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DEA States That Delta-8 THC-O and THC-O Are Controlled Substances

By Leo Bear-McGuinness

Published: Feb 14, 2023    Last Updated: Apr 14, 2023
A vial of cannabis oil near some buds.

Image credit: iStock

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The US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) considers the THC variants THC-O-acetate and delta-8 THC-O to be controlled substances, according to a private letter.

The clarification was made to the lawyer Rod Kight, who wrote to the DEA in August 2022, asking for the administration’s stance on the popular THC compounds.

In a letter received on February 13, the DEA informed Mr Kight that as delta-8 THC-O and THC-O “do not occur naturally in the cannabis plant and can only be obtained synthetically” they thus don’t fall under the legal definition of hemp. As such, there are considered controlled substances under Schedule 1 of the US’s Controlled Substance Act.

Delta-8 THC-O and THC-O can both be derived from hemp. So, when hemp was federally legalized in the US in December 2018, some producers inferred that delta-8 THC-O and THC-O were therefore federally legal, too.

But the update from the DEA disproves this interpretation.

“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 1 by 21 U.S.C.,” the letter from the DEA reads.

The clarification will be welcomed by those in the cannabis industry that have become concerned about the rising use of THC-O. In a recent research letter, some researchers found that, when vaped, THC-O can break down to form ketene, a highly potent lung toxicant.

*A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the DEA viewed delta-8 THC (not delta-8 THC-O) as a controlled substance. The article was amended on February 16, 2023, to rectify this error.


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