HHC vs. Delta-9 and Delta-8 THC: What Are the Differences?

Area 52
April 18, 2022 | Blog

The cannabinoid market today is more confusing than it’s ever been. HHC? Δ8 THC? Δ9 THC?

What’s the difference?

Each of these cannabinoids offers similar effects, but slight variations in their chemical structure can dramatically alter the “tone” of the experience. Understanding the effects of each allows you to tailor your experience depending on your individual preferences.

This article explores the similarities and differences between HHC, delta 8 THC, and delta 9 THC to help you decide which is right for you.

What’s the Difference Between HHC, Delta 8 THC, & Delta 9 THC?

Cannabinoids printed on a paper with eye glasses

All cannabinoids consist of the same elements — carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen. What makes them different is the way these elements are assembled together.

The key difference between these three cannabinoids is the presence of a double bond in the chemical structure.

Delta 9 THC has a double bond at the ninth carbon in the central ring structure, while delta 8 has this bond at the eighth carbon. HHC simply doesn’t have a double bond at either position.

Virtually everything else is identical between these molecules.

While the chemical differences are subtle, it has a big impact on how each of these cannabinoids feel.

The following table summarizes the similarities and differences between HHC, delta 8 THC, and delta 9 THC, and the subsequent sections explore each category in more detail.

HHC Delta 8 THC Delta 9 THC
Strength 80% 60% 100%
Legality Legal in 38 states Legal in 38 states Legal in 16 states
Availability Low High Low
Natural or Synthetic Natural 

(Synthetic Versions Exist Too)

Natural Natural
Cost $$ $$ $$$
Effects Happiness, energy, mild euphoria Mild relaxation, moderate euphoria Relaxation, intense euphoria
Side Effects Anxiety, loss of coordination, paranoia, anxiety, trouble sleeping Lethargy, nervousness, dry mouth, insomnia Tiredness, loss of coordination, paranoia, anxiety, memory impairment, dry mouth
Typical Dose 15–30 mg 15–45 mg 15–30 mg
Chemical Structure C21H32O2 C21H30O2 C21H30O2
Cause You to Fail a Drug Test Yes Yes Yes

Potency Comparison

One of the most important practical differences between HHC and its THC cousins is potency. HHC is slightly stronger than delta 8 THC but not quite as powerful as delta 9 THC, making it a good option for people who want a little more than delta 8 can offer.

Delta 8 is half as strong as delta 9. Many people find delta 8 THC to be more enjoyable and effective than delta 9 THC, which they say produces unwanted side effects like anxiety and paranoia. Delta 8’s lower potency makes it more versatile since users have finer control over their experience by changing the dose.

Legal Status Comparison

HHC and delta 8 THC are legal in 38 states, while delta 9 THC is only legal in 16. The 2018 Farm Bill legalized hemp-derived cannabinoids that contain less than 0.3% THC at the federal level. Since then, 12 states have independently chosen to regulate delta 8 THC by instituting restrictions or bans on its sale and possession.

Currently, there aren’t any instances of HHC-specific legislation anywhere in the United States, although most people assume that states with delta 8 restrictions would uphold similar bans on HHC in court. The safest approach is to assume that delta 8 laws also apply to HHC.

How Easy is it to Find HHC or THC?

Finding HHC or THC on marijuana plant using magnifying glass

HHC is extremely difficult to find in the current cannabinoid markets, making it more expensive and less available than delta 8 and delta 9 THC. It’s natural to assume that HHC products would be more widely available than delta 9 THC thanks to its more relaxed legal status in most states, but that’s not the case.

If ease of purchase is your primary concern, delta 8 THC is the best option of the three. It enjoys the same widespread legality as HHC but is more established, meaning dispensaries and online vendors are more likely to have it in stock.

Which Forms of THC Are Naturally Occurring?

All three forms of THC (delta 8, delta 9, and HHC) have been identified in natural cannabis samples. However, delta 9 is, by far, the most abundant.

Delta 9 THC concentrations have been detected in levels as high as 30% in some samples. Both delta 8 and HHC have never been found in concentrations higher than 1% in the raw plant.

