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Is THC-O Safe to Smoke, Vape Or Dab?

thc-o-acetate safe smoke
Written by Sarah Friedman
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There are tons of great cannabis compounds entering the unregulated market in America. While having options is a good thing, it’s important to make sure that the products being sold, will be safe for consumers. THC-O-Acetate is gaining prominence in the world of cannabis, but is it safe to smoke?

It’s hard to say if cannabis compound THC-O-Acetate is safe to smoke or not, and interested parties should be cautious. Luckily, there are plenty of other cannabis compounds that don’t pose any risk, like delta-8 THC. This alternate form of THC has less psychoactive effect, and doesn’t produce the same kind of couch locking and anxiety as delta-9. This makes it beneficial for many users. Check out our array of delta 10, THCV & delta-8 THC deals, and try out this newfangled version of cannabis.

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What is THC-O-Acetate?

THC-O-Acetate is a compound of the cannabis plant, which is an acetate ester of delta-9 THC, the standard THC associated with the cannabis plant and psychoactive effects. This term ‘acetate ester’ is very important when it comes to safety, but we’ll get to why a little later. For our purposes now, in understanding what this compound is, an acetate ester is a product of a form of decarboxylation called LTA decarboxylation. We already know decarboxylation means losing a carboxyl group, but this can happen in different ways.

For example, we are most familiar with decarboxylation as it pertains to THCA becoming delta-9 THC. And we know this is done through the application of heat, or through time. A different form is LTA decarboxylation, and this involves the use of lead tetraacetate, a very toxic compound. This compound promotes oxidation, and creates oxidative decarboxylation. One of the byproducts of this decarb, is an acetate ester. Since getting to this ester requires the use of lead tetraacetate, THC-O-Acetate can be considered both a synthetic and an analogue of delta-9. THC-O-Acetate requires delta-9 or THCA for synthetization, and does not appear in nature on its own.

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While plenty is known about the compound, the military unfortunately holds all this information, and the best we have are a few statements made about it, and some general facts. It is said that THC-O-Acetate is 2-3 times stronger than standard delta-9 THC, that it has psychedelic properties which take about a half hour to kick in, and that it has enjoyed some success as an illegal street drug throughout the years, which is also important to the question of its safety. Overall, the story of THC-O-Acetate is a strange one, and for this reason, we know less about how safe it is to smoke, than other compounds.

Is THC-O-Acetate safe to smoke?

This is an interesting question for a couple of reasons. The first was mentioned earlier – this compound is one of the only analogues of THC which has enjoyed success as a street drug. How it made it there is hard to say, but my guess is the military was running double duty, testing the compound in a facility, as well as on the street.

After all, no one knew anything about it, and it seemed to appear during the time of testing. We know there is evidence that the military was responsible for releasing LSD in gas form in New York City subways, so it makes sense that at the same time they would release a form of THC-O-Acetate via the street, although this was well before vapes, so it was likely being taken in a different way.

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The problem with knowing how the smokable form of this affected people, is that if someone was keeping tabs on it, it was the military. Granted, there was no noticeable death toll, but if this was a military experiment, who’s to say we’d know if there was one? On the other hand, if it has been continually used without major incident, then this might give credence to the idea that THC-O-Acetate is safe to smoke, so long as that was the mode of ingestion.

But there’s a problem. Remember vitamin-E-Acetate and the whole idea that it was causing deaths and injury related to vaping? The first thing to understand about this ‘outbreak’ is that it really didn’t affect many people. Even according to the CDC (the organization crying about an outbreak of lung injury cases), the extent of this was a total of 2,807 hospitalizations and 68 deaths from the beginning of vaping (early 2000’s), all the way until February 2020. The idea that this would be considered anything at all in comparison to the 480,000 yearly deaths (also put out by the CDC) that arise from smoking actual cigarettes, kills the idea that a real problem exists.

Any issue that there has been with vape products, has only to do with additives, not with the cannabis compounds themselves. Vitamin-E-Acetate has been fingered as a possible culprit in all this, as a thickening additive that was used for vape cartridges.

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The reason vitamin-E-Acetate has been looked at in conjunction with these injuries, has to do with the fact that when it is heated (vaped), that it creates compounds called aryl-acetates which might produce something called ketene, a highly toxic compound which is known to cause lung damage in small amounts, and possible death in larger amounts. It is posited by scientists that it might not be vitamin-E-Acetate alone that causes this damage, and might be a result of numerous compounds, and how they react under the heat of a vape.

What the doc says about THC-O-Acetate and if it’s safe to smoke?

