As chemists try to attain precise effects, cannabis has been modified into specified chemical structures. Some of these forms of THC, the main compound responsible for marijuana's intoxicating effects, aren't even produced naturally in the plant.
THC acetate ester (also known as THC-O-acetate and THC-O) is one of them. THC-O is reportedly much more potent than natural THC, and produces more sedating effects. It was identified by federal authorities decades ago as an illegal form of THC made in a lab; some say it's still not recognizable through standard drug-identifying procedures.
To learn more about THC-O, we caught up with Serge Chistov of Honest Marijuana Company, a Colorado-based company that is researching THC-O production and effects.
Westword: How is THC-O different from the THC most cannabis users are familiar with?
Serge Chistov: A lot of people want edibles that give people that daily THC experience, because that's why people smoke. I like the uplifting feeling of THC. I like how it makes me feel creatively, how it makes me go about my day, when I play sports, and things like that. But that's a predicament for edible consumers, because that is impossible to obtain [via ingestion]. You need either a nano-technology to skip your mouth and enter the bloodstream, or a suppository, which is less user-friendly.
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THC-O acetate is a prodrug of THC, [a biologically inactive compound metabolized by the body to produce a drug], so it will become THC once it enters your body. It's like faking the system while preserving the ingredients. The ceiling of this is quite unique and interesting, and can make some people feel almost psychedelic, and very spiritual in nature. Some people have said it reduces anxiety.
How are those effects different from the feelings already produced by natural THC and other cannabinoids?
Is there just one word for the description of "high"? Smoking and eating THC are two different types of high, just like [THC-O] has its own shade of high. I believe it's a completely different angle on the CBD receptors, and completely different chemical engagement with my body.
The first reports of THC-O were over fifty years ago, and some people researched it for black market purposes, because THC-O doesn't show up on drug identifying tests. The standards of drug tests would not identify it. It's much less detectable [to law enforcement]. It's also been used as an incapacitating agent of some kind, although I've never found it's been strong enough to incapacitate me.
THC, CBD, CBG — those are naturally occurring cannabinoids. Creating a new group of cannabinoids through modification of them is how you create THC-O. It's a pharmaceutical modification, so we can create a prodrug.
Would users test positive in a drug test for THC if they used THC-O?
Absolutely. The body would turn it into THC. But if law enforcement seized it, it would take something like a month for them to figure out what it is. There are very rare cases of law enforcement encountering it, and the first reported one I know of was in Jacksonville, Florida, of all places. [This reportedly happened in 1978.]
How is THC-O currently consumed?
Right now we have it in oil form, and it is vapable. We're making it with no cutting agents, it's clear, and tastes like a neutral CO2 oil. But there is a delayed effect, at anywhere from three to seven minutes. It's more a calming, mellow feeling, but still comes with an ability to jump up and go somewhere.
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How long do the effects last?
A standard dose and the onset and offset were no different than standard THC for me. It can be an elusive feeling, because it all depends on your state of mind and body chemistry. When you eat the same edible dose seven days in a row, none of those seven will be the same experience. THC-O isn't very different from that.
Right now, it's a stand-alone modification, and users have reported distinct feelings. People are reporting it as a sleeping and relaxing aid, which you can also get with standard THC. But twenty people have tested it, and we've heard around ten specific references throughout.
I've been consuming it myself for the last couple of months, so this is ready. We hope to include this in other products, like capsules, transdermals and other products we already put THC into.