THC-O (also known as THC-O acetate, THC acetate, and ATHC) is a synthetic – a.k.a. man-made – cannabinoid manufactured from hemp.
As Leafly explains:
To generate [THC-O], a highly-flammable compound called acetic anhydride is added to THC molecules. The process involves a series of extractions that begin with hemp, the low-THC cannabis plant that was made federally legal by Congress in the 2018 Farm Bill. First, CBD is extracted from raw hemp. Then delta-8 THC is extracted from the CBD. Finally, acetic anhydride is added to the delta-8 THC molecules to make THC-O acetate.
Any description of THC-O is inevitably followed by the warning: Don’t try this at home! In an aptly titled interview – THC-O Acetate Q&A with Dr. Ethan Russo: ‘Don’t Go There’ – renowned cannabis researcher Dr. Ethan Russo stresses:
The process of making THC-O acetate is inherently dangerous. The acetic anhydride that’s part of the process is extremely flammable and potentially explosive. This is something that’s got to be done in a technical lab with a vacuum hood [and] no exposure to humans.
The Honest Marijuana Co. drives the point home:
ATHC [THC-O] can only be produced in a laboratory environment. You can’t pick up a few tools at your local hardware and whip a batch of ATHC in your kitchen. The results would be disastrous (that means flaming death, boys and girls).
But if THC-O is so dangerous to make, why is it gaining popularity?