Atrocities of Recreational Cannabis in Non-Legalized States
Starting out in the cannabis industry via the black market, I respect creative hustles around the wrongful control of cannabis. But the reality of what consumers are smoking in non-legalized states is the modern equivalent of soylent greens. It's made of people! Ok, not really. But narrow-minded anti-cannabis laws in America have given way to abominations. The recently passed Farm Bill of 2018, prevents cannabis farms from growing plants over 0.3% THC. This specific regulation on THC left many loopholes for non-legalized states to open legal dispensaries and sell products featuring alternatives to THC.
Flying from Toronto to Tennessee, I was under the impression that dispensaries in zero-tolerance states were selling CBD and hemp products quietly. Excited to sample some delicious CBD-rich cultivars, my first stop was the closest dispensary. Surprisingly, what these shops had for sale were recreational products advertising "lesser cannabinoids" like THC-O, THC-P, and THC-V. I had heard about THC-O through social media and was curious to try it while simultaneously confused. How was it possible that in the decade I have worked in cannabis, I had never come across it until now? Curious, I legally purchased an eighth and began my unintentional dive into the horrors of synthetic cannabinoids in America.
Synthetic cannabinoids are non-naturally occurring cannabinoids derived from hemp plants. Unlike CBD or delta-9 THC, these are non-organic, manufactured chemical compounds produced in a laboratory. THC-O-acetate, commonly called THC-O, has a similar molecular structure to THC, though not regulated as a controlled substance in the 2018 Farm Bill. It is widely available as a THC alternative in cannabis dispensaries across non-legalized states. Popularized on social media and dubbed the Spiritual or Psychedelic Cannabinoid due to its highly intoxicating, partially psychedelic effects. THC-O is currently unregulated, and little is known scientifically about it.
To manufacture THC-O oil, CBD is extracted from legal hemp plants and refined into Delta-8, followed by a molecular process known as isomerization. Then the dangerous chemical Acetic anhydride, commonly used to create plastics and explosives, is added. This harsh solvent used to produce THC-O results in a crude oil described as similar to motor oil. It is odorless, flavorless, and not evidenced as safe for human consumption.
My lawfully purchased eighth of THC-O flower was probably legal hemp flower soaked in synthetic THC-O oil. It is not surprising this final product boasts an effect 3-5 times higher than naturally-derived THC. Looking closer at the flowers, they appeared leafy, dark in color, and somewhat greasy. The aroma was chemical, similar to melted plastic with slight citrus. I did try a few puffs. (When in America, right?) Likely, terpenes were added but not enough to cover the unpleasant flavor. The buzz was not psychedelic, but I wasn't trying to inhale it.
I am not surprised that this ridiculous attempt to legislate recreational cannabis has legalized wildly dangerous alternatives. With no research on the effects of THC-O and even less information on ingredients and manufacturing, these "lesser cannabinoids" appear to be better-marketed versions of K2, the synthetic weed called Spice. Spice was known to have similar effects to smoking cannabis and even looked like cannabis flower, but you could smoke it and still pass a drug test. It was popularized in America because of its availability in local head shops and convenience stores. However, its horrific side effects included extreme anxiety, seizures, vomiting, suicidal thoughts, violent behaviour, and hallucinations. In 2018, Spice made headlines as it may have caused over 100 overdoses in Connecticut; The same year the Farm Bill became law.
Synthetic cannabinoids are widely available in the US for any cannabis consumer to unsuspectingly purchase. Myself included. This loophole industry is thriving. Offering some of the only products available across non-legalized states, THC-O is marketed as the new legal alternative to naturally-grown cannabis containing THC. Thanks to the "Spice market", it is well-evidenced that synthetic cannabis affects the brain more powerfully than marijuana and is more dangerous than smoking actual cannabis.* However, there are currently no studies that specifically report the toxicity of new cannabinoids like THC-O. Had I been better informed these "lesser cannabinoids" were actually chemicals compliments of The Synthetic Cannabis Industry, I would have never bought it. Leaving the States and returning to Canada, I am grateful cannabis consumers here have recreational access to naturally-grown THC in a regulated industry. It's time to federally legalize in America, the alternatives are much worse.
REFERENCES & FURTHER READING