HHC - the legal alternative to THC?

HHC - the legal alternative to THC?

HHC stands for hexahydrocannabinol, which is a minor cannabinoid in the cannabis/hemp plant, despite only being present in trace amounts. Recently, the cannabis market has begun to explode with new products containing HHC. Reason is simple. With cannabis being illegal in so many places, people are constantly looking for an alternative to THC: something that can make you high, but is not prohibited by the law.

Is HHC natural?

The answer is yes… and no. In fact, natural cannabis plants contain extremely small amounts of HHC, which are almost undetectable. Thus, it is true that HHC can be found in nature, but in order to provide sufficient quantities for any uses, there is no other way than to manufacture them in the lab.

How HHC is Made

HHC was first discovered in the 1940s by chemist Roger Adams. He made HHC by adding a hydrogen atom to the chemical structure of the THC molecule through a process called hydrogenation. (This is also how we make margarine. By hydrogenating vegetable oils, they will become solid at room temperature.)

Thanks to this hydrogenation, the structure of delta 9 - THC is now more stable due to the loss of a double bond in the molecule, making it less susceptible to light, UV light or temperature. As a result, HHC products will have a longer shelf life than THC counterparts.

So, in short, if THC is a vegetable oil, then HHC is a margarine!

However, having THC is not necessary if you want to make HHC. Scientists can now make HHC from CBD through a series of chemical reactions catalyzed by artificial gastric juice. Furthermore, even some terpenes such as citronellol or L-carvone can be converted to HHC.

What does it feel like to take HHC?

HHC gives a similar effect to THC. So, a little bit high, a bit relaxing, and can be quite good at relieving stress. Many people report that HHC provides a more relaxing high than THC. However, because HHC products are new and there is no research to back these claims up yet, most of the information we have is still uncertain.

What's more, we all know that different people respond differently to THC. There are many other factors involved in a cannabis high, such as dosage, terpene, other cannabinoids such as CBD, CBG, CBN... Therefore, it is very likely that each person's experience with HHC will also vary greatly from person to person.

Does HHC have a medical effect?

Right now, HHC is mostly used for recreational purposes as a THC substitution. And as mentioned above, HHC provides the same effects as THC. From that, it is possible that HHC has the potential to bring a number of medical effects such as: pain relief, anti-inflammatory, or aiding sleep…

However, we will still need more research to know if HHC can have such benefits or not.

Is HHC safe?

There are currently no studies on the safety of HHC. However, there have been no reported cases of HHC users experiencing any serious side effects. Some argue that HHC has a similar level of safety to THC, and that means that it’s pretty safe. However, it is best to remain cautious until future scientific studies confirm this.

Currently, the biggest concern for HHC is the use of complex chemicals in various stages of its production, leading to the risk of the final product being contaminated with harmful and toxic substances.

As with any other cannabis product, make sure the manufacturer provides you with test results for heavy metals, including iridium, palladium, rhodium, nickel, ruthenium, platinum, and rhenium, as well as potential solvent residue such as hexane, benzene, heptane, toluene and butane.

Is HHC legal?

This is quite a complicated matter. It depends on whether HHC is considered a natural compound or a man-made compound in the eyes of the law.

If HHC is considered a natural substance:

The US Agriculture Act of 2018 legalizes all hemp products with a THC content not exceeding 0.03%. HHC is also found in nature, in the hemp plant. Therefore, HHC can be legal, as long as the THC content of the HHC product is below 0.3%, and of course HHC does not count as THC!

If you go on the internet, you can already see that companies selling HHC now all promote their products as legal, based on this point.

If HHC is considered man-made:

The problem, however, is that most HHC are made in a lab. You can never grow enough hemp to provide HHC naturally. If HHC were considered a man-made substance, it would be illegal based on the Federal Analog Act in the US.

In many European countries, HHC is considered legal because it is not listed in the government regulation on the lists of addictive substances.

So in a nutshell, is HHC legal or illegal?

HHC is currently considered semi-synthetic, i.e. (semi-artificial). So that means, both legal and illegal. As explained, whether it's legal or not will depend on how people reason about its origin.

However, as official authorities have not said anything about the legality of HHC, the market is still openly selling it. But ideally, you should pay more attention and regularly update information regarding this issue in the future.

Can HHC make you test positive for THC?

Information on this issue is still controversial. Many people assume that HHC will not make you positive for THC, because the majority of HHC coming into the body does not convert to 11-hydroxy-THC, the form that THC is converted to when you use cannabis. The banned substance tests will not test for THC, but rather this 11-hydroxy-THC metabolite.

However, it is also reported that small amounts of HHC can in fact be converted to 11-hydroxy-THC. So, if you take HHC in high doses and do this regularly, over a long time, it is possible that you will also test positive.

In summary, to answer the question of whether HHC makes you positive, we still have to wait for more specific research in the future.

Caution when buying HHC

HHC is currently available in all the forms that THC and CBD come in. Distillate, vape, oil, gummy, even HHC infused hemp buds are now on the market!

However, just remember that HHC, although can be found in natural hemp, is only in very very low concentrations. Therefore, if you come across any HHC hemp products, of course this will not be 100% natural. All HHC products are synthesized and made in the lab!

Also, as with any cannabis product, for your own safety, please ask the vendor to provide you with certifications of the product's quality. These include Certificates of analysis (COA) for HHC content, other cannabinoid content, heavy metals, residual solvents, etc... 

However, only very few labs are currently capable of testing the HHC content in the product, so you may not be able to view the COAs of every product. If you are not sure about the safety and quality of any cannabis related product, then it’s best to be cautious and avoid buying them.


HHC is a semi-synthetic cannabinoid with great potential in today's recreational cannabis market. However, the information about HHC is still too new. There are so many questions left to answer, mainly on the safety and legal aspects of HHC.

Therefore, if you are interested in this product, it’s always a good idea to pay more attention to the news, and regularly update your information regarding this issue in the future.

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