Roundtable: Should HHC Be Regulated?

Photo by Matthew Brodeur on Unsplash

When people think of the war on drugs, they usually think of bloody shootouts, racketeer hunts, and the closing of giant cocaine “labs” from Latin America. But the methods of the war on drugs are much more extensive, including those that are not so bloody, although they may not be fundamentally different.

Various prohibitionist strategies have been part of modern society for many years. However, they are more like a hydra whose head, when cut off, grows two more. Recently, the substance HHC – chemically related to THC, which is found in marijuana – has attracted attention. Until now, it has not fallen under any prohibition legislation, but that will change with the arrival of March 2024.

What are the views of Students for Liberty members on the issues surrounding HHC? Should the production, sale, and disposal of HHC be regulated?

Filip Blaha

First and foremost, it should be noted that HHC products were created solely because of the longstanding prohibition of THC. This is the classic Peltzman effect, where regulation will only cause bigger problems than the ones it seeks to address. We can fear the same effect in the case of HHC prohibition. The experience in France suggests that HHC will only be replaced by much more harmful and less researched derivatives such as spice.

Concerns about the health of minors are justified. Criticism of the availability of HHC in mainstream food stores or vending machines is also justified. However, these concerns must be addressed by rational solutions from experts, not by an emotionally tinged ban. Restricting sales to persons under 18 years of age or equipping vending machines with ID scanners (almost half of the machines are already equipped with ID scanners) is appropriate.

However, both HHC and all other derivatives can be regulated not absolutely through the list of banned substances, but through the newly created list of psychomodulatory substances. This does not ban substances such as kratom or HHC completely but only regulates the rules for their sale and consumption (for example, only for persons over 18 years of age). Unlike prohibition, inclusion on this list is not subject to the rules of the common market and can be done without regard to the European Union. At the same time, it is a solution promoted by the addictionology profession. However, the Government has chosen the simpler solution instead of the more effective one.

Ondřej Chlubna

Regulators across the country, unite! A new specter is haunting the Czech Republic – the specter of HHC. Moral panic has set in. The Christian Democrats are not going to “accept the fact that small children end up in intensive care units because of HHC,” so they intend to ban this devil that is tempting children to poison themselves, which will solve the whole problem because we know that what no one else can solve, the state will by banning it.

There are indeed vendors in the HHC market with practices that can be described as unethical. Some vendors advertise their products specifically to minors, where they pose a greater risk. Vending machines do not provide age verification or information on the safe use of products. Rarely, there is even a vendor who does not tell you the amount of a substance in their products.

However, regulation will not solve this problem. As the pirates in the mainstream media say, banning one substance will only lead to it being replaced by a new synthetic variant, which is likely to be more dangerous. And since these substances will only be sold by hand, the brick-and-mortar shops and blogs that provide information on appropriate use will disappear.  The current moral panic is creating a greater taboo among non-users, which means that information about safe use will be harder to spread, and people with negative consequences will find it harder to seek help. In turn, this taboo will attract more young people who want to prove their maturity by eating the forbidden fruit.

Most HHC shops are not hawkers trying to sell HHC to children, but legitimate traders. Many of them have a blog on their websites describing appropriate use, advice on choosing the recommended dose, and what to do in case of a bad trip. When you buy the stuff in person, they will give you warnings about its strength and possible side effects. Most of the products do not have enticing colors on them, but simple descriptions. Most users don’t end up in the hospital but with a pleasant unique experience.

The legitimate traders should not have to pay for the vices of misuse, especially when the vices are so disproportionate to the benefits. Reported cases of alcohol poisoning in minors are of an order of magnitude different, despite the ban on the sale of alcohol to minors. Yet few people talk about putting alcohol on the list of banned substances, and in the Czech Republic, this would practically earn political suicide. We also do not ban cars just because there is a risk of the user getting hurt when using them, so why should we ban HHC?

Jakub Konečný

“For God’s sake, someone thinks of the children!” – this is what the Ministry of Health is using as a justification for the temporary ban on HHC and similar substances. The government is trying to “protect” our children from harming themselves with a substance they do not know and whose consequences they are unable to predict. The same state that has completely abandoned any effort to inform children about these same substances.