Other forms of cannabinoids, such as THCP, THCC, THCB, and THCM, have also been discovered. THC-O is not naturally occurring in any capacity.

Which Type of THC is the Most Expensive?

The cost of cannabinoids depends on the laws of supply and demand, in addition to regulatory fees.

Delta 9 THC is cheap to make because it’s produced in abundance in the cannabis plant. However, regulatory costs and low supply in non-legal states has driven up the price substantially. Delta 9 is the most expensive of the three forms of THC.

HHC is the next in line. It’s cheap to make, but it’s very new, so the supply isn’t yet able to meet the demand. This drives up the price.

Delta 8 THC is the cheapest of the three. It’s easy to make, and there’s a lot of supply. It’s legal in most states, so the demand is also quite high for it.

How Do The Effects of HHC, D8, & D9 THC Differ?

Delta 8 THC and HHC have roughly the same strength, but their effects differ. HHC users say it offers a significant boost of energy, with some people going as far as saying they take it in the morning as a coffee replacement. HHC also increases users’ happiness and induces mild euphoria, according to user reports.

Delta 8 THC can also induce mild euphoria but is usually better for managing anxiety, and improving sleep quality. Even though delta 8 THC is psychoactive, many users report taking low doses throughout the day without noticing a substantial effect on their headspace and cognitive performance.

Delta 9 THC is significantly stronger than either HHC or delta 8 THC and produces a more pronounced high. Delta 9 users often report intense feelings of happiness, giddiness, euphoria, and improved sleep quality.

What Are the Side Effects of HHC & THC?

HHC, delta 8 THC, and delta 9 THC share similar side effects, with delta 9 THC users reporting a slightly higher incidence of experiencing unwanted effects.

The most common side effects of all three cannabinoids are:

  • Anxiety
  • Dizziness
  • Dry mouth
  • Increased appetite
  • Insomnia
  • Paranoia
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Red eyes

HHC, Delta 8 and Delta 9 red eyes effect on a woman

Taking higher doses is associated with a greater chance of experiencing side effects. Keep in mind that at a given dose, delta 9 THC is more likely to cause unpleasant effects than HHC or delta 8 THC due to its higher potency.

Chemical Structures of THC & HHC Compared

People are often confused when they see that delta 8 and delta 9 THC have the same chemical formula. Doesn’t that mean they should be the same and have the same effects? Yes and no. Even though delta 8 and delta 9 contain the same number of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms, their molecular structures are not the same.

Delta 8 THC has its carbon double-bond in a different location than delta 9 THC’s, and that seemingly small structural difference gives it completely different pharmacological effects.

HHC is different. HHC has two extra hydrogen atoms that completely fill the molecule’s carbon ring, making it more stable than either variety of THC.  The tradeoff for stability is that HHC has lower bioavailability than delta 9 THC, making it less potent.

Illustration of HHC chemical structure

Will HHC or THC Affect Drug Testing?

All three cannabinoids will cause you to fail a drug test if you’ve taken them within a few days of taking the test. 

It’s best to avoid all three if you know you have a test coming up.

However, how long each stays in your system may differ slightly depending on how you take them, your metabolism, and your dose.

Counterintuitively, HHC and delta 8 THC may remain detectable in your system longer if you take a proportionally higher dose hoping for similar effects to what you’d get from delta 9 THC.

Final Thoughts: HHC vs. THC

Despite sharing similar chemical properties, HHC, delta 8 THC, and delta 9 THC each offer an experience not provided by the other two. HHC is popular among students and professionals for its energy and creativity-boosting effects. Delta 8 is reserved for afternoon or evening use for its more relaxing qualities.

One of the most important differences between delta 9 THC and its derivatives is legality.

HHC and delta 8 THC are legal for sale in 38 states, while delta 9 is only legal in 16 states.

Many people who prefer delta 9 THC’s effects but live in a state where it is illegal can opt for HHC or delta 8 THC instead. If you live in a state where all three are legal, trying a small amount of each is a great way to internalize their differences and discover which works best for you.

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