In the wake of substantial pushback against THC analogs like Delta-8 from the Federal and the state governments in the US, manufacturers are in an arms race to find the next legal high. This is where HHC and THC-O come into play. They are both THC analogs, which means they have similar effects but have a different molecular structure. This makes them chemically distinct and also alters the effect they have. However, as psychoactive cannabinoids, they are meant to give you a high.
HHC is relatively new to the space, and only a handful of retailers are selling it online. THC-O is also new but has had a little more time on the market for people to know about it. So, if these two cannabinoids are new to you, don’t worry. Most people didn’t know they existed until recently.
What is THC-O?
THC-O is short for THC-O-Acetate. It is an analog of THC and is one of the few manmade cannabinoids that are out there. It was first created during a military research program in the mid-1900s (the exact date is not available). The researchers were trying to find a way to make THC water-soluble to make it easier to inject into animal test subjects. Naturally, THC is lipophilic, and so it only dissolves in water. So they created THC-O-Acetate, which is water-soluble. This change in molecular structure also has other effects on the compound. THC-O is a prodrug to THC, which means it must be broken down within the body before the active THC can take effect.
How Is it Made?
THC-O is made by acetylation of THC (Delta-8 or Delta-9). The THC is reacted with acetic anhydride, which creates the modified THC molecules. The entire process involves hazardous chemicals, and they must always be handled with extreme care by a trained chemist.
How Potent is it?
THC-O is a few times more potent than the parent THC. It causes all the characteristic signs of a typical cannabis high but takes it up a few notches. It is more psychedelic compared to Delta-9 THC as well.
What is HHC?
HHC is short for tetrahydrocannabinol, and it is another manmade cannabinoid that has become popular on the market. Technically it is found in nature but only in trace amounts. So, it has to be made in a laboratory for any usable quantities to be produced. HHC was first synthesized by Roger Adams in 1947. It is made through a process called hydrogenation. It is the same process that turns vegetable oil into margarine. The process is tricky at best, and the results are unpredictable. Based on a recent interview with Colorado Chromatography done by Leafly, it seems that the HHC manufacturing process is also fairly dangerous because of the compounds involved.
How is it Made?
HHC is currently only made from CBD that has been extracted from legal hemp plants. This is similar to the process followed for THC-O manufacturing as well. Since Delta-9 and now Delta-8 THC is illegal in many places, the only option is to convert CBD (which is widely legal) into Delta-8 THC and then is hydrogenated to create THC. THC is reacted with Hydrogen under specific conditions like heat and pressure to create HHC.
How Potent is it?
HHC is less potent than THC, and a compounding factor is added to the mix. The HHC conversion process creates two different molecules, 9R and 9S HHC. 9R easily bonds with the endocannabinoid receptors spread throughout the human body, thus creating a characteristic high. 9S, on the other hand, does not bind with these receptors and thus has no effect. The cost of separating these two molecules from the HHC derived at the end of the extraction process is simply too high to be commercially viable. So the laboratories simply make an effort to keep the ratio of active to inactive HHC at 1:1 or higher.
THC-O vs. HHC: How Does It Affect The Body
Both THC-O and HHC are cannabinoids, so they have some similarities in their effects on the body. However, when compared to each other, they are very much on the opposite ends of the spectrum.
THC-O creates an intense high in the body coupled with a large reduction in the ability to move. It is also called the “spiritual cannabinoid” because of its intense psychedelic properties. It can temporarily alter the perception of colors and brightness, creating an altered state of mind. This has been known to create a spiritual experience in many users. THC-O has been described as a much more intense version of typical cannabis (delta-9 THC) high but without anxiety and paranoia. It creates a general sense of euphoria. You might start laughing and giggling at almost everything. It also causes dry eyes and mouth, AKA cottonmouth, which most habitual cannabis users would be familiar with. This intense mental and physical experience makes it a popular alternative to the Delta-9 THC high.
There has been very little community feedback on the experience of HHC because of how new it is in the market. However, most agree that it is a mild high comparable to the effects of Delta-8 THC. However, most have noted that it is a very cerebral experience, and the body stays active and sometimes even feels energized. Users have noticed that they stay sharp and can focus with ease. They can enjoy physical activities like exercising and playing sports. It is considered less potent than Delta-8 THC, which is considered to be only half as potent as Delta-9 THC.Compared to THC-O, which is considered a few times more potent than Delta-9 THC, HHC would come in towards the lower end of the potency scale.
THC-O vs. HHC: Are They Safe?
Both THC-O and HHC are THC analogs, and they are considered safe and non-toxic. HHC is especially hard to take too much of because of its low potency. THC-O can be dangerous in high doses as it can almost incapacitate you for a very long time or simply put you to sleep. You will also probably be too euphoric to actually notice. So as long as you avoid doing things like driving or handling heavy machinery, you will be safe.
Are They Legal?
The main reason for banning them is the psychoactive nature and the various politics involved. This being the wild west period of legal hemp and cannabis in the US, there is a lot of back and forth between manufacturers, sellers, and the government. HHC and THC-O are both THC analogs, and thus they technically can be put under Schedule-I restrictions as THC itself is still schedule-I in many states.
Where to Buy THC-O and HHC Products?
At the moment, you can buy both cannabinoids online and also from local shops in some cases. It is best to check with your state regulations before purchasing online. Most online sellers maintain a list of locations where they cannot ship certain items. They will stop or cancel your order automatically if what you are buying is not legal where you are. Currently, HHC is very new and mostly available as vape cartridges. THC-O has gained more market penetration and is also available as tinctures and flowers. The flowers are regular CBD hemp flowers that have been infused with THC-O. Some HHC flowers and tinctures are also coming up in the market, especially as blends with other cannabinoids.
THC-O is one of the most potent cannabinoids in the market, a few times more than Delta-9 THC. HHC is one of the least potent cannabinoids you can buy right now. It is less potent than Delta-8 THC, which is about half as powerful as Delta-9 THC. Both are THC analogs and are subject to any THC analog laws that you might have in your location. They are both made in laboratories from CBD extracted from legal hemp plants. There is no organic residue left at the end of this process, so they are entirely synthetic compounds. They are both safe to consume and are available for purchase in various forms. THC-O is known for its intense and psychedelic high that incapacitates the body while the effects last.
HHC has been reported as a very mild but calming experience with great mental clarity. It has been described as being very cerebral by some users. If you choose to consume either of them, please ensure that you buy from a verified source. As industrially processed chemical substances, only the purest forms must be used in purchasing products. Traces of the toxic chemicals used in their manufacturing can lead to various health complications. So be safe and enjoy the experience of these new and popular cannabinoids.