Today’s cannabis industry is moving at lightning speed, and we’re constantly learning about new discoveries relating to the plant. One of the latest trends getting ready to blow up the industry is HHC-O Acetate: a brand new cannabinoid that very little is actually known about. Let’s get into what exactly this psychoactive compound actually is, how it is created, and where you might be able to find it.
Cannabis exciting and fun, yet very complex. From the extensive medical research going on behind the scenes, to studies on the plant’s biology, it seems that every day we’re learning something new about cannabis. For more articles like this one and exclusive deals on legal THC products, make sure to subscribe to The THC Weekly Newsletter. Also save big on Delta 8, Delta 9 THC, Delta-10 THC, THCO, THCV, THCP & HHC products by checking out our “Best-of” lists!
The acetylation of cannabinoids explained
Acetylation starts with the main cannabinoid, and only the psychoactive ones have been used, so THC and HHC. The acetate version (-O) is what’s referred to as a semi-synthetic derivative, or an analogue. Using a chemcial catalyst called acetic anahydride, you can turn THC and HHC into THC-O and HHC-O, which are said to be more potent than the original compounds.
In short, THC-O is an analog of THC, and same is the case for HHC-O and HHC. They have similar chemical structures but, as is the case in chemistry, minor differences often lead to substantial changes. The acetate versions are synthetic cannabinoids that can only be produced in a laboratory setting, preferably by an experienced chemist. It should be emphasized that these acetates are NOT found in the cannabis plant. With the rise of DIY technologies, it can be tempting to try and make these compounds yourself, but the process can be challenging and quite dangerous, so it’s best left to the professionals.
Serge Chistov, the inventor of Nanobidiol Technology, says his team has found a safe and efficient method to acetylate THC using only approved solvents. Chistov says his team “developed the analytical standard for testing for THC-O, as well as being in the final stages of introducing products to retail outlets.” So, if everything stays on track, we can expect to see THC-O therapeutics relatively soon.
And Christov is not the only one working to perfect the process. In a patent filed by NextLeaf Solutions, they described their process for manufacturing THC-O Acetate: “A process for producing THC-O-acetate using a succession of distillation, salting-out assisted liquid-liquid extractions (SALLEs), and solvent recovery techniques. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in cannabis oil reacts with acetic anhydride under reflux to produce THC-O-acetate and acetic acid. The resulting crude product is distilled and subjected to a SALLE with hexane followed by a SALLE with petroleum ether, before being distilled again in order to obtain a refined, THC-O-acetate product.”
It’s complicated, volatile, and it is even really worth it? Sure, these compounds might be a bit stronger than their plant-derived counterparts, but that doesn’t mean they are better. And if you’re a purist like many who are drawn to cannabis in the first place, no synthetic can ever be better than the real thing anyway.
What is HHC?
Honestly, the available information on HHC, scientifically known as 9-Nor-9β-hydroxyhexahydrocannabinol, is extremely sparce and somewhat contradicting. Let’s start with whether it’s natural or synthetic: it can be both. There is a biologically active naturally occuring (−)-hexahydrocannabinol, as well as its synthetic enantiomer (+)-hexahydrocannabinol – the latter being what you’ll find in consumer products since natural HHC is only present in very trace amounts.
As the name suggests (Hexahydrocannabinol vs Tetrahydrocannabinol), HHC has many similarities to THC. It’s basically a simplified version of Delta 9 THC. Both HHC and THC have very similar molecular structures and comparable effects, although HHC is milder. It was discovered during research in the 1960s and 70s in which the goal was to find the most basic cannabinoid-like substances that could still bind to CB receptors.
Very limited studies indicate that HHC has a decent safety profile in animal models and that it could have some medical potential, but we’ll get more into that a bit later. However, claims made by retailers regarding its legality and where it comes from are misleading at best, complete lies at worst.
Is HHC-O stronger than HHC? What about Delta 9 THC?
Here’s where things can get a bit confusing. When trying to measure the strength of a cannabinoid, we tend to compare it to the golden standard, which is Delta 9 THC. So if HHC is less potent than Delta 9 THC, but HHC-O is more potent than HHC, where exactly does that put it?
Honestly, all these comparisons are a bit arbitrary because it’s not always about potency per se, but the overall effects of the compound. When you’re using whole plant products like real flower or live resin, you’re benefiting from the entourage effect, which is not just a therapeutic phenomenon – it applies recreationally as well. You get higher when there are terpenes, flavonoids, and all the natural cannabis compounds in the products you’re consuming.
Now, synthetics aren’t inherently bad. If they’re safe and produced by an experienced professional, they can be fun and certainly have their place in both medicinal and recreational settings. But you’re definitely not going to get the same kind of high or experience with these products as you would with good old-fashioned delta 9 flowers. If you know what to expect, you won’t be disappointed though, and you can see that comparing which one is “stronger” doesn’t really make a lot of sense.
HHC, HHC-O, and Drug Testing?
The resounding assumption is that, because HHC is structurally different THC, that it will not show up on a drug test because it does not produce the same metabolites in the human body. When it comes to cannabis, standard urine tests are used to detect use ranging from roughly 1 to 45 days. Occasional users will typically be clean after 1-5 days, regular light users will take about 1-3 weeks, and for heavy daily users, expect 4 to 6 weeks to get clean.
Contrary to popular belief, urinalysis does not screen for the THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) in cannabis, but rather, they detect the metabolites created by the human body when we are exposed to THC. This class of metabolites is known as THC-COOH. These metabolites are nonactive, so drug tests are only measuring exposure, NOT impairment. Marijuana impairment cannot be detected through any kind of test thus far.
THC-COOH, or “carboxy THC” is the most common name for this metabolite. It’s the second THC-metabolite formed in our bodies, following hydroxy-THC, immediately after exposure. THC-COOH is lipid-soluble, meaning it’s stored in our fat cells making it detectable in our systems for much longer than other substances, those that are water soluble for example. Now, when it comes to all the new cannabinoids like HHC, HHC-O, THC-O, and so forth, the lines get a bit blurry.
Please note that this is not something I personally have knowledge about, as in, I have never tried to drug test myself for HHC because I use THC products regularly so I wouldn’t make a very good test subject. But according to numerous reddit users, this is accurate and you can pass a drug test if you’re only using HHC.
Where to find HHC-O products…
At the moment, pretty much nowhere. But a few companies that we work with, whose products you’ve likely seen in our newsletters, are planning to launch HHC-O vapes, edibles, and tinctures in the coming weeks. Doing a quick online search, I was only able to find one site that was selling HHC-O distillate, but it’s a company that I’m not very familiar with. As soon as these products are available to consumers on a bit wider scale, we’ll make sure to let you know.
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Disclaimer: Hi, I’m a researcher and writer. I’m not a doctor, lawyer, or businessperson. All information in my articles is sourced and referenced, and all opinions stated are mine. I am not giving anyone advise, and though I am more than happy to discuss topics, should someone have a further question or concern, they should seek guidance from a relevant professional.