Learn | 02.21.2023

Which Cannabinoids Are Legal In The United States?

The DEA now considers THC-O and synthesized Delta-8 THC federally illegal.

The US cannabis industry is about to see some big changes. Under the 2018 Farm Bill, hemp products containing equal to or less than 0.3% Delta-9 THC are federally legal. 

However, the industry has found ways to extract and/or synthesize psychoactive cannabinoids like Delta-8 THC, which fell under a legal grey area until recently.

Recent news from the DEA highlights the newly changed laws surrounding two novel cannabinoids that have become increasingly popular in the United States:

  • Delta-8 THC
  • THC-O

Now, these two cannabinoids are deemed federally legal (if synthesized). Read on for more information about the recent law change and which cannabinoids are still legal.

Recent News About Delta-8 THC & THC-O

In 2022, Attorney Rod Kight asked the DEA about the legality of Delta-8 THC and THC-O, and the agency recently replied with a letter stating their newly illegal status.

The DEA wrote that synthesized Delta-8 THC and THC-O are technically not legal hemp products, meaning they are now considered controlled substances. More specially, the chief of the DEA’s Drug & Chemical Evaluation Section, Terrence L. Boos, wrote that both cannabinoids “do not occur naturally in the cannabis plant and can only be obtained synthetically, and therefore do not fall under the definition of hemp.”

Although we can kiss THC-O products goodbye, there still might be hope for Delta-8 THC. The letter read that naturally-extracted Delta-8 THC from the hemp plant is not a controlled substance unless it’s synthesized.

See below for more cannabinoids that are still federally legal in the United States.

Delta-9 THC

As mentioned, the 2018 Farm Bill notes that hemp products containing equal to or less than 0.3% Delta-9 THC are federally legal. Thus, Delta-9 THC products are technically legal if they fall under this percentage on a dry weight basis.

There likely won’t be any negative changes surrounding this cannabinoid, meaning it probably won’t be criminalized again. Fingers crossed that the next news we hear about Delta-9 THC is its new legal status in larger amounts.

THCA, THC-H, THC-B, THC-P

Although THC-O just lost its federally legal status, the list of following potent psychoactive cannabinoids are still permitted:

  • THCA
  • THC-H
  • THC-B
  • THC-P

In that order, each cannabinoid gets increasingly stronger. For example, THC-P is roughly 30x stronger than Delta-9 THC. Oddly enough, THC-O is only 3x stronger than Delta-9 THC.

That’s because THC-P is extracted naturally from the hemp plant, whereas THC-O is only present in trace amounts, meaning it was normally synthesized. We now know that the DEA frowns on synthesizing cannabinoids, so the industry’s practices are about to change drastically.

CBD, CBC, CBG, & CBN

The following cannabinoids are non-psychoactive and are also federally legal:

  • CBD
  • CBC
  • CBG
  • CBN

These cannabinoids are always extracted from the hemp plant and never synthesized. They will remain legal.

HHC, HHC-O, HHC-P

Although products containing these cannabinoids are pretty potent and psychoactive, they’re still derived from the hemp plant and, thus, federally legal.

Unless there are other changes to the law about the extraction method of these cannabinoids, they will stay legal until further notice.

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