Cannabis Science

What is THCO?

thco vape

THC comes in many forms. While delta-9 THC is the star of the show, delta-8 THC, THCA, and THCO exist and are worth learning about. Since we’ve already covered the rest in detail, today we’ll be discussing THCO. Here’s what you need to know. 

Photo: Unsplash

What is THCO? 

Maxine Fensom, founder and CEO of Las Vegas Cannabis Tours and Las Vegas Cannabis Weddings describes THCO as the “next frontier of cannabinoids”.

Is THCO Synthetic?

THCO is another word for THCO-acetetae which is a synthetic, psychoactive cannabinoid.

But how is it made? 

Nathan Sukhov, Manager at Rogue Origin tells us, “THC-O, or Tetrahydrocannabinol, is a semi-synthetic cannabinoid that is created to copy the effects of natural THC. THC-O and THC-O acetate are made by altering the structure of natural cannabinoids like THC or CBD,”

A key ingredient in this cannabinoid’s creation is acetic anhydride. 

Sukhov describes acetic anhydride as a strong-smelling and colorless liquid used to make plastics, dyes, perfumes, aspirin, and of course, THCO. 

Let’s get into the legality and effects of this cannabinoid. 

Is THCO Legal?

According to the DEA, since THCO is not a naturally occurring cannabinoid and fits in the category of “tetrahydrocannabinols”, it’s an illegal controlled substance. 

Does THCO Get You High?

Well, just like delta 9-THC, this cannabinoid can make you high.

However, it may give you a different high.

Fensom tells us, “THCO does have psychoactive properties like THC. However, many users report that the experience is somewhat milder and offers a cleaner, less foggy-headed sensation. As such, this cannabinoid tends to produce fewer side effects, such as anxiety and paranoia. This makes THCO a better option for those who find THC a bit intense but still want to benefit from its therapeutic effects.”

Stoners have reported similar effects with delta-8 THC too. 

THCO doesn’t just make you high, as Fensom mentions, there could be therapeutic effects too. 

It’s important to note that there is not much research available on this cannabinoid. Therefore, we don’t have a clear picture of its benefits, risks, or effects in general. 

However, this is what we found. 

Regarding the effects of THCO Sukhov says, “.. if you take THC-O you may experience psychological effects like euphoria, relaxation, increased appetite, and an altered perception.”

Addiction Center echoes similar sentiments. 

Addiction Center, THCO may be able to:

  • Boost appetite
  • Relieve pain
  • Reduce anxiety

However, there could be negative effects.

According to a 2023 study, heating THCO could cause ketene gas which is harmful to the lungs. This may especially be a concern when it comes to dabbing.

However, the study concluded that there are several factors in place when it comes to ketene gas formation, so more research is needed to properly assess the risk.

Addiction Center also said some stoners experienced vomiting, seizures, and paranoia.

Is THCO Strong?

It depends.

Sukhov says some users report their euphoria experienced can be 3 times higher than natural THC however, they also mentioned that studies show that the true experience is not as magnified.

Of course, your experience with weed or any of the cannabinoids is personal. Not everyone will experience weed the same.

For example, your tolerance can impact the strength of your high.

One Reddit user said, “In my personal experience it just seems to last overall longer but is less intense overall but I also use D9 daily and so that could play a role.”

Another said, “I’ve noticed it’s very strong as an edible. It does a bit more than D8 vaped, at least for me, but I mostly use it in blends with HHC-O, HHC, D8 and minor noids now.”

As you can see, there will be varying opinions on how strong THCO is.

Is THCO Safe?

There are conflicting opinions on whether or not THCO is safe. Part of the reason is that THCO is not well studied and documented.

Sukhov says that  THCO is safe and it was created legally in a laboratory and isn’t like other synthetic cannabinoids like Spice or K2. 

“THC-O comes from compounds found in the hemp flower plant: Delta 8 THC and Delta 9 THC. Because it cannot be created without the hemp flower plant compounds, THC-O falls in a gray area between natural hemp flower and synthetic cannabinoids.”

Besides the negative effects we mentioned earlier, Ann Torrez, executive director of the Arizona Dispensaries Association says that cannabinoid products such as THCO may not be well regulated which could pose a risk.

Torrez tells us, “Hemp-derived cannabinoids that are synthesized without stringent oversight and lab testing continue to proliferate the marketplace. Consumers may not understand that synthesized Delta 8,9, 10, HHC, and many others that are purchased from a smoke shop or online are not regulated in the same manner as what is extracted from the marijuana plant through a licensed producer in the regulated market. Many of these products are sold without product liability coverage and so the consumer is truly risking their very health by using them.”

However, if you want to try THCO, Torrez suggests shopping at regulated dispensaries in your state. 

Femson echoed similar sentiments and says to always buy from a trusted source especially since this is a newer compound and the market isn’t as regulated for less established cannabinoids. 

“Make sure to buy a high-quality product that’s been third-party tested for purity and potency.”

But if you don’t have regulated dispensaries? Well, if you’re in a state that without a regulated program Torrez suggests looking for a more holistic alternative to synthesized cannabinoids.

Additional Tips

Femson wanted to leave you with some pro tips about dosage. 

“Be cautious with dosages, because THCO is relatively – so, standardized dosing isn’t yet well-established. I always suggest starting low and gradually increasing.”

In addition, while you may be tempted to take more THCO to feel the effects, Femson cautions you not to.

“It is also important to know that it takes longer for the effects of THCO to kick in compared to THC, so don’t make the rookie mistake of taking more because you think it’s not working – Give it time.”


THCO is a synthetic psychoactive cannabinoid. It lacks research so we can’t properly assess all the benefits or risks. However, it appears to have similar effects to delta 9 THC including the euphoria and pain-relieving properties. If you do decide to try it, we recommend getting it from a reputable dispensary.


About Trevann

Trevann is Stoner Rotation’s Jamaica-based lead writer for the Science section of our cannabis blog. She graduated with honors receiving her Bachelor of Science degree in Molecular Biology from the University of West Indies, Mona. For the last three years, she has covered some of the biggest questions around cannabis and health underpinned with research from supporting studies, medical journals and scholarly articles. Got something on your mind? You can reach her at [email protected].