Defamation, Misinformation, and Shooting the Messenger- A THCO Story

Defamation, Misinformation, and Shooting the Messenger- A THCO Story

On February 13, I posted an article about the DEA’s response to my inquiry regarding the legal status of THCO. As my readers are aware, the DEA stated that THCO is a schedule 1 controlled substance. The DEA’s position, which was spread via my article, created what several people have called a “shitstorm”. For several days afterwards, I was contacted by both cannabis and non-cannabis mainstream media. My phone rang constantly, and my email inbox filled up with questions and requests for comments about THCO from people all over the US and also from several continents. Frankly, I was surprised at the public response to the DEA’s position and my article.

Then three things happened.

First, many people and numerous media organizations misread (or did not read) my article and pronounced in bold and inaccurate headlines that the DEA said delta-8 THC is illegal. (The DEA’s position is actually the opposite, as I discuss in an article you can read by clicking here.) Several clients who manufacture and distribute delta-8 THC products told me that their phones were ringing constantly with distressed customers asking about what they should do now that “delta-8 THC is illegal”. Once misinformation is spread, it is difficult to undo the damage. I attempted to clarify things in an article I posted on February 18. In a continued effort to staunch the flow of misinformation, I want to be very clear:

The DEA letter to me was solely about THCO, specifically delta-8 THCO and delta-9 THCO. It did not in any way address delta-8 THC or any other compound. The legal status of delta-8 THC was not impacted in any way by the DEA’s letter, except to the extent that its lawful status as “hemp” was reinforced, an issue that I discussed in the article referenced above.

Second, I began hearing that people were angry with me, even though I was only the messenger. To be clear, I anticipated the DEA’s position and do not dispute it. As the author of the “derivatives” argument that provided the legal foundation for delta-8 THC, I found myself in the surreal position of having people use my argument against me in an attempt to justify why the DEA and I are both wrong. I discussed this in detail with I said that I would be “laughed out of court” if I argued to a Judge that a synthetic compound that the hemp plant does not produce, and in fact can only be produced in a lab, meets the legal definition of “hemp” under the 2018 Farm Bill. (“Mr. Kight, so you’re trying to convince me that this synthetic, lab-produced compound is “hemp” when the hemp plant does not even produce it? Are you kidding me?”)

Regardless of one’s personal views on THCO, the fact is that it is indefensible as “hemp”, derivative or not. My primary goal is to support the hemp industry, and this simply is not possible when legal arguments, including the very ones I created, are stretched to their breaking point in an attempt to justify the legal status of a synthetic compound that is plainly not “hemp”. I do not want my clients to spend decades in jail for selling a controlled substance, nor do I want the entire hemp industry as we know it to be placed on the Congressional chopping block because some people end up harmed, or even dying, due to their inhalation of a product that is sold as “hemp”.  

Third, the anger at me for publishing the DEA’s position and for having the audacity to agree with it, morphed into something sinister: flagrant defamation. Yesterday, a good client forwarded me an email by a sales representative for a hemp company I do not represent. This woman, whose name I am intentionally not publishing to protect her privacy, sent out 65 emails to the company’s customers, most of whom are retail outlets throughout the US, making some ridiculous and wholly untruthful allegations about me. Her email, followed by her apology and retraction, is below. Those retail outlets then proceeded to forward the libelous email to their contacts in the hemp industry. (I should note that the President of the company called and informed me that this email did not represent the position of the company.) Based on this wildfire of defamation, I am now in the position of having to post a blog article to deny the allegations. So, here it goes:

  • My article about THCO was not “a misleading ulterior motive piece.” My purpose for contacting the DEA about THCO was twofold. First, I had a concern about the rising popularity of THCO and was worried that hemp industry participants who sold it would end up in jail. I wanted to know the DEA’s position from the “horse’s mouth”, so to speak. Second, a client wanted to ship THCO to Europe. Rather than learn the DEA’s position after seizing my client’s shipment before it left the US, or while he was behind bars, I decided it was best to know the DEA’s position before he took any action. I’m glad I did.


  • I am not “a marijuana Lobbyist who has scammed people within the hemp industry to think THCA is legal so [my] marijuana growers can make money on a dying marijuana market.” I am not a lobbyist. I am not a marijuana lobbyist. I have not scammed anyone, and certainly not people in the hemp industry. I have no motives whatsoever in advising clients that THCa hemp flower is lawful under federal law except to advise them that it is lawful and also to help expand their businesses and the hemp industry in general. In fact, I routinely speak out publicly against Big Corporate Marijuana and its negative effects on the cannabis and hemp industry.


  • I am not “being sued by many people for misleading them on THCA so [I’m] trying to spin and deflect.” I am not being sued by anyone, nor have I misled anyone about THCa hemp flower, nor am I trying to spin or deflect anything. My article about the DEA’s position on THCO was simply another news/legal analysis article of the type that I have been writing for the past eight years.


