Tolerant and nontolerant dogs received one i.v. administration of 0.5 mg/kg of 3H-delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol 30 minutes before they were sacrificed. Plasma, peripheral and brain tissues, as well as subcellular fractions of brain tissues from both treatment groups, were analyzed for radioactivity. Throughout the time period before sacrifice, the plasma concentrations of radioactivity in the tolerant and nontolerant dogs were not significantly different. The percentage of radioactivity in brain and plasma that was due to either unchanged delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol or a major metabolite was the same in each group. Of the radioactivity in brain, 46% was identified as delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol. Regardless of treatment, there was a specific accumulation of radioactivity in adrenals, liver, kidney, heart and pancreas. The only significant differences in radioactivity between tolerant and nontolerant peripheral tissues were found in liver, kidney cortex, heart and lymph nodes. Although all brain areas from tolerant dogs contained less radioactivity than the comparable brain areas from nontolerant animals, only pituitary and putamen were significantly less. There was a specific accumulation of radioactivity in some brain areas that could be associated with behavioral effects. The concentration in cerebellar and cerebral gray was significantly greater than that in white, and there was a marked reduction in the concentration in gray after tolerance developed. The mean percentage of radioactivity in each subcellular fraction was as follows: 23% crude nuclei, 44% mitochondria, 8% cholinergic nerve endings, 7% noncholinergic nerve endings, 2% free mitochondria and 6% synaptic vesicles. The quantity of radioactivity in homogenates of brains from tolerant dogs was 17% less than brains of nontolerant animals, which was merely a reflection of the respective plasma concentrations. The distribution of radioactivity was similar in both groups, although most of the subcellular fractions from tolerant dogs contained a lesser amount of radioactivity. The most notable difference was observed in the synaptic vesicle fraction. The synaptic vesicle fraction of tolerant dogs contained 40% less radioactivity than did the same fraction from nontolerant dogs, which implied a possible mechanism of action. A comparison of the remaining subcellular fractions did not appear to explain the development of tolerance.