What Is the Cannabinoid HHC?

Published August 11, 2021
What Is the Cannabinoid HHC? - Secret Nature

The acronym “HHC” can refer to a few different cannabinoids. Most commonly, though, contemporary cannabinoid manufacturers use HHC to refer to a substance called hexahydrocannabinol.

HHC has suddenly enjoyed a comeback as “legal” forms of THC have proliferated on the internet like, well, weeds. What is HHC, is it sketchy, is it safe, is it legal, and can I buy it today? Let’s answer all those questions and more.

What is HHC?

Some sources indicate it may be possible to derive hexahydrocannabinol (HHC) naturally, but this substance is famous as one of the first synthetic cannabinoids ever produced. It is closely related to delta-9 THC, and it has similar effects. Since HHC is only available in cannabis hemp in very small quantities, it is usually made by hydrogenating THC.

It’s worth noting that the acronym “HHC'' is also used in scientific literature to refer to dangerous synthetic substances like 9-Nor-9β-hydroxyhexahydrocannabinol and 11-Nor-9β-hydroxyhexahydrocannabinol. All those Greek letters and super-long hyphenated chemical names are surefire signs that these forms of HHC are synthetic.

Sure enough, 9-Nor-9β-hydroxyhexahydrocannabinol is the basis of many other synthetic cannabinoid receptor agonists that have branched significantly away from the cannabinoid family tree. This type of “HHC” is the synthetic seed that was used to make everything from CP55940, an extremely useful clinical endocannabinoid stimulant, to (C8)-CP47497, the primary component of the just as extremely dangerous “fake weed” drug Spice.

HHC overview

  • HHC can refer to a few different cannabinoids
  • One can be natural, but all forms of HHC are usually synthetic
  • Some synthetic substances called “HHC” have been used to make dangerous drugs like Spice and K2
  • Even hexahydrocannabinol, the “natural” form of THC, is inferior to delta 8 and other THC analogs that are easier to produce

What is a HHC cartridge?

The cannabinoid hexahydrocannabinol is often offered in the form of a vape cartridge. The resulting product is called a “HHC cartridge,” and these cartridges often contain HHC distillate. This type of extract consists of synthesized HHC combined with a carrier substance like terpene-rich cannabis distillate.

What is “HHC disposable”?

The term “HHC disposable” usually refers to disposable HHC vape pens. Unlike HHC cartridges, which attach to the end of rechargeable batteries, HHC disposables combine the cartridge and battery into one unit. More wasteful than HHC cartridges, HHC disposables usually aren’t rechargeable.

Is HHC an indica or a sativa?

HHC can be combined with either indica or sativa terpenes. The terpene profiles of certain cannabis strains have decidedly indica-leaning or sativa-leaning genetics, and manufacturers can combine HHC with terpenes extracted from indica, sativa, or even hybrid cannabis strains.

How is HHC different as a cannabinoid?

Hexahydrocannabinol has a fundamentally different structure from THC while still being relatively similar. Natural variants of THC, such as delta 8 and THCV, feature changes in the tail or very minor tweaks to the body of the molecule, but even a layman can see that HHC is shaped very differently from THC.

The back halves of the molecules are structurally identical. The front halves, however, are completely different. As a result, HHC and THC interact with your body differently while still exerting similar experienced effects. 

Is HHC synthetic?

Yes, HHC is almost always synthetic even though some research indicates this cannabinoid may sometimes be found in cannabis. All three cannabinoids commonly known as “HHC” have been used to make other synthetic cannabinoids, some of which are extremely dangerous. Cannabinoid research would have been held back considerably without the development of HHC-based CP55940, but we wonder if it was really worth it.

What is hexahydrocannabinol used for?

Hexahydrocannabinol is no longer commonly used in cannabinoid research. Useful derivatives of HHC can now be synthesized directly, so up until recently, production of this synthetic cannabinoid had essentially reached a standstill.

Noticing the rise of delta 8, however, hexahydrocannabinol was recognized as yet another form of “legal THC” capable of being sold to the masses. No matter how much marketing material you read, however, delta 8 and HHC will never be equatable. One is a synthetically derived cannabinoid while the other is a natural substance.

HHC cannabinoid vs. delta 8

HHC and delta 8 are structurally similar, and these two cannabinoids have similar effects. Delta 8 is confirmed to be naturally found in cannabis in relatively high concentrations, but reports regarding the presence of natural HHC in cannabis are inconclusive.

In any case, none of the HHC products on the market contain natural HHC. This cannabinoid is synthesized from delta 9 THC instead. That’s another difference between HHC and delta 8: D8 is usually synthesized from CBD or CBG since it is not a derivative of delta 9 like HHC.

Is HHC psychoactive?

Yes, all of the synthetic cannabinoids known as “HHC” have psychoactive effects. They all behave similarly to THC, but hexahydrocannabinol, 9-Nor-9β-hydroxyhexahydrocannabinol, and 11-Nor-9β-hydroxyhexahydrocannabinol each have structures that are very different from delta-9 THC. As a result, expect HHC to hit you slightly differently than THC.

How does HHC make you feel?

Users generally report that HHC provides a high that’s very similar to the high they’ve experienced from THC. Since cannabinoids referred to as “HHC” are almost always synthetic, however, don’t expect the vibe you get from HHC to feel the same as what you’re used to from smoking natural weed. Some synthetic cannabinoids loosely related to HHC, like Spice and K2, can have extremely intense effects that can sometimes be harmful.

How powerful is the HHC cannabinoid high?

