There is a lot of confusion surrounding CBD and THC. This comes from the long history of stigma against all types of cannabis and any chemical or product that is derived from it. Marijuana has been illegal for a long time, and it’s only within the past decade has there been a significant movement to legalize it for medical and recreational purposes.
CBD and THC are both naturally occurring chemical compounds found in cannabis, but they have important differences. Both are becoming very popular now that there is a growing appreciation for the good they can do, and how the stigma against them came from paranoid fear mongering. If you want to learn about the key differences between CBD and THC, this guide is for you.
1) THC Is Psychoactive
This is the most important difference between THC and CBD, especially when it comes to why THC’s legal status is so much different from CBD. THC is the chemical compound in marijuana that makes you feel high — this is referred to as being “psychoactive”. It is the main reason why cannabis has been illegal, because it alters your state of mind.
More specifically, when you consume THC, it is absorbed into your bloodstream, and eventually finds its way to your brain. The molecules of THC interact with receptors in your brain that are part of your endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS is a part of your brain and nervous system, and it is responsible for the release of almost every neurotransmitter your body uses to communicate with itself. They regulate several bodily functions and affect factors like pain, sleep, and more.
When THC interacts with your ECS, it acts as a signal that your ECS can’t transmit. This disrupts your normal brain activity in a way that induces a sense of euphoria and detachment — the main sensations you experience when high. However, it also affects elements of your decision-making ability and judgment, which is why it has traditionally been illegal.
CBD, on the other hand, is not psychoactive and will not alter your state of mind at all. It does not disrupt any part of your ECS or neurotransmitters. In fact, it helps stimulate the release of serotonin and dopamine, which are chemicals your body produces to regulate things like stress and anxiety.
2) Medical Benefits
Since CBD and THC are both cannabinoids — chemical compounds found in cannabis plants — they share very similar properties when it comes to medical benefits. THC has long been used to treat things like pain, glaucoma, and cancer symptoms. According to Hemmfy’s guide to CBD health & wellness, there are some differences in the benefits that CBD offers:
- CBD can lower anxiety, marijuana usually exacerbates it
- CBD can treat seizure disorders
- THC can stimulate appetite and reduce nausea
- THC can treat muscle spasticity
You may find some differences in the extent to which these compounds treat certain conditions. For example, both are used to reduce pain, nausea, and help people with sleep disorders. In fact, there has been some research that shows it is best to use CBD and THC together with all of the other cannabinoids.
This is known as the ‘entourage effect’, which describes a known phenomenon where the effects of an isolated cannabinoid (CBD or THC, as two examples) is less than it would be when combined with other cannabinoids. Using all cannabinoids together, as they occur naturally in cannabis plants, can have more potent results. However, it is worth noting that for legal reasons it may not be feasible to combine CBD and THC together, depending on the laws where you live.
3) CBD Can Be Extracted From Hemp and Marijuana
It’s worth exploring what exactly cannabis is, and how both CBD and THC are extracted. Cannabis is a family of plants, and two important varieties are hemp and marijuana. Marijuana is a kind of cannabis that contains THC, which is the cannabinoid compound that makes you feel high. It is the only kind of cannabis plant from which you can extract a significant amount of THC.
The other cannabis plant is hemp — this refers to a plant that contains virtually no THC compounds. The legal definition of hemp in the U.S. is that any cannabis plant with more than 0.3% THC is considered marijuana, and any plant that has less than that amount is hemp. CBD, on the other hand, can be extracted from both types of cannabis plants, whether it has any THC in it or not. That is why hemp and CBD products have been treated differently, legally speaking, than marijuana and THC.
4) CBD Is Legal
The reason why marijuana has been illegal for so long is because the psychoactive effects from THC can affect people’s judgment, decision-making, motor skills, and more. This can lead to risky behavior that makes the person who consumes THC a hazard to themselves and others. However, there is a growing tolerance and acceptance of it, putting it closer to substances like alcohol. More states are easing laws, restrictions and regulations around marijuana as a result, either decriminalizing it, making it legal for medical use, or making it legal for any use.
On its own, CBD has been treated differently from THC, as research found that it can be extracted without any psychoactive compounds. First came the Farm Bill of 2014, which first eased laws and regulations against hemp. This was mostly for research, and it took the Farm Bill of 2018 to legalize hemp and hemp-based products that are under 0.3% THC content for common use. There may be some regional variation for other restrictions, but not nearly at the same level as the legal status of marijuana and THC.
This sums up all the key differences between CBD and THC that you need to know. If you are thinking of trying one, or both, you can start looking into the benefits of each in more detail. This includes using them both together for the aforementioned entourage effect. It would be wise to speak with a doctor before trying either, so you can be fully informed of the proper dosage and use.