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What is Hexahydrocannabinol (HHC) and is it legal?

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Due to rising confusion about its legality, HHC is being sold across the U.S. Here’s what you should know about this synthetic cannabinoid.

The newest cannabinoid and, I must say, “another worthy addition” swaying the market right, left, front, and back is hexahydrocannabinol (HHC). Rising to prominence after regulations banned the sales and use of delta-8, this compound has been referred to as an intriguing analog of THC. Whether or not to agree with this description cannot be decided now, as there are several misconceptions about HHC cannabinoids.

The cannabis community certainly has to be working overtime at this point, discovering cannabinoids after cannabinoids. Fortunately for the community and related groups, perceptions about cannabis are changing around the world and are being backed by appropriate legislation. This has accelerated studies aimed at learning more about cannabis and its cannabinoids. Almost every week, science blogs and conventional media outlets have something new to say about cannabis.

Taking your focus back to hexahydrocannabinol, this article tries to clear up some misinformation making waves about the newly discovered HHC. Even when attempting to draft this piece, I encountered dozens of contradicting information about the compound’s origin, effects, safety, and legality.

What Is HexahydroCannabinol (HHC)?

Many headlines across the world define the compound as a naturally produced cannabinoid found in trace quantities in pollen. In contrast, HHC is a synthetic cannabinoid compound prepared in a laboratory with selected cannabis extracts. These compounds are in league with the less common cannabinoids pushed aside until recently by the big guns — THC and CBD.

Due to rising confusion about its legality, the synthetic cannabinoid is being sold in all parts of the U.S. In recent months, HHC has undergone its fair share of human trials and processing. The unavailability of HHC in cannabis plants has, in a way, reduced its availability to folks around the country.
 

History of Hexahydrocannabinol (HHC)

Hexahydrocannabinol was first developed in 1944 by a scientist named Roger Adams. He created the compound through the hydrogenation process by mixing hydrogen molecules with delta-9-THC. This compound has stayed in the shadows since then until it started receiving attention recently. Cannabis retailers are selling the product for consumers to use as a substitute for THC.

Is Hexahydrocannabinol Potent?

For a compound to be likened to THC, it is expected to be almost as potent as THC. The exact potency of this compound is difficult to determine. The research found had apparent discrepancies and was not worth being placed behind a safe.

Studies on the compound show that it is at least 69% as potent as delta-9-THC. This narrative places it alongside delta-8 and delta-9 in the hierarchy of powerful THC variants. Other studies claim HHC is not as potent as delta-8. Other sources say that HHC must be consumed in high dosage to produce a semblance of high similar to regular THC compounds.

With different sources putting up different information, it is best to wait for proper research to be done. HHC molecules affect cannabinoid receptors but have a unique way of doing this. Perhaps, the absence of standardized HHC is why there are disparities in each product (different HHC products are prepared with different 9R to 9S ratios). Products developed with high quantities of 9R can be perceived as more potent because the 9R HHC binds incredibly well to cannabinoid receptors.

Preparation of Hexahydrocannabinol (HHC)

Like every other property of HHC, there are several misconceptions about the techniques used to produce this cannabinoid. The silence of manufacturers about their production techniques has done little to help matters. What’s clear is that all HHC producers employ the hydrogenation technique.

The hydrogenation process involves adding cannabis extract and other valuable compounds to hydrogen gas in a pressurized container. The double carbons in the cannabinoids are then converted into hydrogenated cannabis oil, also called HCO. HCO is a dark-golden oil with double carbon bonds broken naturally by hydrogen. Some manufacturers claim that the hydrogenation process can be speeded up by using catalysts like nickel, palladium, iridium, and platinum.

At the end of the process, the substance formed is rich in tetrahydrocannabinol acid (HHCA) or HHC, depending on the type of cannabis extract used at the start of the process, whether decarboxylated or not. The substance can be further refined or packaged that way.

Are HHC and THC Similar?

HHC and THC have similar chemical structures. The main differences are the presence of an extra carbon bond, hydrogenated carbon, and an ester molecule in HHC. A Massachusetts retailer, Boston Hemp Inc., claims that these slight differences in the structure of an HHC compound make it more stable than THC. The HHC seller claims that the added properties preserve HHC products from being degraded by light and heat. They also contribute to the extension of the product’s shelf life.

 Effects of Hexahydrocannabinol (HHC)

Sources state that HHC induces the same sales effects as THC due to its ability to bind to cannabinoid receptors, CB1 and CB2. Proper research is yet to be carried out to ascertain if these speculations are right or wrong. Prior to the period in which intensive research will be conducted, it is best not to believe the potential effects you might see on the web.

Legality of Hexahydrocannabinol (HHC)

HHC is considered as a legal substitute for THC. The manufacturers back up this claim by arguing that the product was derived from delta-8-THC (the predominant cannabinoid in hemp flowers). They also say that HHC is legal because it naturally produces hemp seeds and cannabis pollen, that HHC production is simply a natural, help-driven extraction. The truth is that the federal laws are yet to determine if the HHC cannabinoid is analogous to THC. If it is, it will likely be introduced as a Schedule I substance immediately.

Bottom Line

To fully establish the presence of hexahydrocannabinol in the cannabis industry, comprehensive tests have to be done to categorically state the compound’s potency, physical characteristics, effects and after-effects, and medical benefits. If this is not controlled, demand might drop off once the novelty of the cannabinoid fades away.

Consumers cannot rely on anecdotal sources. They need reports from clinical trials and studies to ensure they are not being harmed.

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