THC-O-acetate: The Secret Cannabinoid

With THC crystals reaching close to 100 percent THC, we didn’t think weed could get much stronger. That is until we discovered THC-O-acetate, another psychoactive cannabinoid, said to be two to three times more potent than the THC.

Does this sound intense enough for you? Here’s everything we know about THC-O-acetate.

THC-O-acetate is the acetate ester of THC meaning it acts as a metabolic prodrug for THC. Research on the cannabinoid is limited, but it was featured in a couple of studies between 1950 and 1980.

Technically, THC acetate is not a scheduled substance. However, it could be considered an analog of Delta-9 THC. In addition, the acetate structure to THC increases the overall weight by 25 percent. The Federal Analogue Act of 1986 made it so that any analogs of THC would be considered federally illegal. It is currently unclear whether or not THC-O fits the criteria.

History Of Use

A Colombian indigenous woman observes liquid extract of marijuana at the laboratory of Toez indigenous reservation, in the rural area of Caloto. via HERB

Between 1949 and 1975, the U.S. Army Chemical Crops conducted human experiments at the Edgewood Arsenal facility in Maryland. THC acetate ester was used on dogs to test the substance’s potential as a non-lethal incapacitating agent. Researchers found that it had twice the ability to throw off dog’s muscle coordination when compared to delta-9 THC.

According to Donald A. Cooper of the DEA, THC-O-acetate was first encountered by the administration in 1978. That year, they came across THC-O-acetate extracts in Jacksonville, Florida. The cannabis concentrate was made using a Soxhlet extractor. Cooper noted that the THC-O-acetate was made with the same technique that turns morphine into heroin.

“The extract had been acetylated with acetic anhydride. In the final step, the excess acetic anhydride is removed by distillation. The product contained neither quantities of nonderivatized cannabinoid nor any identifiable plant fragments.”

Effects of THC-O-Acetate

“The effect of the acetate is more spiritual and psychedelic than that of the ordinary product. The unique property of this material is that there is a delay of about 30 minutes before its effects are felt,” Cooper explained.

The reason for the delay is that THC-O-acetate is a prodrug of THC. This means it needs to be deacetylated by enzymes in our bodies before the THC becomes active enough for us to feel the effects.

A review of the active principles of the cannabis plant found that natural THC acetate was approximately twice as potent as natural THC from cannabidiol. According to Michael Stark, THC-O-acetate is 300 percent stronger than the psychoactive THC we are used to. Micael Stark wrote his first published book Marijuana Chemistry: Genetics, Processing, Potency.

The Final Hit

The Secret Cannabinoid 300 Percent More Potent Than THC
Cannabis products mixed with organic olive oil sit in a laboratory during automated processing at a plant operated by Breath of Life (B.O.L.), in Kfar Pines, Israel. via HERB

THC acetate isn’t as simple to extract as something like butane hash oil. Acetic anhydride is highly corrosive and just as flammable as gasoline. The process can involve other dangerous-to-use solvents as well. Few are making it, so don’t expect to see THC-O-acetate on the shelf of your local dispensaries. However, the legal status remains unclear. As a result, we cannot be sure if having it in your urine would lead to a positive drug test result.

Since there isn’t much research involving THC-O-acetate, it will be a waiting game until more accessible information is available.