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Concerns about HHC in Europe: the new “legal” cannabis

by Team Inc.

hhc cannabis

After the rise of CBD, authorities are concerned about HHC. This compound can be ingested, smoked or vaporized, with effects similar to cannabis.

It's the next big thing after the cannabibiol (CBD) craze. HHC is also known as synthetic cannabis. HHC sellers praise the euphoric sensation and mental and physical relaxation it brings. Health professionals are concerned that people are becoming addicted to it and think it should be regulated.

HHC Hype

HHC stands for hexahydrocannabinol, a semi-synthetic molecule. That means it has to be made in a lab, where the THC from the hemp plant (Cannabis sativa) is combined with hydrogen molecules. It is therefore not surprising that the effects are comparable to those of THC, the psychoactive substance of cannabis.

HHC emerged in the United States in late 2021 and then became very popular in Europe in 2022, according to the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA). The complex process required to produce it could explain why it has entered the market so recently, while natural cannabis is widely consumed.

Experts say it probably has a lot to do with the rise of CBD products as well. To be commercialized, CBD must contain a THC content of less than 0,2 percent in the Netherlands, the UK and Ireland, and 0,3 percent in the US and France. Although this often goes well, other synthetic cannabinoids such as HHC sometimes also arise.
“Synthetic drugs always have much greater clinical effects in humans than the molecule itself,” says Joëlle Micallef, a professor of pharmacology.

Does HHC get you high? How does HHC differ from cannabis or CBD?

After the huge popularity of CBD, HHC flooded the market with vaping products and edibles aimed at younger consumers. However, very little is known about the health effects due to the very limited scientific studies.

In addition, “contaminations with extraction residues or synthetic by-products may pose unforeseen risks,” EMCDDA's Rachel Christie told Euronews Next. “Traces of heavy metals may also be present from the catalyst used for hydrogenation,” she added. up to it. The organization released a report last month warning of the risks of HHC.

The effects of HHC are described as very similar to those of THC, including sensations of euphoria and relaxation. As a cannabinoid, HHC also affects bodily functions such as sleep and appetite - the "munchies". Despite the lack of extensive scientific literature on HHC, early data suggest that "it may have abuse and dependency potential in humans," Christie said when asked about the risk of addiction.
That, she explains, is the main difference between HHC and CBD. Indeed, the extremely low THC content in CBD products prevents psychotropic effects. On the other hand, HHC products are reported to have some of the negative side effects of those of THC, including anxiety, memory loss, and coordination problems.

Which countries have banned HHC?

HHC isn't technically legal, but sellers are taking advantage of a gray area in the law. International anti-drug conventions face the same problem. Because it has appeared on the market so recently, it does not appear in the listed category of cannabinoids. “HHC is not covered by the 1961 and 1971 UN conventions,” Christie explains.

As a result, it is very common to market HHC as a legal THC. However, several countries have taken steps to ban it, such as Estonia, which was the first EU country to enact a bill to include HHC in its list of banned psychotropic drugs.

Other countries such as Switzerland or Finland have taken similar measures. French Health Minister François Braun said on May 15 that it would be “a matter of weeks” before HHC-based products become illegal. Legal proceedings are also underway in Denmark and the Czech Republic to ban the substance.

Norway, Sweden, Lithuania, Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia, Greece, Italy and Spain have not yet taken legal action, but the EMCDDA has identified the presence of HHC on the market. Internet data, however, suggests that HHC use is likely to be "much greater than suggested by seizures reported to date," Christie said.

Why did stores start selling HHC?

The number of CBD stores in France has jumped from 400 to 1.800 in just one year, boosted by marketing campaigns promoting it as a panacea for sleep problems, anxiety and pain.
The now highly competitive market is expected to reach €2025 billion by 3,2. In that context, HHC has presented a new business opportunity, with prices between €6 and €10 per gram of flour, higher than for CBD-based products. In addition, HHC benefited from online ordering. It is widely sold online, largely circumventing legal frameworks.

Source: I Euronews.co

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