What Is HHC?
On the heels of other popular cannabinoids like Delta 8 THC and THC-0 comes a new product available to your customers: Hexahydrocannabinol (HHC). This one has many features and unique benefits that you don’t find in the other cannabinoids. In this guide, we’re going to take you through everything you need to know about HHC. We’ll walk you through what it is, how it’s made, how it makes you feel, its current legal standing, and how to best sell it to your customers.
What Is HHC?
Hexahydrocannabinol (HHC) is created from a process that infuses hydrogen molecules into hemp derivatives like THC or CBD. Through this process, hydrogen atoms are forced into the derivative through hydrogenation to create HHC. This compound was first created back in 1944 by American scientist Roger Adams, and his process dealt exclusively with THC being converted to HHC. However, because THC was illegal at the time and has been until recently, this newly discovered compound had no marketable value. It wasn’t until the new legality from states and the federal government granting legal status to hemp products that it is now a viable economic product.
Hydrogenation and HHC
Hydrogenation is the main method used to convert hemp oil to HHC. This hydrogenation has been around for some time now, as it is used on food products to extend the life of that product. By forcing hydrogen atoms into the natural product, it changes the molecular structure of that product while leaving the product pretty much in its natural state. However, this newly hydrogenated product has a much longer shelf life because it is no longer susceptible to the oxidation process that degrades most food products.
Vegetable oil is the most commonly hydrated product. The oil itself is hydrogenated to improve its shelf life, and the products made from hydrogenated vegetable oil also have an extended shelf life. You can think of it this way: THC is to HHC as butter is to margarine through hydrogenation.
Is HHC Synthetic or Naturally Occurring?
HHC is actually found in the hemp plant, but in very small quantities as it is mostly found in the pollen and seeds of the young plant. However, HHC appears in slightly greater quantities as the plant matures and THC converts to CBN. Unfortunately, like with Delta 8 THC, HHC doesn’t appear in large enough quantities to be economically viable. Therefore, it has to be created in a laboratory.
To make HHC, you have to start with an isolate. Originally, HHC was created by converting THC isolate, but we have found other sources where CBD isolate is also used to create HHC. From there, the isolate is chemically saturated with hydrogen atoms. Then, to cause the full chemical reaction, a catalyst such as zinc or nickel is introduced. Once the chemical reaction is completed, the final product is described as a “gold, dark oil.” That oil is then refined and distilled to create the final HHC product.
So to answer the question posed, HHC is both naturally occurring and semi-synthetic. Yes, it occurs naturally in the hemp plant. However, because hydrogenation uses chemicals to alter THC’s geometry and molecular weight, it is also considered semi-synthetic.
Comparison of HHC and THC Effects
Naturally, one of the first questions you will get from your customers is how HHC makes you feel. What are the psychoactive effects? How long does it last? Is it like the other cannabinoids?
Anecdotal evidence suggests that HHC lasts for about two to three hours when vaped. Like with other cannabinoids, this time frame will change, depending on the method of consumption. Ingestion usually takes longer to kick in but lasts longer. Here’s a quick comparison to give you a better idea of where HHC falls as far as its effects and its similarities to other cannabinoids:
Delta 8 THC — As you likely already know, this substance is created in a lab by converting CBD or Delta 9 THC into Delta 8 THC. Users have reported that Delta 8 THC provides a good feeling throughout their body and calming effect while keeping the mind clear and allowing the user to think and work.
Delta 9 THC — Delta 8 THC is the only TCH that comes strictly from the cannabis plant and is not created in a lab. This active cannabinoid in marijuana gives the user the well-known head high and a sense of euphoria. Depending on the strain of marijuana, the user will either experience couch lock (the highly sedative effect in Indica) or have a more energized effect (found in hybrid or Sativa strains).
HHC — This is created in a controlled lab environment by hydrogenating CBD or THC through a chemical reaction that turns it in to HHC. When comparing HHC to the other cannabinoids listed above, users have reported an experience closer to Delta 9 than Delta 8. However, some report a clearer head as they experience with Delta 8 and more energetic responses.
Like its THC brothers, a consistent claim is that it was very useful in alleviating bodily discomforts. HHC seems to have a more delayed response than Delta 8 or 9 THC, taking about 20 minutes to kick in. However, this delay is not as profound as with THC-0.
The Reason for HHC Variance in Effect
If you research the anecdotal evidence on the effects that HHC has on the user, you will find a little inconsistency in the drug’s potency. There are reports of HHC being more potent than Delta 9 THC, some equally as potent, and some have reported that HHC is no more potent than Delta 8 THC. There is a reason for the variance in effect, and here’s why.
When HHC is manufactured, the resulting compound is actually a mixture of 9R HHC and 9S HHC molecules. Now, much like Delta 8 or Delta 9 THC, the 9R HHC is proficient at binding to the body’s endocannabinoid receptors. However, 9S HHC does not bind to those receptors nearly as well and, therefore, has much less of an effect.
The problem with consistency comes in when the manufacturer is creating HHC. During the process, there is no way of determining the final ratio of 9R HHC to 9S HHC. Generally, these ratios tend toward the 2 to 1 ratio of 9R to 9S, but some have come back with a 1 to 1 ratio. The bottom line is that the higher the 9R to 9S, the more potent the batch and the more profound the user experience.
The Benefits of HHC
HHC has many of the same effects as its other THC counterparts. But there are a few benefits that may cause your customers to prefer it over Delta 8 or THC-0.
