The legalization of hemp-derived products in 2018 created a firestorm of these items across the wellness community. The initial cannabinoid that caught America’s attention was CBD. CBG and CBD soon followed that. Shortly after that, more THC products were offered by retailers like Delta 8 THC and THC-O. Recently, a new hemp-derived compound has hit the market with some fanfare. That compound is HHC.
This guide will explore all aspects of this new compound and answer any questions you may have about the substance.
What is HHC?
HHC stands for hexahydrocannabinol. It was first discovered by an American chemist named Roger Adams in 1944. Adams was experimenting with hydrogenating THC when he created HHC. Because THC was completely illegal at that time and up through recent decades, the discovery stayed in the background. It wasn’t until recently, when some cannabis products became legal, and the demand for those products skyrocketed, that HHC found its way back into the light.
How HHC Is Made
The process to make HHC is somewhat similar to making margarine, hydrogenation. We know that it begins with hemp oil extracted from the cannabis plant. One method utilizes CBD isolate. To create the isolate, the hemp oil is extracted from raw hemp. From there, the CBD is distilled down to a powder form. Another method uses a more base product of THC and other cannabinoids and converts them to HHC.
We do know that HHC is created by a process known as hydrogenation. This is a process where hydrogen is infused into another substance to force hydrogen molecules to become part of the molecular structure of the original substance. This process is used in many food products. For instance, it is used to convert vegetable oil into margarine. It is also used to convert raw vegetable oil into hydrogenated vegetable oil to prolong its shelf life.
Producers describe the raw compound produced from this hydrogenation of CBD isolate as “gold, dark oil,” which is then refined and distilled to create the finished HHC product.
How It Makes You Feel
The first question that generally comes up when discussing a cannabis product is its effect on the user. While the jury is still out, anecdotal evidence points to it being very similar to the experience of Delta 9 THC, which is the cannabinoid found in abundance in marijuana. But there is a lack of consensus on the experience and for a good reason.
When HHC is manufactured, the compound is actually a mixture of two different HHC molecules: 9R HHC and 9S HHC. 9R HHC is proficient at binding to the body’s endocannabinoid receptors, like Delta 8 or Delta 9 THC. However, 9S HHC does not bind to those receptors nearly as well and, therefore, has much less of an effect.
Here’s the rub. When the manufacturer is creating HHC, there is no way of determining the final ratio of 9R HHC to 9S HHC. It could be a 2:1 ratio or a 1:1 ratio, but the lab doesn’t know until the end product is tested. So, depending on the final ratio of the finished product, the HHC you are vaping could be only slightly more potent than Delta 8 THC, or it could be more potent than Delta 9 THC. As far as how it makes you feel, here’s a quick look at the most popular THC cannabinoids for comparison sake, based on the anecdotal evidence we’ve been able to gather.
Delta 9 THC — Delta 9 THC is the active cannabinoid that is found in high levels of marijuana. Now, if you are utilizing the Indica variety of marijuana, you will get a sedative effect. Some strains even relax you to the point of couch lock, where it’s tough to get out of your chair. On the other hand, if you use the Sativa variety, you will get a more energizing effect. In any case, Delta 9 produces a head high and a sense of euphoria. Most users of Delta 9 THC claim that it is hard to think or work while under its influence.
Delta 8 THC — This substance is created in a lab by converting CBD or Delta 9 THC into Delta 8 THC. Delta 8 is known to be about half as potent as Delta 9. However, it is reported to produce a calming, good feeling throughout the body. In addition, users report that they can think clearly with Delta 8 THC (a direct contrast to Delta 9). The effects of Delta 8 and Delta 9 THC come on fairly quickly when vaped.
THC-O — This is the powerhouse of the THC strains. THC-O is created by adding acetate to Delta 8 THC. However, the effect it delivers is like that of Delta 9 THC. But THC-O’s bragging right is that it is three times as powerful as Delta 9 THC. THC-O is also known as a creeper. This means that the effects are delayed from twenty minutes to a half-hour or more when vaped.
HHC — As we’ve said in the section above, this substance is created in a lab by converting CBD or THC into HHC through the process of hydrogenation. Users have reported a clear head experience, and some have reported an energetic response.
It seems that the body absorbs this cannabinoid more readily than the other cannabinoids to have as strong of an effect as Delta 9 THC. Most users find its potency to be somewhere between Delta 8 and Delta 9 THC.
Users also report that HHC has more delayed response before kicking in than its THC brothers.
What Is the Legal Standing of HHC?
Unfortunately, just like with Delta 8 THC and THC-0, the answer to the question, “Is HHC legal?” the answer is, “It depends on who you ask.”
The Farm Bill of 2018 made all hemp products legal on a federal level as long as they were derived from hemp and not marijuana and contained less than 0.3% THC
Now, the Bill’s specific language defines THC as Delta 9 THC. This means that CBD, CBG, and even Delta 8 THC are federally legal by default because they are not specifically singled out in the bill as illegal. Therefore, HHC fits squarely in the same category as the other cannabinoids because there are trace amounts of it in the pollen and seeds of the hemp plant. So, for now, all of these non-Delta 9 THC cannabinoids remain legal on a federal level.