I completely understand the fear on the part of parents for the health and safety of their children.

I would also not want my child to be poisoned by a popular substance that can be found in every vending machine or curfew. However, I feel that the state is not concerned about protecting children in this case, because it already has the ‘solutions’ to solve similar ‘problems’, namely restricting sales based on age. Alcohol and cigarettes are also not accessible to children, which may be a solution in this case (if I accept the fact that this restriction is effective in itself).

This is because this ban does not just apply to children, but also to consenting adults. In such a case, the person should be allowed to assess the potential risks and decide freely what substances to use. The government can best help here by providing sufficient education and relevant information. At present, however, it often prevents even this education under the guise of prohibiting the spread of toxic addiction.

Drugs can be used as a tool. They can be harmful, but they can also be useful. Like alcohol, other drugs have their uses. With alcohol, it is a relaxation in social situations; with marijuana, it is pain relief. The mere consumption of these substances by an individual is not harmful to society, so there is no reason for prohibition. Protecting children is great, but it can be done through education, not regulation.

Ondřej Tesáček

Should the sale, production, and consumption of HHC be regulated? I am not trying to persuade you to take a position for or against the consumption of HHC. I just want to ask you a few questions that will show you that both attitudes stem from the long indoctrination of our current system.

Would you be okay with someone attacking you just because they do not like your way of life? Is it okay for someone to break down your door because you have a certain chemical in your house? Would you attack me because I have used HHC, THC, LSD, or any other substance? Do you routinely dictate to others what they can and cannot do? And would you feel okay if someone else dictated to others instead of you?

The answer to these questions will undoubtedly be influenced by current laws for many individuals. However, the existence, or rather the current state of the law, is incidental to the use of these substances. There are plenty of laws, or rather legislation, that have ever been in place anywhere, but there is only one problem.

I am not worried that there will be a law “in force” from March that will prohibit me from handling HHC. The trick is that there is not a single moral or logical reason to obey this particular “our current” law and not, say, the law from India or other historical writings. Where else than in the law is it specified which law to obey? Where else than in the law is it stated in which territory the law applies, and in which territory it no longer applies? If the law applies only to itself, then what is the magical nature of its applicability based on?

The problem is not that something is prohibited or permitted. The problem is that people think there is somewhere a piece of paper that forbids or permits something. Prohibition does not change reality or morality. The only thing that will change is the opinion of millions of individuals as a result of a newspaper article reporting the supposed ban. HHC business owners often voluntarily go out of business because they fear that they are not in control of their business but in the hands of the law.

The “change in the law” is nothing more than people switching from the moral principles of the February 29 version to the moral principles of the March 1 version. If a new law was “passed” but no one knew about it, it would not be an “effective” law. The only thing that will change the moral principles of indoctrinated people is human communication.

All those articles about the ban (whether they haunt, cheer, or mourn) communicate that HHC is no longer OK. Anyone who comments on this law, whether positively or negatively, is putting it into “effect”. Anyone who changes their life because of this law has put this law into “effect” themselves.

Radek Cieslar

It is one thing to approach regulation in the free world. But the situation may be different in today’s highly paternalistic state, which is equipped with public health and social insurance and interferes in every aspect of our lives. Ideally, I would leave any regulation to private institutions – schools, shops, insurance companies, or housing units. These organizations could determine for themselves what rules apply to their members.

The question is also what exactly we want to prevent. If it is the use itself then I do not see the point. If it is about avoiding the negative effects of use, it depends on what effects we have in mind and who bears them. As far as the adult population is concerned, I see no special reason to somehow prohibit their handling of HHC (and THC). At most, I would reflect on the health risks associated with the use of health insurance/payment.

I see a problem with the non-adult population seeing the consequences of use (but the same problem occurs with adults who don’t work with relevant information and use all sorts of substances indiscriminately).

I would defer to schools and other institutions, even though they are often not private nowadays, to regulate minors. The analogy for the working population might then be “regulation” enshrined in, for example, an employment contract. The regulator can then provide a better space for education by, for example, stopping the threat of punishment for drug education, and not calling it the spread of toxicomania, etc.

Roundtable by Students for Liberty, Czech Republic.

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