Is THC-O Legal in Hawaii?

Is THC-O Legal in Hawaii?

No. While there are no specific mentions of THC-O in Hawaii laws, the Delta-8 THC law in the state applies to THC-O because the compound is often derived from Delta-8 THC. Section 11-37(h)(12) of the Hawaii Hemp Processing and Hemp Products Rules state that it is illegal to sell, offer, or distribute a hemp product containing cannabinoids created through isomerization, including Delta-8 THC and Delta 10-THC.

Despite the illegal status of Delta-8 THC products in Hawaii, their continued availability in Hawaii stores has prompted lawmakers to take action. Representative Scot Matayoshi introduced HB 70 in 2023, following an attempt in 2022 that stalled in the Senate. This proposed legislation sought to criminalize the possession, sale, and manufacturing of Delta-8 THC, as well as hemp products containing it. However, the bill did not advance and is now inactive.

Concurrently, another bill, Senate Bill (SB) 669, aimed at legalizing marijuana, progressed to the House of Representatives. Despite not gaining approval in the 2023 session, SB 669 is slated for reconsideration in 2024. If successfully passed, it could potentially result in the inclusion of Delta-8 THC within the state’s legal marijuana program, subjecting it to more stringent regulatory measures.

What is THC-O?

THC-O is a synthetic cannabinoid distinct from other cannabis-derived products like CBD, CBG, and CBN. Unlike these counterparts, THC-O, also known as THC-O-acetate, does not occur naturally in the hemp plant, as it is typically created in the laboratory. The synthesis of THC-O involves the use of acetic anhydride, a highly flammable and colorless liquid commonly employed in the production of pharmaceuticals, plastics, and explosives. Due to the involved chemicals, specialized equipment is necessary for its production. The process starts with the extraction of Delta-8 THC from hemp. Subsequently, the combination of acetic anhydride with Delta-8 molecules results in the formation of THC-O.

While not much is known about the safety of THC-O use, there are rising concerns concerning certain methods of consuming the compound as the manufacturing process for THC-O products remains unregulated. A research publication in the Journal of Medical Toxicology suggests there are potential safety concerns about THC-O inhalation. The study reported that while THC-O is vaporized and inhaled, it may condense into acetic acid, a harmful substance, in the lungs.

THC-O users report using the compound to help relieve pain, reduce anxiety, and boost appetite. Commonly reported side effects of THC-O include dizziness, paranoia, sedation, vomiting, hallucinations, and seizures.

Public interest in THC-O keeps growing, with Hawaii cannabinoid stores selling THC-O products in the form of tinctures, gummies, oils, flower, wax dabs, and vape cartridges.

Is THC-O Legal Under Federal Law?

Until early 2023, THC-O was generally considered to exist in the same category as hemp following the legalization of hemp and hemp-derived products containing no more than 0.3% Delta-9 THC under the 2018 Agricultural Improvement Act.

However, in February 2023, the US Drug Enforcement Agency released a letter in response to an August 2022 inquiry by a North Carolina attorney about THC-O federal legal status, stating otherwise. In the letter, the DEA stated that THC-O (Delta-8 THC and Delta-9 THC) are not hemp but Schedule I Controlled Substances. The DEA differentiated between Delta 8 THC and Delta 9 THC, stating that small amounts of both compounds exist naturally in hemp, whereas THC-O does not.

While businesses are expected to operate in compliance with the new guidance from the DEA, it is still unclear whether this will be the last word on the legal status of Delta-8 THC-O and Delta-9 THC-O.

How Long Does THC-O Last in the Body?

While the effects of THC-O last a few hours after use, it can remain in the body for several months after use. The exact period over which the compound remains in the body differs from one individual to the other. However, some of the factors that can affect how long THC-O remains in the body include:

  • Metabolism: Metabolism is the rate at which the body breaks down substances. People with a faster metabolism tend to eliminate THC-O from their bodies more quickly than people with a slower metabolism
  • Frequency of use: If you use THC-O more frequently, your body will build up a tolerance to it. This means that you will need to take more THC-O to feel the same effects. However, it also means that THC-O will stay in your body for a longer period of time
  • Dosing amounts: The amount of THC-O that you take will also affect how long it stays in your body. Higher doses of THC-O will stay in your body for a longer period of time than lower doses
  • Dosing frequency: How often you take THC-O will also affect how long it stays in your body. Taking THC-O more frequently will make it more likely that THC-O will build up in your body and stay there for a longer period of time

Can You Fail a Drug Test From Using THC-O?

Yes. THC-O undergoes the same breakdown process in the liver as the more popular Delta-9 THC. THC-O is metabolized into 11-hydroxy-THC, the same metabolite created after the liver breaks down Delta-9 THC. Hence, with conventional drug tests only testing for THC and not specific THC compounds or isomers, a drug test will return positive if you use THC-O.

You can expect drug tests to detect THC metabolites in your body over the following periods:

  • Urine: 15 - 30 days, depending on the frequency of use
  • Blood: Up to 36 hours
  • Hair Follicle: Up to 90 days
  • Saliva: Up to 48 hours

THC-O vs Delta-8

Delta-8 THC is naturally found in the hemp plant but only in small quantities. Due to this occurrence in trace amounts, it is often created from CBD. THC-O is also converted from CBD. However, the CBD is first converted into Delta-8 THC before finally being converted into THC-O.

Both Delta-8 THC and THC-O exhibit psychoactive properties, albeit with variances in intensity. While both compounds may be used to offer relief from pain and inflammation, they can also induce the onset of anxiety and sedation. Overall, THC-O is generally considered 6-8 times more potent than Delta-8 THC.

THC-O vs Delta-9

Delta-9 THC is the primary psychoactive compound in cannabis and is associated with a "high" experience when marijuana is consumed. By contrast, THC-O does not occur naturally in cannabis and is synthesized through a chemical process involving acetic anhydride and isomerization of CBD derived from hemp. Its chemical structure involves an added acetyl group.

Delta-9 THC is commonly used for pain management, appetite stimulation, and alleviating nausea, while anecdotal reports suggest THC-O is also used for pain and inflammation management, pain reduction, and the stimulation of sleep and mental relaxation. While Delta-9 THC's effects are uplifting, THC-O is reported to produce more noticeable psychoactive effects.

THC-O is said to have a slower onset and a longer duration of effects than Delta-9 THC, potentially taking 30-60 minutes before its effects become noticeable. Common side effects of both compounds are red eyes, increased heart rates, dry mouth, paranoia, and anxiety. However, with THC-O reported to be at least 3 times more potent than Delta-9 THC, it is expected to induce stronger side effects than the more popular known Delta-9 THC.

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