Understand that this issue gets complicated because each state can adopt the federal legality or create its own laws and regulations. Let’s take Delta 8 THC, for example. While still a federally legal substance, Delta 8 products are illegal in 17 states. We believe that, because the arguments for and against Delta 8 THC are so close to those made for HHC, that states that have made Delta 8 illegal will also do the same for HHC. Here’s a current map of the legal status of Delta 8 THC in each state to give you an idea of which states are likely to follow suit and make HHC either legal or illegal.
So far, only Oregon has made HHC illegal. However, a dozen or more states are considering its legal status, so it could go either way.
Understand that while HHC and other non-Delta 9 THC products remain legal on a federal level, there are challenges to this assumption. Some experts point to the Federal Analog Act to support their position against its legality. This Act states that any substance analogous to a Schedule 1 drug would also qualify as a Schedule 1 drug. Since Delta 9 THC is a Schedule 1 drug, they reason, so is Delta 8 THC, HHC, and any other similar drugs. They also point to K2 and Spice, which are synthetic drugs that mimic the Delta 9 THC effect and are considered Schedule 1 drugs.
The bottom line is the legal status of HHC remains murky. This is a new substance to hit the market, so it may take a while for individual states and the federal government to catch up and decide its legality. In addition, laws are constantly changing, so it is advisable to keep yourself informed on the current legal status of HHC in your state.
The Benefits of HHC
While HHC has the same cerebral high and wellness properties as its counterparts, the substance does carry a couple of benefits that make it a preference for some users.
One of the issues with THC is its susceptibility to oxygenation. Time, temperature, air, and sunlight all vie to break down the THC as it goes through the oxygenation process. As it does, the THC turns into CBN (cannabinol), which only has about 10% of the psychoactive properties as the original THC.
HHC is not susceptible to the same oxygenation process as THC. This is because the hydrogenation process is used to create it. Hydrogenation increases the shelf life by infusing hydrogen atoms into the product, which greatly decreases the degradation of that product. This is why you see so many products using hydrogenated vegetable oil instead of regular oil. The bottom line is hydrogenated stuff just lasts longer. It’s been said that if they ever take a hallucinogen to Mars, they’ll have to take HHC because it is the only one capable of lasting long enough.
So far, anecdotal evidence from those who have used HHC says that HHC does not show up on drug tests like Delta 8 THC, Delta 9 THC, or THC-0. This anecdote holds water but shouldn’t be considered scientific proof — if you’re regularly drug tested, use it at your own risk.
The bottom line is that there has not been enough testing to develop a definitive answer. So if you have something to lose with a positive drug test, we suggest not counting on HHC to produce a negative test result.
It’s Closer to Delta 9 THC Than Anything Else
If you are looking for the same type of experience as you would get with high Delta 9 THC content substances like marijuana, then HHC is a really good option. It not only mimics the same type of psychoactive response, but it also does so on a similar level. THC-0 is purported to be three times as strong as Delta 9 THC, which is too much for many people.
Of course, the other advantage is that HHC is currently legal on a federal level where Delta 9 THC is not.
Is HHC Safe?
There haven’t been any official studies on the safety of HHC as it is such a new product. However, its popularity has increased exponentially since its introduction into the marketplace, so there are plenty of people who have used it since it hit retailers’ shelves. So far, there have been no reports of severe side effects. However, the side effects that have been reported are similar to those who use high doses of Delta 9 THC.
Now, that being said, there is another health concern for HHC and all hemp-derived products you may be interested in trying. First, you need to understand that hemp-derived cannabinoids like CBD, Delta 8 THC, and HHC are not subject to cannabis regulation in states that allow it. Therefore, the makers of HHC products are not required to test their products for purity or potency. In fact, neither the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) nor any other agency regulates the hemp-derived product market. This means that any manufacturer can put whatever they want in a hemp-based product and list whatever they want on the label. This, unfortunately, has led to distributors placing unhealthy substances in their products and labels that make outlandish claims.
This is why you should only buy your hemp-derived CBD, Delta 8 THC, THC-0, or HHC products from a retailer like The Hemp Doctor, who has their products tested by an independent laboratory. Your health is too important to ingest products with questionable ingredients. This is why you should always check the Certificate of Analysis (COA) from any independent lab testing and look for any questionable substances on the report. Then you should compare the report against the label to ensure that the level of cannabinoids claimed on the label is exactly what is on the report.
You should follow the retailer or manufacturer’s recommended dosage for the particular HHC product that you’ve purchased. We at The Hemp Doctor currently carry HHC vape cartridges. There is no standardized dosage for these cartridges, so if you are familiar with vaping Delta 8 THC or another product, you should follow the same vaping pattern. However, understand that it has been reported that HHC takes longer to go through the lung lining and bloodstream than Delta 8. Therefore, we advise that you take a few puffs and wait for about 20 minutes to feel the full effects before taking more puffs.
HHC is an exciting new product for many reasons. It provides the same kind of experience as marijuana users enjoy, but it is currently legal on a federal level. It has a much longer shelf life than other THC forms.
If you are interested in trying this product, we at The Hemp Doctor have a nice selection of HHC items to choose from. And what is just as important is that we test our HHC and all of our products through a third-party laboratory and make those results available to you. This way, you know you are getting a pure product that contains the same level of cannabinoids as displayed on the label.
If you have any further questions about HHC or any of our other items, please feel free to contact us at any time.