What Is the Cannabinoid THCO?

Also known as THCO acetate, THCO is an analog of delta-9 THC that works a little bit differently in the body. Scientists identified this cannabinoid more than 50 years ago but it has only become popular now as the delta 8 market has swelled.

Learn what THCO is, if it’s truly more potent than THC, if it’s legal, and if you can buy it online.

What is THCO?

THCO is an acetylated form of THC that only activates after it’s processed by your digestive system. It is only available in synthetic forms and cannot be bred in hemp.

Ready for some chemistry? THCO is an acetate ester of THC, which means it has gone through a process called acetylation. In most substances, acetylation causes a massive potency increase, but in the case of THC, potency is only increased around 3 times since cannabinoids already bond with fats extremely well.

Whether it’s written out as 300% or 3x, there’s a general agreement that THCO offers about triple the potency of THC. There’s no actual research to back up this position, however, aside from Army Chemical Corps experiments from the ‘70s that were done on dogs.

THCO overview

  • Synthetic analog of delta 9 THC
  • Believed to be 3x as potent as delta 9
  • Only kicks in after around an hour, though
  • Originally developed in US Army drug warfare experiments
  • Now sold online as a “legal” alternative to delta 9
  • Safety and effects are largely unknown
  • Only a few THCO sellers online
  • Lack of competition leads to reduced product quality
  • Most likely won’t last

How is THCO different?

In addition to having a considerably different chemical structure, THCO also behaves differently from normal THC. This cannabinoid only activates after being processed by your liver since it acts as a prodrug in the human body.

So, no matter which way you consume THCO, you won’t experience its effects for around an hour. That might not be what you’re looking for in a THC experience even if it's 3 times as potent once it eventually kicks in.

Is THCO synthetic?

Yes, THCO is a synthetic cannabinoid as opposed to cannabinoids like delta 9 THC and CBD that are naturally derived. That doesn’t necessarily mean all THCO is dangerous, it just puts this cannabinoid in an inherently separate class.

As far as synthetic substances go, THCO is only lightly synthesized. Acetylation isn’t a very complicated form of drug synthesis, and it doesn’t involve common dangerous substances often involved in the formulation of other synthetic drugs.

It remains a valid question, though, why consumers should accept the unavoidable reductions in quality that occur when a substance is synthesized at the same time that natural forms of THC are so plentiful. Even delta 8, which was originally only available in synthetic forms, is now bred in hemp in reasonably high quantities, something that can never be done with THCO.

What is THCO used for?

People use THCO for the same things they use THC for. These cannabinoids offer the same types of effects, THCO just takes longer to kick in and is more potent. THCO doesn’t appear to have special attributes that make it more useful than delta 9 THC for any particular applications.

Due to its semi-protected legal status, THCO is mainly sold online as an alternative form of THC. The process of turning THC into THCO is relatively simple and safe, and a handful of manufacturers have started offering THCO products to the public.

Official uses of THCO

THCO was never seriously pursued for its original purpose, a non-lethal incapacitating agent. Research into this rare cannabis compound, which wasn’t plentiful to begin with, has become practically nonexistent over the last few decades.

It’s possible, but very doubtful, that interest in THCO will increase again. Right now, there’s huge demand for “legal” forms of THC that you can sell on the internet, but the moment the federal government gets its ducks in a row, many alternative forms of THC (yes, including THCO) will suddenly lose their relevance.

Is THCO legal?

The only form of THC specifically named under the Controlled Substances Act is delta 9, leading to a thriving online economy of delta 8 THC products. Technically protected under the 2018 Farm Bill’s definition of industrial hemp, alternative forms of THC usually aren’t considered illegal drugs in their natural forms.

The problem with THCO, though, is that it’s synthesized. The DEA views natural and synthesized substances differently, and modified forms of cannabinoids are not covered under the 2018 Farm Bill.

If there ever were to be a federal purge of non-delta 9 cannabinoids, THCO might find itself first on the list due to its synthetic status. You may have tried THCO recently and liked it, but don’t get used to it.

Can I buy THCO online?

Yes, there are certain retailers who sell THCO online. From what we understand, these retailers ship across the country and have a variety of THCO products available.

It’s a fact, though, that THCO as a product is practically brand-new, and it can only be synthetized. It’s a sketchy time to buy THCO, therefore, and you may never want to buy it at all.

Where to buy THCO for sale

At the moment, there aren’t any THCO products we recommend, and we’re not sure if this is a cannabinoid we will ever fully endorse. It’s disconcerting that THCO is inherently synthetic, and there’s no chance of this cannabinoid ever being naturally bred in cannabis.

Ideal applications of THCO may one day be discovered, but we don’t think so. As far as non-delta 9 forms of THC go, options like delta 8 and even delta 10 are already available, and when it comes to boosted forms of THC, natural options like THCP seem the most viable.

Our advice would be to wait for THCP products to become available or stick with what you know. Delta 8 is the most competitive hemp-derived THC market right now, driving the highest product quality and ensuring the best consumer safety.

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