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DEA States Delta-8 and -9 THCO are Schedule 1 Controlled Substances

THC-O is Federally Illegal as a Schedule 1 Controlled Substance


As of February 2023, the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has added delta-8 THCO (delta-8-THC acetate ester) and delta-9 THCO (delta-9-THC acetate ester) to the Schedule 1 list for controlled substances. The DEA regulates the distribution of substances with a potential for abuse and dependence, and Schedule 1 is the most restrictive category of controlled substances. This means that any company selling products containing these cannabinoids must immediately cease sales.

Last year, North Carolina cannabis attorney Rod Kight inquired with the DEA on their stance with THCO’s legality. In response, the letter states “Delta-9-THCO and delta-8-THCO do not occur naturally in the cannabis plant and can only be obtained synthetically, and therefore do not fall under the definition of hemp”. Furthermore, Terrence L. Boos, Chief Drug & Chemical Evaluation Section, continued that “delta-9-THCO and delta-8-THCO meet the definition of “tetrahydrocannabinols,” and they… are controlled in schedule I by 21 U.S.C. § 812(c) Schedule I, and 21 CFR § 1308.11(d). Kight’s original email and the DEA’s response can be read here.

How is THC-O Different from Other Naturally Occurring Cannabinoids?

There are over 60 naturally occurring cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant, with the most commonly discussed being THC and CBD. On the other hand, Delta-8 THCO and Delta-9 THCO must be converted from other cannabinoids, which means they do not fall under the definition of hemp as they are not naturally occurring.


Inhalation Safety Concerns

There is a particular concern related to the manufacturing process of THC-O products. One of the most common methods of synthesizing THC-O involves using a chemical called acetic anhydride. Recently, a study published in the Journal of Medical Toxicology suggests there are potential safety concerns regarding THC-O inhalation.


When THC-O acetate is vaporized and inhaled, it can condense into a harmful substance called acetic acid in the lungs. Acetic acid is highly corrosive and can cause severe damage to the lungs. This risk is compounded by the fact that these synthetic cannabinoids are often added to e-liquids and vape cartridges, which can be easily consumed by individuals who may not be aware of the risks.


These risks, combined with the fact that Delta-8 THCO and Delta-9 THCO do not occur naturally in hemp, make their addition to the Schedule 1 list of controlled substances an important development for the cannabis industry. It underscores the need for strict regulation and oversight of products containing these substances.

The Future of THC-O

Companies that continue to sell Delta-8 THCO and Delta-9 THCO products risk facing legal consequences, as the DEA takes a strong stance on the distribution of controlled substances. The DEA has also indicated that it will be closely monitoring the manufacture, distribution, and marketing of these products in the coming months.

In summary, the addition of Delta-8 THCO and Delta-9 THCO to the Schedule 1 list of controlled substances is a significant development for the cannabis industry. Companies must cease the sale of these products immediately, and consumers should exercise caution when using any products containing these cannabinoids. By promoting responsible use and safe production practices, we can help ensure that the benefits of cannabis are realized while minimizing potential harms.

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