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Cal NORML Warns of Potential THC-O Acetate Risk

There is a problem in vaping THC -O acetate. This new information should be of concern. Cal NORML, the California Branch of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, released a Jan. 9 warning regarding a study that showed a substantial risk for those who smoke products containing THC.

Published for the first time in Journal of Medical ToxicologyNeal L. Benovitz, an investigator led by Neal L. Benovitz discovered the link between THC and O acetate. This was significant for lung health. THC-O acetate shares structural similarities with vitamin-E acetate—an additive that becomes dangerous to the lungs when converted by heat.

According to the California Department of Public Health, the 2019-20 outbreak of EVALI lung disease sickened and hospitalized 249 Californians—five of them fatally. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that vitamin E acetate was the most likely cause of EVALI. Vitamin E Acetate is also known to produce carcinogens like alkenes when heated.

When heated in a vape pen, both substances—vitamin E acetate and THC-O Acetate—produce ketene, a “highly potent lung toxicant.”  

“We put out the press release specifically because of a study showing that vaporizing vitamin E acetate was similar to THC-O acetate,” Cal NORML Director Dale Gieringer told Chronic News.

 “Apparently when heated up, it produces a serious lung toxin called ketene.”

As cannabis consumers, we often have to filter through anti-cannabis hysteria, but certain risks hold weight when products aren’t regulated properly. Vaping hazards are usually caused by the addition of unvetted or random thickeners.

Gieringer added, “We have a lot of concerns about some of these other new cannabinoids that are being synthesized from hemp, which are brand new and never been tested in human subjects before. Some are touted as having a higher potency than THC. THC-O is advertised to be three times stronger than delta-9. THCP has a 30x binding power to the receptors of THC. We have a lot to be concerned about this kind of reaction. 

“These compounds have never been found in nature before—being made by fairly amateurish underground hemp chemists—raise a lot of concern.”

Gieringer added that delta-8 THC isn’t his primary concern, given there is slightly more known about the compound, but it’s contaminants and other new cannabinoids he’s most worried about, mostly due to the unknowns: THCP, THCjd. THC-H and THC-B. HHC. Delta-10 THC. 

Cal NORML has learned that the Ninth Circuit Court recently ruled in favor of legalizing sales of psychoactive cannabis derivatives.AK Futures v. Boyd Street Distro). That’s up for debate though, given that synthetic cannabinoids can be considered illegal under the Federal Analogue Act. 

According to the federal Farm Bill 2018, cannabis with less than 0.3% THC can be legally grown. Its products may also be sold nationwide, though the THC level often exceeds that limit.

California’s industrial hemp law, which is overseen by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), currently disallows the sale of hemp products with active cannabinoids other than CBD.

THC-O is acetate starts as CBD from hemp and then undergoes a chemical reaction. The mixture is made an acetate by adding acetic acidide to it. This goes beyond the way cannabinoids such as delta-8 THC and CBD are extracted from CBD.

THC-O is believed to be three times as potent as delta-9 THC—the naturally occurring cannabinoid most of us are used to.

“Cal NORML strongly advises consumers to avoid hemp products with psychoactive cannabinoids, especially novel ones stronger than THC, whose safety is particularly suspect. CBD products may be safely obtained from state-registered industrial hemp product manufacturers, whose products must be tested for safety and cannabinoid content,” the release reads. “Under state law, hemp products should have a batch number and a label, website, QR code or barcode linking to the laboratory test results that state the levels of cannabinoids, total THC, and presence of contaminants, as well as the address and phone number of the manufacturer. CDPH can report violations.

Cal NORML says that CBN and CBG are less commonly used cannabinoids but are safe enough for humans to use.