Cannabis has generated a lot of buzz in the United Kingdom and other countries in recent months due to the legalization of medicinal cannabis in several jurisdictions. However, there is still a great deal of confusion about the legal status of other cannabinoids, including HHC.
HHC is derived from hemp plants, which have countless uses in different industries. In addition, HHC is one of the 100 identified cannabinoids in cannabis plants, attracting a lot of attention for its potential therapeutic properties.
So, is HHC legal in the UK? And more importantly, is it safe to consume? In this article, we will take a closer look at HHC legality in the United Kingdom and compare it to other cannabinoids available on the market.
HHC is a cannabinoid like THC, the main psychoactive component of cannabis. HHC is found in hemp plants and has been around for a while despite its recent popularity. Historically, hemp plants were used for fiber to make rope, clothing, and other materials.
HHC is extracted from hemp plants and used in various products, such as edibles, oils, and topicals. HHC is also being studied for its potential therapeutic benefits, as it may help with pain, anxiety, and inflammation.
However, HHC is not the only cannabinoid derived from hemp plants. There are over 100 cannabinoids in cannabis plants, including CBD, CBG, and CBC. CBD is used to produce HHC in a proprietary process due to the legality of making products from Cannabis and Hemp plants.
So, what sets HHC apart from other cannabinoids?
HHC is like THC in that it is a psychoactive cannabinoid. However, HHC is not as potent as THC, anecdotal evidence of the cannabinoid mention that it's an estimated 80% as potent as THC. The evidence suggests that HHC does not produce the same "high" that THC does; instead, it creates a relaxing, rather than stimulating, "head high."
Part of the difference between HHC and THC lies in the molecular structure of the compounds. For instance, HHC is considered a variant of THC, but with one primary difference. While HHC exists in trace amounts in Cannabis, it can be produced using CBD by Hydrogenation. As a result, the double-bonded chemical structure of THC is broken and replaced with hydrogen. This structural difference in HHC is why it's known as "Hexahydrocannabinol."
The structural change between HHC and THC doesn't change how the compound binds to receptors in our body; instead, it does change shelf life. In other words, HHC is more resistant to oxidation and degradation, creating a more stable product that can stand up to heat and UV better than THC. For industrial purposes, this is a favorable characteristic.
Since research on HHC is still new, only anecdotal evidence is available about how it affects users. Some users believe HHC is unlikely to appear on a drug test. Regardless of implications, users should proceed with caution if they are drug tested regularly. Let's look at its legal status in the United Kingdom.
Let's get one thing straight; the United Kingdom is behind the times when it comes to HHC and other cannabinoids. However, HHC's legal status is a little more complicated than a simple yes or no answer.
The United Kingdom has strict laws when it comes to cannabis and under no circumstances are citizens allowed to possess, grow, consume, or sell the plant in any form. Yet, many European countries and the United States are relaxing laws to include medicinal and recreational uses; the U.S. Farm Bill of 2018 federally legalized hemp and CBD isolates as federally legal as long as they contain minimal THC levels varies by region.
Thanks to the Farm Bill, HHC can be sourced from hemp and shipped to all 50 states, which puts pressure from abroad. Moreover, the UK has some of the harshest penalties for cannabis-related offenses in Europe; Cannabis is and has remained a Class B drug, and possession can result in a maximum of 5 years in prison. In addition, if a person supplies Cannabis, they can face up to 14 years maximum.
Cannabis has an infamous reputation in the UK government and has endured reclassification several times in recent history. For instance, in 2001, the Labour Party called for a downgrade of Cannabis from a Class B to a Class C drug, thereby reducing maximum sentences for offenders. The government effectively decriminalized the drug so the UK could focus on more serious drug offenses; many believed the case was closed. Despite the estimated 200,000 police hours saved by reclassification, Gordon Brown reclassified the drug back to Class B in 2007, which has remained since then.
The government saw reason and modified the law to make medical cannabis prescriptions possible in 2018; the NHS has been slow at best to adapt to the change. Despite access to medicinal cannabis, it remains out of reach for most citizens in need due to costs and other conditions. This situation and many others have created a perfect storm of circumstances that have given rise to a black-market economy of illegal cannabis. It is estimated that approximately 4.7 million people consume cannabis in the U.K., meaning that this black market is worth upwards of 6 billion pounds.
CBD Now a Novel Food
Essentially, the black-market commands at least 1.5 million residents to turn to their services to access resources that can improve or save their lives. Seeing this conundrum, the U.K. decided to enact a law that classifies CBD and any "CBD extracts" as a novel food considering the lack of historical evidence of their consumption before 1997. Because of this development, all CBD products must undergo a safety assessment before businesses can legally sell them in the UK.
In addition, companies must apply for authorization for CBD extracts and isolates before the product can be placed and regulated on the Great Britain market. Currently, there is a list of approved and pending novel foods regarding CBD from the Food Standards Agency. However, any new products after February 2020 must have A Full Novel Food Application submitted for approval.
HHC is not currently recognized as a medical cannabis compound in the UK; this may be due to a lack of HHC-specific research. HHC is a new cannabinoid, and more evidence is needed to support therapeutic claims. In addition, HHC isn’t listed as an approved novel food; this means HHC is not available in the UK as a dietary supplement, food additive, or cosmetic ingredient.
HHC is not recognized as a medicine by the UK government, so doctors cannot prescribe it. Furthermore, some would argue that due to the intoxicating effects of HHC that it would be considered a controlled substance under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. At the same time, there are no laws that currently govern HHC precisely because of the "newness" of the cannabinoid. At best, this puts HHC in a legal gray area, but at worst, HHC is an illegal drug.
However, since most HHC in the industry stems from CBD isolates, HHC is likely to undergo the same process as CBD to become a novel food. This would require more HHC-specific research and applications to the FSA before HHC could be legally sold in the UK. In the meantime, HHC is likely only available on the black market, in other parts of Europe, or abroad in countries with more relaxed laws.
Like many countries before it, CBD products remain largely unregulated, but through approval from the FSA, CBD and its isolates are likely to become more available in the UK soon. Their availability would hopefully mean that CBD products are subjected to more stringent standards, ultimately making them safer for consumers.
HHC's legal status will likely follow a similar path as CBD; HHC is a new cannabinoid with a history and immense therapeutic potential. HHC's therapeutic potential is promising, and many patients eagerly await its legalization. Unfortunately, HHC is not currently recognized as a medicine by the UK government, so doctors cannot prescribe it.
HHC is currently in a legal grey area, but it is unlikely to be decriminalized soon. At the same time, the rest of Europe enjoys the cannabinoid touted as a "legal high" for many consumers. Unfortunately, many opponents of decriminalizing Cannabis and hemp products see HHC, and other CBD isolates to skirt the law. HHC's legal status disappoints many patients who could benefit from its therapeutic properties. The status of HHC is complicated, and it's best to use it cautiously.
HHC is not currently available on the UK market, but there is a possibility that it will be in the future. HHC's legal status will likely change as public opinion and scientific research supports its therapeutic potential. It is unlikely that lawmakers in the UK can continue to ignore pressure from patients, scientists, political rivals, and influences abroad. HHC's legal status is essential, and its eventual legalization will significantly impact the UK market.
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