Some sources suggest HHC may be less active at the brain’s CB1 receptors than THC, potentially resulting in a milder high. We don’t know enough about HHC yet to make any definitive statements regarding its potency compared to other cannabinoids.

Based on anecdotal testimony, though, HHC appears to offer roughly the same potency as delta 8, delta 9, and other forms of THC. While these various types of THC sometimes have different perceived effects, these differences aren't usually described as major.

HHC cannabinoid strength vs. delta 9 THC

Many users report that the HHC high is slightly less potent than the delta 9 THC high, but just as many users report that the potency differences between these cannabinoids are essentially imperceptible. We’ll need to do more research into the pharmacokinetics of HHC before we can have any degree of certainty regarding how this synthesized cannabinoid compares to other forms of THC.


HHC (hexahydrocannabinol) and THC-O (THC-O acetate) are similar in that they are both derivatives of delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol. THC-O is an acetate ester of THC, though, while HHC is this cannabinoid’s hydrogenated form.

Both HHC and THC-O are always synthetically derived. While there are reports that HHC may be naturally available in cannabis, there is no indication that the same is the case for THC-O. In terms of effects, THC-O and HHC are usually reported to offer roughly equal potency.

Is the cannabinoid HHC legal?

The 2018 Farm Bill removed hemp cannabinoids from the definition of “marijuana,” which remains a Schedule I drug. Therefore, cannabinoids derived from hemp are generally considered legal as long as they are accompanied by less than 0.3% delta 9 THC.

The DEA has indicated, however, that the rules regarding fully synthetic cannabinoids are different from the rules pertaining to cannabinoids that you can naturally derive from cannabis. Since hexahydrocannabinol is derived synthetically, the federal government may not consider this cannabinoid to be hemp. All we can say for certain is that HHC is not specifically listed in the Controlled Substances Act, so it isn’t a Schedule I drug like delta 9 THC.

Is HHC safe to smoke?

HHC flower may not be safe to smoke. Contaminants can enter HHC isolate during the conversion process. Additionally, the hemp flower HHC is sprayed on must be organically grown and free of contaminants to be considered safe.

Rarer and more difficult to derive than delta 8, the HHC market is smaller and less competitive, resulting in comparatively inferior products. Do thorough research into how a HHC product is made and the ingredients it contains before lighting it on fire and inhaling.

Is HHC legal in Utah?

Certain states have imposed regulations regarding synthesized forms of THC. Utah is among the states that may have made using or possessing HHC illegal. Contact local authorities if you have any questions regarding the legality of HHC in Utah or any other state.

HHC cannabinoid drug test info

Since its structure is virtually identical to the chemical structure of delta 9 THC, using the cannabinoid HHC could make you test positive for THC when you take a drug test. If you have a drug test coming up, make sure all the HHC you ingested has left your system before you provide your urine sample, or clear your HHC use with the party requesting the test ahead of time.

Can I buy the cannabinoid HHC online?

Yes, hexahydrocannabinol is sold online. It’s one of the rarer THC derivatives, but you can find it. Since the molecular “plans” to this form of HHC have been around for decades, it’s reasonable to assume that producers are finding it relatively easy to synthesize this cannabinoid.

We still don’t know much about the safety of hexahydrocannabinol, though. Even today, a pervasive lack of education regarding HHC makes it persistently difficult to differentiate between the different cannabinoids that are all commonly called “HHC” throughout scientific literature.

Does HHC show up on a drug test?

Yes, using HHC can make you fail a drug test for THC since these two cannabinoids have almost exactly the same chemical composition. While drug tests do not usually screen specifically for HHC, these cannabinoids are not structurally different enough for HHC to show up as a separate substance.

The same half-life rules apply in the case of HHC as apply in the case of THC, however: The longer ago you used HHC, the less likely it will still be in your system. You can also help HHC leave your body using the same techniques you use for THC — namely getting plenty of rest, exercise, and water.

Is HHC detectable in urine?

Yes, the cannabinoid HHC is detectable in urine samples, both as itself and as THC. Since HHC and THC are almost exactly the same on a chemical basis, using HHC can result in a false positive for THC in urinalysis and most other forms of drug testing. As is the case with THC and most other substances screened for in drug tests, HHC can remain detectable in your urine for up to 30 days after ingestion.

How long does HHC stay in your system?

HHC can remain in your body in trace concentrations for up to 30 days after the last time you ingested this alternative form of THC. This cannabinoid can also remain in your hair for considerably longer — up to 90 days. Usually, though, all traces of HHC will have cleared your bloodstream after 6-12 hours, which isn’t generally long enough for drug testing to be an issue.

Will pure HHC make you fail a drug test?

Yes, “pure” or isolate HHC is just as likely to make you fail a drug test as HHC combined with any other substances. The issue with HHC and drug testing isn’t purity — This isn’t some situation in which people are concerned THC might have made its way accidentally into THC products. No, the problem with using HHC if you’re regularly subjected to drug testing is that this cannabinoid appears identical to THC during drug screening, potentially leading to the loss of your vocation or freedom.

Where to buy HHC for sale

With so many other types of “legal” THC available, it’s unclear if HHC offers any additional benefits. As a synthetically derived cannabinoid, though, HHC inherently poses more risks than natural cannabinoids.

Plus, if you buy the wrong type of HHC on accident, you could be seriously harmed. Even hexahydrocannabinol, the “natural” type of HHC, usually has synthetic origins and may contain all manner of manufacturing toxins.

There’s no need to try every form of THC you can find on the internet. Some are safer than others, and certain THC alternatives are too sketchy to even be worth your time.

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