal in Indiana?

No. According to Official Opinion 2023-1 filed by Todd Rokita, the Attorney General of the State of Indiana, on January 12, 2023, THC-O is an illegal substance. The Opinion clarified that synthetic cannabinoids are classified as Schedule I controlled substances pursuant to Section 35-48-2-4(d)(31) of the Indiana Code.

What is THC-O?

THC-O, or THC-O acetate, is a synthetic cannabinoid. This means that it is not naturally occurring in cannabis and is created in the laboratory. Due to its high potency, some have labeled it a psychedelic cannabinoid or a spiritual cannabinoid. Research says it has a higher bioavailability than most other cannabinoids, meaning the body can absorb it better than other cannabinoids.

THC-O, while relatively new in the cannabis market, was used by military scientists in the 1940s for experimentation. The process of synthesizing THC-O begins with extracting CBD (cannabidiol) from raw hemp. After extraction, the Delta-8 THC in the CBD is separated, and acetic anhydride is added to it. Consequently, THC-O is formed as a result of the chemical reaction created by adding acetic anhydride to Delta-8 THC.

Since the body absorbs THC-O at higher levels compared to other cannabinoids, the effects are more potent. Users report that the compound induces a euphoric state with increased sensory perception with potential mild psychedelic effects similar to those associated with LSDs. Like other cannabinoids, THC-O can have effects such as relaxation, stress relief, improved sleep, heightened senses, and increased appetite. THC-O products are often sold as edibles, tinctures, oils, vapes, and wax dabs.

Is THC-O Legal Under Federal Law?

No, despite assertions by various companies relying on the 2018 Farm Bill, THC-O is not considered legal in the United States. The 2018 Farm Bill legalized hemp and its derivatives, provided that the THC content is below 0.3% by weight.

Cannabis companies argue that THC-O can be synthetically made from legal hemp-derived THC or CBD, therefore, making it a derivative. However, in February 2023, the DEA released a letter providing clarification on their stance regarding THC acetate esters like THC-O. According to the DEA, both Delta-9 THC-O and Delta-8 THC-O do not occur naturally in cannabis plants and can only be obtained through synthetic means. As a result, they do not fall under the definition of hemp.

The DEA emphasized that Delta-9 THC-O and Delta-8 THC-O have chemical structures and pharmacological activities similar to those found in the cannabis plant. Consequently, both Delta-9 THC-O and Delta-8 THC-O meet the definition of tetrahydrocannabinol and are classified as controlled substances in Schedule I by 21 U.S.C. § 812(c) Schedule I and 21 CFR § 1308.11(d).

How Long Does THC-O Last in the Body?

Once ingested, THC-O undergoes a complex metabolic process in the liver. This process involves enzymes, primarily CYP2C9 and CYP3A4, converting THC-O into its primary metabolite, THC-COOH. This metabolite is identical to the one produced from Delta-9 THC, the main psychoactive compound in cannabis. The body eliminates THC-COOH primarily through urine and feces, with a smaller amount expelled through sweat and hair. The elimination rate depends on various factors, including:

  • Metabolism: Individual metabolic rates significantly impact elimination times. People with faster metabolisms eliminate THC-COOH more quickly than those with slower metabolisms
  • Frequency of Use: Chronic users tend to have higher THC-COOH levels and longer detection windows due to accumulation of the metabolite in the body's fat stores
  • Dosage: Higher doses of THC-O lead to more significant concentrations of THC-COOH, resulting in a longer detection window
  • Body Composition: Individuals with higher body fat percentages may experience longer detection times as fat stores accumulate THC-COOH

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

Currently, most drug tests cannot differentiate between THC-O and other THC compounds. They primarily identify the presence of THC-COOH, regardless of the original parent cannabinoid. This means using THC-O carries the same risk of a positive drug test as using Delta-9 THC.

Commonly used drug tests and their detection windows are as follows:

  • Urine Test: This is the most common type. It can detect THC metabolites for up to 30 days for infrequent users and longer for chronic users
  • Blood Test: This test has a shorter detection window of approximately 24 hours
  • Hair Test: This test can detect THC metabolites for up to 90 days, making it ideal for identifying long-term use
  • Saliva Test: This test has the shortest detection window of only a few hours, making it suitable for detecting recent use

THC-O vs Delta-8

Delta-8 THC is a cannabinoid found in low concentrations in hemp plants. It is comparable and often used as an alternative to Delta-9 THC. However, Delta-8 THC differs from THC-O in the following ways:

  • Origin: Delta-8 THC occurs naturally in hemp, while THC-O requires laboratory synthesis.
  • Production: Delta-8 THC can be extracted or synthesized from Delta-9 THC, while THC-O is created through acetylation.
  • Effects: Delta-8 THC offers milder, less intense effects, while THC-O is known for its potency and potential psychedelic experience.
  • Potency: Anecdotally, THC-O is said to be about 7 times as potent as Delta-8 THC
  • Accessibility: Delta-8 THC is more readily available in various forms due to its natural occurrence and simpler extraction process

The choice between THC-O and Delta-8 THC depends on individual preferences and expectations. Those seeking a milder experience with manageable psychoactive effects may favor Delta-8 THC. Conversely, individuals seeking a potent, possibly psychedelic experience may find THC-O more appealing. Note that potency claims for THC-O are anecdotal and not based on adequate scientific research. Additionally, the limited research on THC-O's long-term effects and potential health risks warrants caution on using products containing THC-O.

THC-O vs Delta-9

Delta-9 THC is the most common form of THC and a compound found in marijuana plants. It is associated with the psychoactive high experienced with marijuana use and can induce various side effects. THC-O is synthesized in the lab and cannot be found occurring naturally in cannabis plants. Both THC-O and Delta-9 THC produce similar effects and side effects in users. However, the effects and side-effects induced by THC-O are reportedly more intense than Delta-9 THC’s.

With research limited on how THC-O impacts the body, much of what is known of the compound is based on anecdotal evidence. Many users have reported THC-O's effect as "spiritual," with its potency described as at least three times stronger than Delta-9 THC’s.

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