Delta-8 and -9 THCO are controlled substances

The legalization of hemp and the many interpretations of the 2018 Farm Bill led to the expeditious commercialization of products containing Tetrahydrocannabinol (THCO), a synthetic cannabis compound.

THCO, also known as THC-O-acetate, is a compound that is not derived from hemp and therefore not found naturally in the hemp plant. Delta-8 THC and delta-9 THC exist naturally in the hemp plant, while THCO does not. THCO is synthesized using acetic anhydride.

What is delta-8?

The confusion lies in the chemical makeup. Delta-8 and delta-9 can also be synthetically derived using THCO.

“Delta-8 THC is one of over 100 known cannabinoids, however unlike CBD or delta-9 THC, it naturally occurs at extremely low levels. Due to a similar atomic structure, delta-8 is an isomer of delta-9 THC, where the difference in structure can be seen at the location of the double bond in the carbon chain. Delta-8 THC found in the majority of products today is not extracted from the plant, but by transforming CBD (or delta-9 THC) into delta-8 THC through the addition of non-polar organic solvents and acids,” Marielle Weintraub, US Hemp Authority President, explained in 2021.

Because most delta-8 and delta-9 are synthetically derived and contain THCO, the majority of the products on the market are likely considered controlled substances.

Delta-8 blurs the line

When interpreting the legal status of delta-8, many thought it fit in a legal gray area or loophole. The confusion surrounding the legality of Delta-8 led NutraIngredients-USA to reach out to DEA to inquire about the status in June 2021. At that time, DEA wasn’t even sure where the compound legally stood.

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