Travelling with HHC: What is the situation in Europe?

Article current as of: 21 December 2023

HHC and industrial hemp in the lead

Hexahydrocannabinol, or HHC, is a compound that is produced through a process called hydrogenation in the laboratory. It is a semi-synthetic cannabinoid that is produced from cannabidiol (CBD) or tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Hydrogen molecules are added to the CBD/THC obtained from the cannabis plant. As THC is listed as an illegal addictive substance in most countries, technical or industrial hemp (Cannabis sativa) with a high concentration of CBD is used to produce HHC.

The European Union defines legal (industrial) hemp by means of a definition: 'Hemp (Cannabis sativa Linn) is a plant of the hemp family (Cannabaceae) which, according to the provisions of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), contains very low levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Cannabis is mainly grown for industrial purposes and 75 different varieties are registered in the EU catalogue. Due to the very low THC levels, hemp which complies with the provisions of the CAP is not used for the production of narcotic substances."

An import licence is required for all imports of hemp and maximum limits for the THC content of raw hemp and seed sowing are set at 0.3%.

Hexahydrocannabinol can be found in trace amounts in the cannabis plant, but is generally produced by hydrogenation. For this reason it is called a semi-synthetic or synthetic cannabinoid. HHC has psychoactive properties.

New cannabinoids: it started in the US...

The cannabinoid HHC was created in 1944 by the American chemist Roger Adams, adding hydrogen molecules to THC. The popularity of HHC began to skyrocket after 2018, when the US Farm Bill legalised the cultivation of cannabis with less than 0.3% THC and allowed the extraction of cannabinoids from the cannabis plant. This has led to the spread of a new range of cannabinoids to Europe, including CBD, HHC and THCV.

If we look at the treaties at international levels (Single Convention of 1961 and European drug laws), we find that there is no regulation of these cannabinoids for the simple reason that HHC is a new substance on the cannabis market.

Some countries, such as Poland, banned HHC even before the European Union started monitoring it. The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) published a report in April 2023: Hexahydrocannabinol (HHC) and related substances, reporting that HHC was first detected in October 2022. By the end of March 2023, it had been detected in 20 EU countries, as well as Norway and Switzerland. The EMCDDA has also stated that there is currently insufficient research and studies that rigorously examine the effects of HHC on the body. 

This report set the wheels in motion around HHC and triggered an avalanche of reactions from some countries that decided to include HHC on the list of banned psychotropic substances. The first country to do so was Estonia, followed by Norway, Finland, Austria and Switzerland.


European countries where the cannabinoid HHC is likely to be authorised

HHC appears likely to be allowed or not explicitly banned in Croatia, Slovenia, Spain, Portugal, Malta, Greece, Cyprus and Gibraltar, as well as Ireland, Luxembourg, Moldova and Romania.

In Slovakia, HHC is currently not a banned substance, but this is likely to change in 2024. The Attorney General's Office of the Slovak Republic supports the legislative intention of the Slovak Ministry of Health to include HHC and HHC-P in the list of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances.

In Germany, the legal status of HHC is conditional on its origin; synthetically obtained HHC is illegal. 

European countries where HHC is illegal

  • Belgium
  • Bulgaria
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Iceland
  • Liechtenstein
  • Lithuania
  • Latvia
  • Hungary
  • Monaco
  • Norway - cannabinoids can only be purchased in a pharmacy
  • Poland
  • Austria
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • United Kingdom

Legislation in constant flux

We would like to point out that the legislation regarding new cannabinoids is complicated, as each country approaches these substances differently. 

We can take France, for example, and its position on CBD flowers. In December 2021, France published a decree that allows the use of CBD products but prohibits the sale, possession and consumption of CBD flowers. In late December 2022, the Council of State lifted the ban on the sale and use of CBD flowers, making these products officially and definitively legal. 

In Germany, despite persistent rumours, the purchase of CBD flowers is still illegal and constitutes a violation of the Narcotic Drugs Act (BtMG). This is evidenced by a report from the Magdeburg police station on 22 November 2023. According to current legislation in Germany, unprocessed CBD products are subject to the Narcotics Act and are therefore prohibited. Only processed CBD products (e.g. CBD oil) can be offered for sale.

In Austria in February 2023 you could still easily get HHC on every corner in ID card machines or in specialised shops, which changed almost overnight at the end of March 2023 when the Austrian Ministry of Health decided to ban sales. At the same time, Health Minister Johannes Rauch has said that this regulation and classification as a new psychoactive substance will remain in force until there is sufficient knowledge of the health consequences. It follows that the situation regarding HHC may change in the future and it may reappear on the Austrian market. Currently, you can mainly find CBD and H4CBD in Austria.

The examples of these situations show that legislation is constantly moving and each country in Europe is dealing with cannabinoids in its own way, and some countries can react very quickly.



And there are also so-called grey areas

Another thing that complicates the clarity of HHC sales in different countries is that even if new cannabinoids are banned because they are defined as analogues of THC, it does not necessarily mean that you cannot get HHC there or that it is not sold there. It just falls in a "grey area". 

Manufacturers are aware that hydrogenation of THC is illegal. However, when it comes to producing HHC from CBD, the situation is different. It is generally assumed that such HHC is legal, precisely because the starting material is CBD. In some countries, HHC produced in this way is commonly found in e-shops and bricks-and-mortar stores, even though it is labelled illegal under local legislation. However, some of these products are likely to be sold as 'collectibles'.

The Czech Republic and the Netherlands, for example, are currently in the 'grey zone'. 

The Netherlands states in its relevant legislation that HHC is not mentioned in the Opium Act. Furthermore, it is neither an isomer nor a stereoisomer of delta-9 THC. This means that trade in and possession of HHC does not fall under the scope of the Opium Act, but production from the cannabis plant does. Although HHC is not currently covered by the Opium Act, it is not allowed to be added to food or e-liquids without EFSA or RIVM approval.