As I write this, my office manager (who is also my wife) is literally fielding a call from an angry person who called out of the blue and who is screaming at her about THCO and that I am “working with the government”. So, I guess I should also address that, too. I do not work for the government. In fact, I have sued the government (specifically, the DEA) in several lawsuits and usually disagree publicly with the DEA.

I am a cannabis advocate. I changed my career after personally experiencing the enormous medical and health benefits that cannabis provides when I had cancer. I represent hundreds of hemp businesses and spend a lot of time, both paid and pro bono, working to promote and expand the hemp industry. It is thus frustrating, maddening, and demoralizing to be defamed and made subject to angry and misinformed calls, emails, and disinformation campaigns in response to my publication of a letter from the DEA regarding an important issue for the hemp industry that I diligently work to protect.

Thank you for taking the time to read this article, which I regret having to post in the first place. I continue to work hard for the cannabis industry, and in particular, the hemp industry. Please feel free to contact me directly if you have any questions or need assistance.

Below is the libelous email and the apology/retraction. I hope that if you receive similar emails and/or hear similar things being said about me, you will refute them and even reach out to let me know. This type of thing wastes time and impedes my ability to focus on working for clients and the industry at large.

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February 21, 2023

Rod Kight, Cannabis industry attorney

Rod Kight is an international cannabis lawyer. He represents businesses throughout the cannabis industry. Additionally, Rod speaks at cannabis conferences, drafts and presents legislation to foreign governments, is regularly quoted on hemp matters in the media, and is the editor of the Kight on Cannabis legal blog, which discusses legal issues affecting the hemp industry. You can contact him by clicking here

8 comments on “Defamation, Misinformation, and Shooting the Messenger- A THCO StoryAdd yours →

  1. Very unfortunate! During years of working with state and local chapters of NORML, I found many pro-THC proponents were eager to make angry phonecalls to me if they felt NORML wasn’t doing enough. These same people usually had never made to even one NORML event.

    Too many cannabinoid supporters are emotionally immature to the point they will… misunderstand the point of an article, incorrectly mind-read what motivated you to write it, and then have the guts to make threats about it all.

    I’m sorry you are on the receiving end of this, Rod – especially considering how much you’ve done for the industry.

    1. Thanks for the kind words of support, Jon. I know that you’ve seen lots of this type of thing during your time doing good work at NORML. With respect to the people you’re talking about, I understand their passion, anger, and frustration. But I do not understand lashing out at the wrong people nor misreading articles, spreading disinformation, and/or defaming others. Ultimately, it just hurts the movement. Thanks again and keep up the good work. -Rod

  2. Wow, I am very sorry to hear of all the people who seem to not have the capacity to read or just do not comprehend what they read accurately.
    Your article was concise and very clear in what it said. My garage now has approximately $100K worth of products with THCO in them I am packing and labeling up to return to wholesalers this week. I have spent hours today packing them up and will continue another day or so. These products were from 2 of my 6 stores. The rest of the products will be brought here once I ship off these.

    While I we stand to lose quite a bit of sales in my six stores, and have been given an even bigger amount of work to package all of these products and ship them all to their companies, I would much rather have these lost sales and lost time and effort right now, than have had the police or DEA show up with a raid and confiscate it all and file legal charges against me.

    It is a shame that people who are in our industry could not be bothered to do their own research.
    Especially if you own a company or are a rep of a company. There really is no excuse whatsoever beyond ignorance.

    I would like to thank you for the article and informing us. I absolutely understand why they said it is illegal. It makes sense.

    1. Thank you for your response, Amy. I am sorry to hear that you are going to lose sales. I know that is difficult for you and others in the industry who are in the same position. The hemp industry can be a bumpy ride sometimes. As you said, it’s better to lose some sales and pivot than to be raided. I hope that things go well for you in this transition. -Rod

  3. Rod, you and your team are a ray of light in the dark morass of this industry. A lightning Rod…if you will? (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.) I came to the same conclusion on THC-O within the last week without knowing about DEA’s position or catching up reading your blog until today. My work involves evaluating food safety risks of certain hemp or Cannabis edibles. Of particular concern are those with very high potencies, unknown cannabinoid profiles (side-chain reactions), synthetic cannabinoids, and form-factors similar to single-serving, individually packaged food with multiple doses worth of cannabinoids. In my state with no recreational or medical marijuana program or its own hemp program I find these products to be increasingly common and problematic.

    Keep up the good work.

  4. I’m so sorry to hear that your article was interpreted this way by so many people. As a member of this industry, I can say that our business only ever wants to comply with the law as it is interpreted by enforcement agencies. If that means dumping all of your THCO into the trash because of that interpretation, so be it. Like, don’t be upset. Just follow the law and protect the industry. I so appreciate you taking the time to bring the issue to the forefront and making people aware of what truly is or isn’t legal.

    1. Thank you for your comments, Samantha. I agree with you. The hemp industry can be tough at times, and it is important to keep the focus on expanding the industry. -Rod

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