HHC is a brand new cannabinoid that is taking the cannabis industry by storm. It isn't causing waves for any breakthrough scientific studies though… HHC can get people pretty high and interestingly it is legal in the USA and possibly even some European countries.
HHC's full name is Hexahydrocannabinol, however for the sake of simplicity we will be calling it HHC. It follows a similar magnitude of hype to other breakthrough cannabinoids such as delta 8 THC, delta 0 THC and delta 10 THC. All these cannabinoids are hemp derived isomers of THC that get around US laws to provide “legal” highs. They area all “legal” ways to feel effects similar to Delta 9 THC - which is federally illegal and the main cannabinoid in the THC market. Common to these cannabinoids listed, HHC also emerged on the market before much information about it was made public. As such, people aren’t so sure what the deal is! This poses a problem, as we've seen before - when there's a lack of consumer knowledge, bad manufactures can often take short cuts.
As it stands, there are only a handful of retailers selling HHC and it’s likely that this cannabinoid is hard to find where you live. This could be down to the fact that the process by which they make HHC made is relatively new for many of the industry players, but we think it’s more likely that vendors are worried about some of the uncertainty behind the legality of HHC.
“HHC is currently one of the fastest growing cannabinoids in the US market” Marti Moshfeghi, founder and CEO of The Goods, one of the main suppliers of CBD used in the hydrogenation of HHC, told Hemp Elf. “Since regulations took aim at the previously booming Delta-8 industry, people and vendors have been searching for another potent THC isomer that can legally be sold”.
Dive with us into the fascinating new world of HHC, we'll talk abut how HHC is made, the effects of HHC, and whether or not HHC is legal.
What even is HHC?
An American chemist called Roger Adams, first created HHC in 1994 when he conducted a chemical experiment to add hydrogen molecules to Delta-9 THC - the most prevalent cannabinoid in THC dominant cannabis. This assembly of hydrogen molecules to Delta-9 THC is called hydrogenation.
You might have heard of hydrogenation before - it’s used in the mainstream process to convert vegetable oil into margarine.
Roger Adams conducted his hydrogenation experiment on the famously psychoactive cannabinoid Delta-9 THC, however it would surprise most that HHC nowadays is made by hydrogenating the famously non psychoactive cannabinoid CBD. The reason for this is that CBD dominant cannabis, otherwise known as hemp, is federally legal in the USA. It is also legal in most of Europe, although international laws differ. The Farm Bill of 2018 opened up the USA to a plethora of new cannabinoids that could be made from CBD, and it’s the very reason for why Delta-8 THC, Delta-10 THC and Delta-0 are legal in many American states.
How is HHC made?
The actual process to make HHC via hydrogenation is not so straightforward - and perhaps for this reason, there aren’t many vendors producing these products. First manufactures must find CBD isolate. This is made by producers like The Goods, who cultivate high CBD hemp, distilled the cannabinoids and refine them until powdered CBD is achieved.
The process may require many steps but it’s unlikely that most producers are using anything but a pre-built machine to carry through all those steps. The process looks to completely saturate the upper ring structure of CBD with Hydrogen molecules. Where CBN has 3 double bonds in that upper ring, HHC has zero.
At the end of the process, what was once white powdered CBD isolate will become a dark gold oil that requires further refinement before distilling.
Will there be scare stories? Is HHC safe?
Anything that involves a lot of Hydrogen should be seen as a potential risk. HHC manufacturing can be perfectly safe, however the issues with increasing production and performing larger extractions is that there is the increased risk of explosion. The HHC industry is in a strange situation right now - there is high demand for this potentially legal cannabinoid, and not many producers. Of the producers manufacturing right now, there’s no certainty that most of them are equipped to handle large orders. If an unsuitable facility attempts to increase production to meet the needs of the growing market and experience static issues, there could be a fatal explosion.
Marti from The Goods, who have been supplying CBD isolate for the production of HHC had this to say. “Due to the high risk of explosion, it is important that the hydrogenation process is carried out in an “explosion-proof” space, where everything is ground to avoid the risk of static discharge”.
How does HHC interact with the body?
While HHC has been around since 1994, there haven’t been many studies into its psychoactive effects - possibly due to the limitations in research posed by prohibition.
HHC actually contains two molecules that operate differently on the human body, something that can cause some confusion. The more potent HHC molecule is called 9R HHC and it binds well to our natural endocannabinoid receptors. The other molecule, 9S HHC, seems to not bind as well to our endocannabinoid receptors and can be seen more as a byproduct of the hydrogenation of HHC.
It would be interesting to see more studies looking into the effects of 9S HHC on the body, since it appears to be more of a byproduct of the hydrogenation process rather than something that consumers are actively looking for.
