January 25, 2023


What are the main differences between THC-O and THCP? In this post, we explain what each compound is, what its basic effects are, and compare them to other hemp plant cannabinoids. We also cover safety, legality, and where to buy these new cannabinoids.

What are THC-O and THC-P?

THC acetate ester (THC-O acetate or just THC-O) and tetrahydrocannabiphorol (THCP) are both analogs of delta-9 THC molecule found in the Cannabis sativa plant. Each one is perhaps best for seasoned cannabis users since they are stronger than the classic delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) you’re used to.

THC-O and THCP are both derived from the class of “tetrahydrocannabinols.” This group of compounds includes different versions of THC, such as delta-7, delta-8, delta-9, delta-10 THC, HHC, and THCV. However, THC-O and THCP are not the same.

THC-O is a semi-synthetic cannabinoid and a prodrug which means it becomes active only after metabolization. It doesn’t naturally occur in cannabis plants. Manufacturers typically synthesize THC-O concentrates in laboratories from tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA). THC-O produces a deep sense of euphoria and in large doses can induce hallucinogenic effects.

In contrast, THCP is present in certain cannabis strains as a cannabinoid synthesized in nature. Although THC-P occurs in cannabis strains at high levels, it is actually active already before it enters the body. While it doesn’t cause hallucinations, the chemical structure of THCP produces stronger psychedelic effects than THC-O thanks to its longer alkyl side-chain.

How do THC-O and THC-P compare head to head? THCP is stronger than THC-O—about 200% more potent. Of course, THC-O is still three times stronger than regular THC, and in high doses it can induce hallucinations. For this reason, some use THC-O as a spiritual experience.

Remember, none of these cannabinoids is for beginners. Expect that the side effects of THC-O and THCP will be a lot like THC—and then some. If you are new to derivatives and analogs we recommend trying delta-8 THC first.

The colorless, highly flammable chemical compound acetic anhydride is used to synthesize THC-O. It is typically used in making dyes, explosives, fibers, pharmaceuticals, and plastics.

How Were THC-O and THCP Discovered?

The US Army discovered THC-O during the Edgewood Arsenal Experiment in the 1940s on dogs. THCP was discovered much later, by the Italian military, in 2019, who also discovered CBDP, an analog of cannabidiol (better known as CBD).

How Do THC-O and THCP Work?

THC-O and THCP interact with CB1 receptors in the brain and central nervous system. These receptors are part of the endocannabinoid system (ECS), a vast neurochemical network.

The ECS regulates core bodily functions, including appetite, body temperature, fear perception, fertility, immune responses, memory, mood, pain, sleep, etc. The CB1 receptor mediates the euphoric high, also provides health benefits, including anti-inflammation, neuroprotection, pain relief, physical and mental relaxation, and sleep improvements.

Does THC-O Get You Higher than Naturally Occurring Cannabinoids?

No, it’s just the opposite. Although THC-O is 300% stronger than delta-9 THC, THCP is 2x stronger than THC-O, about ten times stronger than delta-9 THC and 15 times stronger than delta-8 THC.

An alkyl side chain, also called the main or primary chain or backbone, is a string of carbon atoms that influence how the body’s cannabinoid receptors and cannabinoids interact. The length of the alkyl side chain of THCP is at the root of its extreme potency. For perspective, THC-O has an alkyl side chain with five-links, while THCP has an alkyl side chain with seven-links. Thus, THCP has the most binding ability with these receptors, and is the strongest THC analog.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that THCP creates similar effects as delta-9, plus additional mental and physical effects. However, even in high doses, THCP doesn’t cause hallucinations, unlike THC-O.

The onset and type of effects depend on the product type:

  • Vape carts. Vape liquids are infused with THC-O and sometimes terpenes to create THCP distillate vapes and other inhalables. The effects start within minutes and last for up to 4 hours.
  • Tinctures. Oils and tinctures offer high bioavailability and a rapid onset of effects—usually users feel the effects of THCP or THC-O within 30 minutes.
  • Edibles. Edibles like THC-O gummies are ingested orally, which causes the cannabinoids to take longer before they start showing effects—usually between 30–90 minutes, depending on metabolism and whether they were consumed with or without food. Edibles also sometimes produce more powerful effects that last longer than other forms of THC.

THC-O vs. THCP: Are They Legal?

The legal status of any cannabinoids, including THC-O and THCP, can be confusing.

