As the 'legal' alternative to cannabis continues to spread rapidly
FRANCE is set to become the last European country to ban hexahydrocannabinol, better known as HHC, the increasingly popular semi-synthetic cannabinoid and “legal high”.
This ban, which should be implemented in the coming weeks, will make France the 11th European country to take measures to ban or regulate this new substance this year.
It comes a few weeks after the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) publié a new report on this substance, which indicates that it has been reported in 20 EU Member States and Norway, but at the time of writing this report was "uncontrolled" in most of them.
Despite the growing international crackdown, the ease with which the substance can be created from legally sold CBD and hemp means its regulation still threatens to impact wider swathes of the cannabis industry.
In January of this year, Business of Cannabis first reported that the EMCDDA had held its first 'technical expert meeting' on HHC, warning member states that it represented 'the first major change in the market for 'legal' cannabis substitutes since the appearance of Spice in Europe a little over 15 years ago
The EMCDDA has been tracking the substance through the EU's Early Warning System (EWS) since October 2022, and the substance continues to be sold openly as a "legal" alternative to controlled cannabis and THC products.
According to its report, published on April 17, 2023, which aims to provide a “first authoritative overview of what is known to date”, HHC was first identified in Europe in May 2022 and, in December, it was identified. had been identified in 70% of Member States.
Since it was identified as a new psychoactive substance (NPS), around 70,7 seizures of this substance have been reported by police and customs across the EU. 28,8 kg of products containing HHC were confiscated (25,5 kg of low-THC flowers sprayed with HHC, 15,5 kg of resin and XNUMX kg of liquid).
Initial checks of HHC-containing products online suggest that prices are roughly in line with similar products on the illicit market, around 6-10 euros per gram of flower.
Although the origin of many of these products is unknown, the United States was found to be the most common country of manufacture, by a significant margin, more than twice the amount of the next most common country, the Netherlands.
According to the EMCDDA, the informal reports “suggest that the availability and use of HHC in Europe is likely to be much higher than the seizures reported so far through the SAP would suggest”.
Although HHC has been known since the 1940s, no documented pharmacological or toxicological studies have been conducted in humans, although the EMCDDA believes this should be a priority given the prevalence of the compound.
Information on specific methods of manufacturing HHC is also sparse, although two basic approaches have been identified, the first relying on CBD derived from industrial hemp.
In short, CBD is a "pre-precursor", with Δ8-THC being the immediate precursor to HHC.
Although regulations have so far struggled to keep pace with the rapid spread of HHC across Europe, 11 countries are now believed to have taken action to control it.
We have provided below a timeline of HHC regulations since the EMCDDA 'technical expert meeting' at the end of 2022.
- January 17 - The Czech Republic's national anti-drug coordinator, Jindřich Vobořil, responding to reports that "the Czech internet has been flooded with HHC", has prepared a draft proposal to regulate the substance. His team has drawn up a tentative list of 'psycho-mutant agents', new compounds with low to medium risk, recommending that they be strictly regulated, but that there is 'no reason to ban them'. necessarily”.
- April 14 – Deviating markedly from Mr. Vobořil's position, the country's national anti-drug headquarters and the Ministry of Defense, supported by the Ministry of Health, presented proposals to include HHC in the list of substances addictive from July 2023.
- May 10 – According to the European Commission's TRIS database, the Czech Republic has presented a draft regulation to add HHC and tetrahydrocannabiforol (THCP) to the list of controlled substances, excluding industrial hemp and hemp extract.
- January 19 – Iceland invokes emergency rules to immediately remove HHC and THCO from the market, after notifying the European Commission that it has tabled a bill to add cannabinoids to the list of substances controlled, making it the first country in Europe to attempt to include HHC in its narcotics regime.
- January 30 - A few weeks later, an amendment to the country's narcotics list was published to include both substances.
- February 01 – A day later, Estonia becomes the first country in the European Union to follow suit, publishing a bill to include HHC in its list of psychotropic drugs.
- 08 February – Austria's opposition party tabled a motion calling on the government to include HHC in its New Pyschoactive Substances Ordinance (NPSO), saying making the products available through loopholes posed “d 'enormous risks'.
- February 28 – The Ministry of Social Affairs, Health, Care and Consumer Protection presents a draft amendment to the NPSO to include HHC in the list of prohibited substances.
- March 23 – Media confirms that HHC is now on the list of banned substances and that its sale, including that of remaining stocks, has been banned.
- 04 April – The Swiss Federal Department of the Interior has announced a modification of its own legislation on narcotics and psychotropic drugs, which provides for the prohibition of HHC and 10 other substances.
- 06 April – Poland announces to the European Commission its intention to add HHC-O, an acetate version of HHC, to its list of narcotics, and confirms that it has already listed HHC on the list of narcotics, although the date is not known.
- April 17 – The Swedish Public Health Agency announced that another cannabinoid, H4-CBD, had been added to the list of substances under investigation, while confirming that HHC had been added in October 2022. Although this does not mean that the substances are prohibited, it does mean that the organization has submitted an application for classification.
- April 20 – The Bulgarian National Drugs Council said it would draft a bill to ban the production, trade, possession and use of HHC, listing it alongside THC in Schedule 1.
- 02 May – Although no concrete proposals have been presented to parliament, Denmark's health minister has told local press that she plans to ban HHC, saying that when new substances emerge and prove dangerous , " we have to react ".
- April 28 – The group of French Republicans poses a parliamentary question on the forthcoming ban on HHC by the government.
- May 15 – Francois Braun, Minister of Health, tells local media that while HHC is not currently classified as a narcotic, “I honestly think it will be soon,” National Security Agency regulations medicines and health products (ANSM) being expected shortly.