THCO is a Schedule 1 Controlled Substance Says DEA


I have been concerned about the proliferation of THC acetate ester (THCO) for a while. It has always been my view that THCO is a controlled substance under federal law. Although it can be made from cannabinoids from hemp, THCO is not naturally expressed by the hemp plant. It is a laboratory creation that does not occur in nature, at least not from the hemp plant.

I have had many consultations in which people equate THCO with delta-8 THC (D8) based on the fact that most of the D8 on the market is made chemically from another cannabinoid. During these conversations, people say that D8 is a “derivative” of hemp and it is considered lawful “hemp” under the 2018 Farm Bill. By extension, they state that since THCO is also a hemp derivative it meets the definition of hemp, too. I always inform them that they are wrong. D8 and THCO are different in a very important way, namely that D8 is naturally produced by the hemp plant; THCO is not. 

To be clear, as I have consistently argued, and which both the DEA and the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals have confirmed, D8 falls within the definition of “hemp” because it is a “derivative” as set forth in the 2018 Farm Bill. For this reason, many people assume that THCO also meets the definition of a hemp derivative since it is typically created from a starter cannabinoid. This is not correct. D8 is distinguishable from THCO because the hemp plant naturally produces D8; however, it does not produce THCO. From this perspective, and unlike D8, THCO is properly seen as synthetic THC, not “hemp”. For this reason, I have consistently advised clients not to create or distribute THCO. On a personal level, and based on a research letter published earlier this year in the Journal of Medical Toxicology, I routinely advise personal friends not to consume THCO due to the potentially serious medical consequences of vaping it.

Due to my concerns, I asked the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) for its opinion on THCO. In its response letter, below, it 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…. Thus, delta-9-THCO and delta-8-THCO meet the definition of “tetrahydrocannabinols,” and they (and products containing delta-9-THCO and delta-8-THCO) are controlled in schedule I by 21 U.S.C. § 812(c) Schedule I, and 21 CFR § 1308.11(d).

Although I do not always agree with the DEA’s view on cannabis matters, I agree with this opinion and, frankly, am not surprised. This is what I have been saying for a while. 


Go to Rod’s Site to read correspondence


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