DEA Says Delta-8 and Delta-9 THCOA (aka THCO) Falls Under Controlled Substances Act, not Farm Bill

DEA Says Delta-8 and Delta-9 THCOA (aka THCO) Falls Under Controlled Substances Act, not Farm Bill

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) recently issued a statement on the federal legality of Delta-8 and Delta-9 Tetrahydrocannabinol Acetate (THCOA). Although the Farm Bill specifies that hemp-derived products with a Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) level below 0.3% are federally legal in US states, THCOA is not covered under this umbrella of protection according to DEA's interpretation.

Manufacturers who produce THCOA products may be confused and concerned about the determination and wonder how this could affect their businesses moving forward. Consumers looking for access to this potent, novel cannabinoid may wonder if they can still legally purchase it.

This post will discuss THCOA's place within hemp industry regulations and recent news about THCA vape safety concerns.


DEA’s Opinion on THCOA Legality (also known as THC-O)

The DEA recently responded to cannabis attorney, Rod Kight, who first asked the organization about delta-8 THC-O and delta-9 THC-O legality last year.

According to the DEA's interpretation of the law, THCOA doesn’t fall within the Farm Bill's definition of hemp because hemp plants don’t naturally produce the cannabinoid. As a result, THCOA falls under the DEA’s Controlled Substances Act definitions. 

The DEA’s response letter to Rod Kight reiterated that all tetrahydrocannabinols (THC) are schedule 1 controlled substances and that tetrahydrocannabinols comprise THC compounds that occur naturally or synthetically, including isomers and derivatives. 

The DEA further explained:

“Delta-9-THCO and delta-8-THCO are tetrahydrocannabinols having similar chemical structures and pharmacological activities to those contained in the cannabis plant. Thus, delta-9-THCO and delta-8-THCO meet the definition of “tetrahydrocannabinols,” and they (and products containing delta-9-THCO and delta-8- THCO) are controlled in schedule I by 21 U.S.C. § 812(c) Schedule I, and 21 CFR § 1308.11(d).”

For good measure, the DEA has also provided the Controlled Substances Code Number (CSCN) for tetrahydrocannabinols, 7370.

What Now?

The latest statement from DEA clarifies its belief that Delta-9 THCO and Delta-8 THCO are controlled substances,

Products containing THCOA could be subject to federal regulation under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). Still, most experts believe the industry will continue operating under the status quo. 

An MJBizDaily article indicated that the DEA “lacks the capacity or interest” to enforce the Controlled Substances Act and likely won’t penalize brands selling THC acetate products. However, states may start issuing bans similar to laws enacted against Delta-8 THC products

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What Does This Mean For Other Exotic Cannabinoids?  

This ruling may seem like a blow to the hemp industry, but not much has changed in reality. For starters, the DEA’s response letter did not change its stance on hemp or CBD products containing less than 0.3% Delta-9 THC—which means Delta-8 and Delta-10 products remain federally legal. The more significant issue is consumer protection.

As interest in Delta-8 and 9 THCOA grows, so do concerns about its safety profile—especially regarding vaping products made with THCOA oil (aka “THCOA vapes”). 

​​What About THCOA Safety? 

Recently, The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) branch in California, Cal NORML, published an alarming study on THCO-acetate vape products

The study found that THC-O acetate, a chemical in THCOA vapes, increases lung damage risks when inhaled. THC-O acetate shares similar structural qualities to vitamin E acetate, an additive known to become toxic when converted by heat. 

The research conducted in this study suggests that THC-O acetate could be converted in the lungs and pose a significant health risk to people using these products. The potential health complication of THC-O vapes is a grim reminder that the hemp industry needs consistent regulations and safety testing standards.

Bottom Line

The DEA's recent statement on Delta-8 and 9 THCO seems scary. Fortunately, it doesn't mean that all hope is lost for consumers looking to access high-quality cannabinoid products derived from legal hemp sources. 

Still, it’s essential to remember that THCO vape safety concerns are real. Consumers must educate themselves on the latest research and purchase from reputable hemp brands that test for safety and potency with DEA-certified laboratories like ACS.