THC acetate ester, more commonly known as THC-O on the market, is an example of what the Drug Enforcement Administration in the United States considers to be an illegal “novel cannabinoid.” These so-called “hemp-derived” “novel cannabinoids” do not occur naturally in the hemp plant.
Rod Kight, a cannabis attorney based in North Carolina, was the one responsible for making the agency’s position on the contentious issue public on Monday.
THC acetate is one of a slew of new cannabinoids that have appeared in vaporizer cartridges, edibles, and other products since the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill. Kight asked the DEA to clarify its position on THC acetate a year ago, as well as its interpretation of the Controlled Substances Act.
This piece of legislation made the cultivation of hemp legal across the United States, which in turn sparked a flood of new products that contain “intoxicating cannabinoids” derived from hemp.
THC acetate, also known as THC-O, is not a naturally occurring component of the hemp plant. This is in contrast to the presence of delta-8 THC and delta-9 THC.
According to a piece written by the head of the DEA’s Drug and Chemical Evaluation Section, Terence L. Boos., THC acetate is considered a “controlled substance” because it “can only be obtained synthetically, and therefore does not fall under the definition of hemp.”
Delta-8 tetrahydrocannabinol products were found to be “hemp” by a court in the 9th Circuit of the United States in 2022, prompting the DEA to issue its clarification. The delta-8 THC products were found to be legal under the 2018 Farm Bill.
It is not yet clear how the clarification offered by the DEA will impact the market.
Although the federal agency probably lacks the capacity and interest to crack down on hemp merchants selling products containing THC acetate, state regulators have also sounded the alarm over hemp-derived intoxicating cannabinoids. This is despite the fact that the federal agency is unlikely to have either capacity or interest in doing so.
According to what Kight told MJBizDaily, the DEA’s interpretation of the law is simple and unmistakable in either scenario.
According to Kight, “if the hemp plant naturally produces a certain cannabinoid, compound, etc., such as delta-8 THC or CBN or THCV, etc., then it is not a controlled substance, regardless of how it is processed or manufactured into a finished product.” However, there is one exception to this rule, which is if the finished product contains more than 0.3% THC by dry weight.
“If the hemp plant does not naturally produce a compound, then it (the compound) is not considered to be ‘hemp,'” he went on to say later.
Sabine Downer is a scientist and cannabis writer with a passion for education. She has been writing for various clients in the cannabis space since 2015 and has worked in biotechnology since 2010. Along with content creation, she is also a knowledgeable resource on quality assurance, regulatory, and legal topics.