Marti tells us, “HHC will feel similar to the euphoria of taking Delta-8 THC, however a larger volume of cannabinoids would be needed to reach the same potency of effect. A stoned feeling is totally possible, but compared to dosing with Delta-9 THC, the volumes will be much larger”.
HHC can make users feel stoned, especially if taken in large doses. The stoned feeling is very similar to that of THC and some people in forums have even claimed that it is “akin to ketamine disassociation”.
Is HHC potent?
Due to the HHC industry being in its infancy, high potency distillations are hard to come by. The biggest issue currently faced by HHC producers is that they haven’t got good control on the proportion of HHC molecules that are 9S vs 9R. With 9R HHC being the molecule that actually makes consumers feel high, it would be pointless for manufacturers to pass extracts that are dominant in 9S HHC to vendors.
Marti tells us, “the cost to reduce the 9S:9R ratio is so high that most producers would struggle to sell their HHC extract to vendors. There are ways to test for the emergence of 9R HHC and ensure that the HHC extract is one that would give users a psychoactive effect, but when producers are focused on wholesale, it’s just not feasible for them.”
Most labs will settle on a ratio of 1:1 9S:9R meaning that half the extract would not get users high at all. Therefore HHC can be potent but it’s likely that an examination of all HHC products on the market today would show immense variance in potency.
After reading into the effects of HHC in online cannabis forums, it’s clear that many people mix HHC with Delta-8 to enhance the psychoactivity of both cannabinoids. People are mostly using extracts such as dabs, cartridges with terpenes, however there is also the emergence of flower infused with HHC.
Will you pass a drug test after using HHC?
There is no definitive answer to that question as of now. It doesn’t matter if there are vendors out there claiming that HHC doesn’t cause users to fail their drug tests - all the evidence to date is just anecdotal.
It is true though, that there are no police records for anyone arrested and testing positive for THC after using solely HHC products. This could change over time, first labs need time to look into how HHC can be read on the body. There is always the risk that the CBD used for hydrogenation could have trace levels of THC, leaving some traces in the HHC products hydrogenated out of it. For this reason it’s important to only buy HHC products from vendors that are reputable and sourcing their CBD from good producers like The Goods.
As HHC stands right now, it is strongly advised to use caution if you know that you might be tested for drugs and the implications are serious.
Is HHC safe?
HHC is just one of many cannabinoids made from CBD. They could only be legally produced since 2018, and for that reason there are very few studies into the short term or long term effects of using these new cannabinoids.
Unlike drugs like THC, tobacco or alcohol, HHC is a hemp derived drug and does not fall subject to strict regulations in adult use. These relaxed regulations could lead to some vendors cutting corners and producing unsafe products for customers. Rather worryingly, there are no requirements for vendors to label their HHC products with potency and purity information.
Some ways you could improve the safety of your HHC consumption is to ask vendors for 3rd party lab tests, information such as how much 9S and 9R HHC is in the extract will at the very least help you determine how potent the high will be. It’s unlikely that HHC products will be prevalent in states where D-9 THC is legal, perhaps some of the established D-9 vendors will step into the HHC world to provide a touch of professionalism and self regulation.
Is HHC legal?
As you can probably tell from reading this article, the legal status of HHC is somewhat uncertain. While it is extracted out of legal CBD, a product made legal by the 2018 Farm Bill, the cannabinoid causes psychoactivity, and we’re not even sure if it will cause people to fail drug tests!
A similar situation arose a few years ago as Delta-8 THC products first made their waves in the cannabis scene. Delta-8 is also a hemp derived cannabinoid, however instead of using hydrogenation, the isomerism process is used to turn CBD isolate into Delta-8 THC. At first, the vendors were arguing its legality, however after a few years, in some states its legality was proven wrong and new regulations prohibited its sale.
It seems as though HHC could fall subject to heavy regulation if the industry doesn’t start taking serious measures to show customers that they are testing the product for safety and providing essential information.
There is an argument that because HHC can be found in the seeds and pollen of hemp plants (without the need of hydrogenation), that it is non-synthetic and federally legal.
The critics of HHC would be quick to argue that any proponent of cannabis that has similar effects to THC would inherently be illegal due to the Federal Analogue Act. This act states that any drug similar in effects and chemistry to a Schedule 1 drug will qualify itself as a Schedule 1 drug. Since Delta-9 THC is federally illegal, and the described effects of HHC are a slightly dampened version of Delta-9, there’s a chance that it could be deemed illegal.
Nonetheless, HHC products are growing in popularity and as we speak new HHC products are being stocked on shelves. Until regulation comes in to set apart the good from the dirty, it will be the responsibility of the consumers to determine if HHC products are safe for use.