In Bulgaria, the cannabinoids CBD, H4CBD, CBN, CBG and CBD-P are not controlled under the Control of Narcotic Substances and Precursors Act (CNSPA) and are not included in the list of controlled substances in the Decree on the procedure for classification of plants and substances as narcotic substances. HHC, HHC-O, HHC-P, THCV and THCP can be considered as analogues (THC) within the meaning of the THC Act and analogues are subject to the same control measures as narcotic substances.

This implies that HHC is illegal, but we already know that manufacturers use CBD, so it is possible to get HHC products in Bulgaria because the manufacturers/sellers are in a "grey area".

These countries show that the situation is much more complicated than it seems at first sight. 

Planned amendment: What is happening in the Czech Republic?

In the Czech Republic, narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances are subject to Act No 167/1998 Coll., on addictive substances and on amendments to certain other acts. Government Regulation No. 463/2013 Coll., on the lists of addictive substances, amends the list of controlled narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances.

An amendment to the Addictive Substances Act is under preparation in the Czech Republic. HHC is unlikely to be banned but only regulated. This proposal will be discussed by the government on 30 August 2023, but it is not yet clear whether HHC or kratom will be included on the list, as their inclusion is not automatic.

Possible risks when travelling abroad with HHC

If you want to take an HHC with you on your trip, you should familiarise yourself with the possible risks. Even if you comply with the legislation of your destination, complications can always arise.

For example, there may be an unpleasant situation when entering a country where your HHC products are confiscated. This is because customs officials may not be able to distinguish between HHC and THC, or they may assess your products as illegal. These circumstances are then likely to result in a lengthy interrogation and possibly a fine.

Furthermore, you may find yourself in conflict with the law if you consume or even distribute HHC in a foreign country where cannabis is prohibited. You should always respect the laws of the country in question to avoid a situation where you could face charges and possibly a prison sentence.

Practical tips for travelling with HHC

  • Find out in advance the latest information about the laws and culture of your destination, especially about cannabis and its derivatives.
  • Check the maximum amount of HHC you can carry. Always take only the amount you have for your own use.
  • Carry proof of the origin and quality of your HHC products, e.g. a certificate or invoice.
  • Only consume HHC in private or in places where it is allowed.
  • Never give HHC to others.
  • Get suitable packaging to ensure safe transport - choose from specially designed containers, containers and cases designed for transporting different substances and substances. Containers protect the contents from moisture, odour leakage and accidental opening. Prefer packaging that meets safety standards and that reduces the risk of potential complications when transporting HHC.

Can I take HHC on a plane?

Even if you are flying to a destination where HHC is likely to be allowed, we do not recommend that you travel with this compound by air. The current situation regarding new cannabinoids is also quite difficult to read in European countries, or HHC is often in a grey area. Legislation can move very quickly, so what applies today may not apply tomorrow. 

You'll face thorough checks at the airport, and the last thing you probably want is to have to answer to security and get stressed out before your holiday starts.

If you're flying to a state where HHC is allowed, you'll probably be able to indulge in the cannabinoid there. Don't risk getting into a stressful situation at the airport that can drag on drastically. 


Can I travel with HHC by car in Europe?

If you are travelling by car, you need to take into account the countries you will be travelling through. So if you go to Croatia, where HHC is allowed, but drive through Austria, where there is a ban, you could get into trouble with transporting HHC, not only at a random border check, but also at a possible police check. 

We have some simple advice on how to avoid the hassle of travelling with an HHC: "Leave the HHC at home, rather than travel with it across the border." If you do decide to take it, always check the current legislation on cannabis and its derivatives before you go.

New developments in cannabis policy: Are the cannabis days coming?

Recent policy developments in the field of cannabis suggest further approaches to cannabis in Europe. Policymakers are not only focusing on the control of illicit cannabis, but also on the regulation of cannabis and cannabinoids for medicinal and other purposes (e.g. food, cosmetics).

The EMCDDA stated in a press release in June 2023: "Five EU Member States (Czech Republic, Germany, Luxembourg, Malta and the Netherlands) and Switzerland are currently introducing or planning to introduce new approaches to regulate the supply of cannabis for recreational purposes. These changes, described in the report, highlight the need to invest in monitoring and evaluation to fully understand their impact on public health and safety."

Malta has even already become the first EU country to legalise cannabis for recreational use in December 2021. In Malta and Luxembourg, cannabis can be consumed without consequences. The Netherlands is renowned for its open acceptance of recreational cannabis use. 

Conclusion: Choose the CBD alternative instead

The cannabinoid HHC has managed to build up quite a fan base in a short time, offering users a more intense experience than CBD. CBD (cannabidiol) is the second most widely used cannabinoid in cannabis, has no psychoactive effects and is known for its potential therapeutic benefits. It can help relieve pain and inflammation, relieve stress and anxiety, and promote sleep.

According to the EU, CBD derived from hemp with a THC content of up to 0.3% is legal. Under EU law, any plant with a THC content of 0.3% or less is considered industrial hemp. Industrial hemp is legal throughout Europe and is mainly used for fibre, seeds for food purposes and CBD extracts.

This means that in most European countries you can buy CBD without hassle and without a prescription. In the Czech Republic, the THC content limit for industrial hemp was raised from 0.3% to 1% in 2022. Although each EU member state has its own laws and regulations and CBD products are not legal everywhere, CBD is allowed in at least some form in most countries. Therefore, CBD may be a better alternative for travel, but still be sure to check the regulations of the country in question.

At the moment, we do not recommend that you travel with HHC abroad. 



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