The Controlled Substances Act (CSA) only touches on delta-9 THC, and doesn’t specify these cannabinoids. However, parts of the Federal Analogue Act (FAA) do cover THC analogs, which means that without further action all THC isomers would be scheduled substances.

However, the 2018 Farm Bill made hemp-derived cannabinoids legal, including THC analogs. The bill specifies that all hemp products are legal so long as they are derived from hemp plants that have < 0.3% delta-9 THC.

This made hemp-derived cannabinoids such as THCP, THC-O, HHC, and delta-8 THC legal across the US federally. Specific states have banned products containing these compounds or imposed 0.3% limits on all THC variants.

It is worth noting that the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has not clearly defined “synthetic” in its regulations, but may be working to create a rule limiting the use of cannabinoids such as THC-O and THC-P. This would be based on the fact that THC-O is produced in a laboratory; according to a 2017 DEA Resource Guide, if they are made in a laboratory, “synthetic cannabinoids are not organic.” If the DEA clarifies its definition of synthetic, it may also move to define hemp-derived THC-O as a controlled substance.

What About Marijuana-Derived THC-O and THCP?

Marijuana-derived cannabinoids, including THC-O and THCP, are all illegal federally under the Controlled Substances Act. The law prohibits all products derived from cannabis plants with delta-9 THC levels that exceed 0.3% by dry weight. This makes it illegal to grow, manufacture, package, distribute, sell, possess, buy, import, and transport cannabis products under federal law.

However, marijuana laws also differ from state to state. Check your local and state laws to ensure hemp-derived cannabinoids like delta-8 THC, THC-P, and THC-O are legal where you live.

Are THCP and THC-O Safe?

Both THC-O and THCP can be attractive low-dose options if you want something other than delta-9 THC. But since manufacturers must extract usable amounts of THC-O and THCP from cannabis, you need to ensure your THCP and THC-O products are free from contaminants. Always check the certificate of analysis (CoA), and only buy from trusted vendors.

How Do All of the Cannabinoids Compare?

Wondering how THC-O and THCP compare to other popular and legal hemp-derived cannabinoids?

THC-O and THCP create greater psychoactive effects than the cannabinoid hexahydrocannabinol (HHC) which occurs in nature and has a similar strength to delta-9 THC. THCP is about 10 times stronger than HHC, while THC-O is about 5 times stronger. For a more familiar frame of reference, HHC is about 80% as potent as delta-9 THC. HHC is known for its soothing, relaxing effects, particularly when combined with CBD.

Both THCP and THC-O are stronger than delta-8. THCP is 15x stronger than delta-8, while THC-O is approximately 5x more powerful.

At any dose, delta-8 offers a relaxing high and mild psychoactive effects. For first time users, delta-8 THC is often the smartest analog, especially for anyone who might be sensitive to the effects of delta-9 THC.

While you can mix THC-O and THCP with alcohol, we don’t recommend doing it. Alcohol, especially binging on it, can worsen the side effects of any kind of THC.

CBD is found in much larger concentrations in cannabis than either THCP or THC-O, and neither of them share many characteristics with CBD. CBD doesn’t interact with CB1 receptors and so cannot produce intoxicating effects.

Similar to CBD, other cannabinoids that occur in nature but don’t interact with CB1 receptors such as CBG are not intoxicating but may be relaxing and have little in common with either THC-O or THC-P. THCP and THC-O both induce a euphoric high and may cause users to fail a drug test.

Where to Buy THC-O and THCP Products

Because hemp-derived cannabinoids are federally legal, you might be tempted to visit a nearby head shop or vape store and see if they stock THC-O and THCP products. Certainly a dispensary is a better choice, because at least you know more of what you’re getting. But it’s expensive and limits your choices for sure.

You will find the most high-quality THC-O and THCP products online. That’s the easiest way to maximize your selection and verify quality. Like any natural product or supplement, hemp products are not regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), so the ability to shop with reputable vendors that offer testing results is key. Reading the COA shows you the levels of cannabinoids and ensures your products are free of trace amounts of solvents and other contaminants.

Finally, when you shop online to buy THC-O and THCP you can compare different flavors, formulas, prices, and potencies right from home, anytime. It feels pretty amazing to get your gummies or vape cartridges right to your door!

Final Thoughts on THC-O vs THCP

THC-O and THCP are still really new, and there’s a lot to learn about them both. When you shop online for THC-O and THCP products from trusted vendors who post third party lab testing results, you know just what you’re getting! You also have a confident, convenient experience.

Learn more about THC-O and THC-P here.