We were lucky enough to get some high-level advice on this one. As it happened, Kristopher Wesolowski of 42nd Latitude, was good enough to post information for public consumption, as a result of conversations he had with Jeffrey C. Raber, Ph.D. Unlike a lot of companies that just want to put out the next gimmick, 42nd Latitude asked some important questions, and relayed the following information. The company offers the conversation for anyone interested – which we were at my company. Other interested parties can contact Kristopher through 42nd’s Facebook page if they would like to see the correspondence I am now referencing. Essentially, Dr. Raber backed up that THC-O-Acetate could cause the same problem as vitamin-E-Acetate, saying:

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“In short, yes, D8-THC-OAc would be subjected to the same thermal degradation pathway that would generate ketene. To what extent is very hard to predict, and surely to be hardware dependent.

Wu and O’Shea even conclude: ‘In closing, it is important to note that it is most likely that other aryl O-acetates would eliminate ketene in a similar manner to the two substrates investigated in this article.’

So yes, D8-THC-OAc and other THC-Acetates would be subject to this concern. It is quite likely ketene is the major culprit, but ATA by itself may also have exacerbated the problem too, it’s very hard to say at this point. Best to be safe and not utilize any inhalation devices with any THC-acetates at this point until further definitive studies can be done to better understand the potential risks posed by their use in this fashion.”

You can see, the doctor references the study attached in the previous section. Once again, interested parties who want to see where this conversation came from, can directly contact Kristopher Wesolowski of 42nd Latitude for a copy, as it took place over Gmail. He will gladly send it, as he did for us. (Thank you Kristopher and Dr. Raber.)

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This, in fact, brings up the question of whether some of the deaths and injuries suffered from vape cartridges, might have even been directly related to the THC-O-Acetate black market. This is supposition at best for now. It also doesn’t rule out that THC-O-Acetate can be perfectly safe, so long as it isn’t heated to high levels. In this case, simply taking it as an oil, would alleviate the problem caused by vaping.

So, where did this strange compound come from?

Remember how I said the military holds all information on this compound? Apparently, from 1949-1974, the military conducted secret testing called the Edgewood Arsenal Experiments. We know that THC-O-Acetate was one of the compounds studied at the Edgewood Arsenal facility in Maryland. Experiments were run by the US Army Chemical Corps, with the reason given to assess chemical warfare agents in lower doses to see how they affect people, as well as testing protective clothing, vaccines, and other drugs.

The idea of psychochemical warfare was big at this time, and compounds were studied under the ‘Medical Research Volunteer Program’, which since that time, has been exposed as having been less about volunteering, and more about forced participation with the threat of military prison, or direct shipment to Vietnam.

These particular experiments – conducted between 1956-1975 looked at non-lethal methods to incapacitate a person, in which THC-O-Acetate was studied, alongside other drugs like benzodiazepines and LSD. We know that THC-O-Acetate was discovered sometime in the time period of all this testing, but no exact date can be pinned down.

The first we ever heard about it, came from a ‘Dr. Gold’ in 1974, in an article that included instructions for synthetization, where he used the term ‘THC-O-Acetate’. If the whole thing sounds extremely dicey, it was. In 1975 the experiments were cut off, and test subjects removed from the testing facility. The program director, Dr. Van Murray Sim, was called before Congress, and eviscerated by law-makers. Of course, this didn’t really do much.

The military investigated the situation and decided there were no abuses made, which is silly considering the military ran the experiments, and going to the abuser to find evidence of abuse, is generally not a practical thing to do. To give an idea of how little the army cared, at no point had providing follow-up care to participants been a part of experimentation, meaning the army literally didn’t care what happened to the soldiers who were test subjects. The idea that no one was hurt is insane of course, especially considering that compounds like tear gas, sarin gas, and the deadly BZ were studied.

Is THC-O Safe? Conclusion

The question of whether THC-O-Acetate is safe to smoke or not, is a tough one. It seems to have had a presence for several decades which implies it might be okay, since we haven’t seen a story specifically surrounding it, and injury.

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On the other hand, it is an acetate ester, that might therefore act like the other acetate ester we’re already concerned about – vitamin-E-Acetate. If vitamin-E-Acetate truly does cause ketene to be released at vaporization temperatures, then it could realistically be expected that THC-O-Acetate could do the same. If you want to try this compound, best not to vape it. Try THC-O tinctures instead.

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DisclaimerHi, I’m a researcher and writer. I’m not a doctor, lawyer, or businessperson. All information in my articles is sourced and referenced, and all opinions stated are mine. I am not giving anyone advise, and though I am more than happy to discuss topics, should someone have a further question or concern, they should seek guidance from a relevant professional.

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About the author

Sarah Friedman

I am a US born writer, travelling the world and doing the digital nomad thing.

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