THC acetate ester (THCO) is considered a controlled substance by the DEA but delta-8 THC derived from hemp is not considered a controlled substance.
In response to an inquiry from international cannabis attorney Rod Kight about the control status under the Controlled Substances Act of THC acetate ester (THCO), the Drug Enforcement Agency has confirmed that delta-9-THCO and delta-8-THCO are schedule I. According to the agency, delta-9-THCO and delta-8-THCO are not naturally occurring in the cannabis plant and can only be derived synthetically. For this reason, they do not fall under the definition of hemp and are instead classified as tetrahydrocannabinols, which DEA defines as “naturally contained in the plant of the genus Cannabis, as well as synthetic equivalents of the substances contained in the cannabis plant and/or synthetic substances, derivatives, and their isomers with similar chemical structure and pharmacological activity to those substances contained in the plant.”
In the letter to Kight, Terrence L. Boos, PhD, chief of the drug and chemical evaluation section diversion control division of DEA, explained that delta-9-THCO and delta-8-THCO are tetrahydrocannabinols because they have similar structures and pharmacological activities to those contained in the cannabis plant.
Providing more context in a blog post, Kight explains that THCO should not be equated with delta-8 THC. Both the DEA and the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals have stated that delta-8 THC is not a controlled substance as long as it is derived from hemp. In letter to Donna C. Yeatman, RPh, executive secretary for the Alabama Board of Pharmacy, Boos explained that delta-8 THC synthetically produced from non-cannabis materials is controlled under CSA as a tetrahydrocannabinol, but CSA excludes from control tetrahydrocannabinolds in hemp. While delta-8 THC is a derivative of hemp and therefore not controlled because of the 2018 Farm Bill, THCO is not naturally occurring in hemp.