Air, sunlight, temperature, and time all break down THC through the process of oxygenation. As the THC breaks down, it becomes CBN (cannabinol). Unfortunately, cannabinol carries only about 10% of the psychoactive properties of D8 or D9 THC.
HHC, on the other hand, is not nearly as susceptible to the oxygenation process. Do you know how hydrogenated vegetable oil lasts a lot longer than natural vegetable oil? Well, the same rule applies here. Infusing hydrogen into the THC through the hydrogenation process causes the resulting HHC to last much longer than THC because it greatly decreases the degradation process.
On some forums and posts, people claim HHC does not show up on drug tests. While this is possible, it depends on the user, the type of test, and the amount that is consumed.
While it would be nice to say that this definitely doesn’t show up on drug tests, we don’t want to encourage someone to throw away their jobs, or worse, because they used one of our products. Therefore, we advise caution and personal research whenever drug testing comes up while using one of our products.
HHC Is Close to Delta 9 THC
Of course, the significant advantage is that HHC is currently legal on a federal level where Delta 9 THC is not. However, if your client is 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. They may have tried Delta 8 THC and were unhappy with its potency or tried THC-0, which blew their socks off. So they are looking for something in the middle. What is great about HHC is that it not only mimics the same type of psychoactive response as Delta 9, it does so on a similar level.
The Legal Standing of HHC
Unfortunately, there is quite a wide variety of opinions on the legal standing of HHC, Delta 8 THC, and THC-O. You will get a mixed bag of answers depending on who you ask. Here is an explanation and reasoning behind what we’ve found.
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 specific language of the Bill defined THC as Delta 9 THC. This means that CBD, CBG, and even Delta 8 THC were federally legal by default because they were not specifically singled out in the bill as illegal. 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.
Now, each state can adopt the federal legality or create its own laws and regulations. If you take Delta 8 THC, for example, while still a federally legal substance, Delta 8 products are illegal in 17 states. So far, only Oregon has made HHC illegal. A dozen or more states are considering its legal status, so it could go one way or another.
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, then 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 legality 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 make a decision on its legality. In addition, laws are constantly changing, so it is advisable to keep yourself informed on the current legality of HHC in the states you will be distributing to. We’ve found this particular reference helpful in showing each state’s latest map and legal standings.
We believe that the argument for the legality of Delta 8 THC is the same one that can be made for HHC. So the logic follows that HHC will follow the same legal path in each state as Delta 8. This is why we provided a map on the legality of Delta 8 THC in each state to give you an idea of the path HHC will likely follow.
Is HHC Safe?
There haven’t been any official reports on the safety of HHC as it is such a new product. However, its popularity has increased exponentially, so many people 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.
As a retailer, you likely already understand that hemp-derived cannabinoids like 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 a manufacturer can put whatever they want in a hemp-based product and list whatever they want on the label. We don’t have to tell you about the frustration of seeing competitors with labels that claim a ridiculous amount of cannabinoid in the bottle or making outlandish claims like curing cancer.
This is why you should only buy your wholesale CBD, Delta 8 THC, THC-0, or HHC products from a retailer like The Hemp Doctor. We have our products tested by an independent laboratory. Your client’s health is too important to provide them with a sketchy product. Not only do you get a reputation for carrying something harmful in your inventory, but you also open yourself up to liability.
You should only get your wholesale products from a distributor like The Hemp Doctor, which goes the extra mile and tests everything. And you should always check the Certificate of Analysis (COA) from the independent lab 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.
Generally, the dosage for HHC products is the same as with Delta 8 THC products. We at The Hemp Doctor currently carry HHC vape cartridges. There is no standardized dosage for these cartridges, so if your customer is familiar with vaping Delta 8 THC or another product, you should advise them to 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, you should advise your clients to take a few puffs and wait for about 20 minutes to feel the full effects before taking more puffs.
Since its release, we’ve seen skyrocketing demand for Delta 8 THC. And even with the legal challenges in some states, Delta 8 sales continue to increase drastically. THC-0 and other semi-synthetic cannabinoids are seeing the same type of sales increase. We believe that HHC is going to follow this trend. It is a great alternative to Delta 9 THC.
How to Sell HHC to Your Clients
One of the biggest selling points for HHC is its similarity to the Delta 9 THC they can find in marijuana. However, HHC is a great alternative as it is federally legal throughout the United States. Yes, THC-O also mimics the psychoactive effects of marijuana and is federally legal. However, many customers are not receptive to a cannabinoid three times as potent as Delta 9 THC.
You can compare its effects to the other THC cannabinoids as we’ve done in this guide. HHC is close to Delta 9 THC in its psychoactive effects, but some users describe being able to think clearly like they do with Delta 8 THC. HHC takes a little longer to be felt than Delta 8 or Delta 9 THC, but it is not the creeper that THC-O is.
You can frame HHC as an in-between product in the hierarchy of THC offerings. Start with Delta 8 THC products on the left, as it is perfect for those who don’t want the head high but like the milder body sensation offered by Delta 8. To the right of the Delta 8 would be HHC. This is a step up from Delta 8 and gives both a body buzz and head high like Delta 9. However, it tends not to be as strong as Delta 9. Then, of course, to the right of Delta 9, THC is THC-0, which is the big kid on the block. Finally, you can promote THC-O’s head and body buzz as Delta 9 on steroids.
As with any other product you receive through The Hemp Doctor, you can always promote the fact that a third-party laboratory tests everything. Explain to your clients why this is invaluable information because of the lack of regulations in our industry.