THC Vs CBD: What Is The Difference?

What is CBD and why is it legal

Posted on June 5th, 2021

Are you choosing between THC vs CBD for your cannabis experience? There are more than a hundred different chemical compounds, referred to as cannabinoids, in cannabis plants. Now,  THC and CBD are the two most popular. And they both produce effects in your body when consumed or applied.

Both THC and CBD interact with your body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS). But they do so in different ways. And that’s because of differences in their chemical structures. Those chemical structures result in several different user experiences, with one key distinction. Using THC gets you high; taking CBD doesn’t.

Want to get a better idea of what separates these two cannabinoids? Just keep reading to find out more about THC Vs CBD.

What Is THC? THC vs CBD

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the most abundant chemical compound in cannabis plants. Plus, it’s the main psychoactive compound.

Now, when you look under the microscope, THC and CBD have the same chemical composition. But their molecular structure is quite different. And that results in significant differences in the effects each of these substances has in our bodies.

THC interacts with your ECS by binding to CB1 receptors. This triggers a neurotransmitter release. Then,  the compound signals a dopamine release by triggering the brain’s reward system. In turn, these reactions produce  euphoric highs. It can also lead to powerful sedative properties.

But there’s more to know about the THC experience. This cannabinoid may help you manage pain, nausea, insomnia, anxiety, lack of appetite and glaucoma, among other conditions.

After manufactures extract THC from marijuana plants, its sold in a variety of forms, including edibles, capsules, tinctures and oils

Today, there’s also a synthetic form of THC, called dronabinol. This THC is present in some FDA approved drugs including Syndros and Marinol. Both medications are used to treat chemotherapy-related vomiting and nausea. Nabilone, another synthetic substance that closely resembles THC is used in Cesamet. And that’s drug used to boost appetite in HIV/AIDS and cancer patients.

THC Side Effects

When talking about THC Vs CBD, you also need to consider each cannabinoid’s side effects. And we’ll start with THC. Generally, THC is considered safe for use. Still, some users report unwanted side effects including dry mouth, memory loss and increased heart rate.

While less unpleasant, other THC users notice they’re paranoid after smoking a joint. Plus, with THC use, you may get a case of the munchies. Which could leave you gaining weight, if you toke too often.

What Is CBD?  CBD Tincture vs Oil - cbd tincture besides a cannabis plant in a pot

Cannabidiol (CBD) is the second most abundant chemical compound in cannabis plants. Discovered in the 1940s, CBD’s rise to prominence is more recent than that of THC.

We can extract CBD from marijuana and hemp plants. (These are both varieties of cannabis. And they’re distinguished by their THC content.) But most CBD comes from hemp plants, because of higher concentrations and legal restrictions.  After extraction, you can buy CBD products in so many forms. These include capsules, edibles, concentrates, supplements and oils among others

Also, CBD’s interaction with your ECS is quite unique. Instead of bonding with its receptors, CBD molecules inhibit their activation. As such, CBD won’t cause psychoactive effects. And, since it won’t get you high, many people turn to CBD as a safe way to explore the effects of cannabis.

CBD Based Treatments

Like THC, the FDA approves CBD use for certain medical treatments. Currently, CBD isolate is an important ingredient in Epidolex, an FDA approved drug that treat seizures in children with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome.

Thankfully, we don’t know of serious CBD side effects. Still, some users report diarrhea, weight loss and changes in appetite, dizziness or fatigue. But research suggests that most CBD side effects are triggered by very high doses. In some cases, negative drug interactions could be responsible.

Where is THC Legal?

Another big difference between THC vs CBD is legality. Over the last decade, debates raged over THC’s legality at the federal and state level. At this time, many states have opted to legalized marijuana (THC) for medical or recreational use. Or both. But THC is still considered a federally-controlled substance.

Currently, THC and CBD’s legal status changes quickly across the states. But THC is still illegal at the federal level. (It’s still classified as a schedule I drug). Regardless, 33 states and the District of Colombia permit cannabis possession and use. And that includes THC.

Medical use of cannabis (THC) is legal in the following states:

  • Arkansas
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Hawaii
  • Louisiana
  • Maryland
  • Minnesota
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • New Hampshire
  • New Mexico
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Pennsylvania
  • Puerto Rico
  • Rhode Island
  • South Dakota
  • Utah
  • Virginia
  • West Virginia

And, in these states, you can legally use THC for medical and recreational purposes:

  • New York
  • Arizona
  • Oregon
  • Colorado
  • Illinois
  • Maine
  • Nevada
  • Michigan
  • Alaska
  • Vermont
  • New Jersey
  • Massachusetts
  • Virginia
  • Washington
  • California
  • Montana

Within each of these states, regulations differ about the amount of marijuana you can legally hold or grow. Plus, in most states, you can only buy marijuana from licensed dispensaries.

Where is CBD Legal?

The 2018 Farm Bill changed the legal status of CBD at the federal level. The law declassified CBD from the Controlled Substances Act. According to the bill, any hemp derived CBD with a THC content of less than 0.3 percent is legal. At least, at the federal level.

However, that doesn’t mean that the substance is legal in all states. In fact, in some states, CBD is illegal! Before buying any CBD products, check its legal status in your state.

CBD is legal in all the states that have legalized cannabis. This means that if you live in any of the states that allow medical or recreational use of cannabis, then you can legally use CBD. However, detailed provisions on the legality of some CBD products and their uses vary from state to state. For instance, in some states, the only CBD products considered to be legal are those approved by the FDA. In other states, such as Utah, CBD edibles are illegal with the exception of gelatin cubes.

As you can see, the legal environment surrounding the use of CBD varied to say the least. While the substance is considered to be legal at the federal level – provided that it is in line with the provisions of the 2018 Farm Bill – states are left to come up with their own legislation governing possession and use at the local level.

THC vs CBD: Which is Better for You?

Both CBD and THC are derived from cannabis plants. However, THC is normally extracted from marijuana plants while CBD can be derived from both marijuana and hemp plants. For economic, and legal, reasons, most manufacturers extract CBD from industrial hemp plants.

While both compounds have a variety of similar potential health benefits, one of the main differences between THC vs CBD is the fact that THC makes users high. And CBD doesn’t. This makes it a great option for those who want to enjoy the potential therapeutic benefits without getting high.

According to existing research findings, both of these cannabinoids are well tolerated by the human body. However, some users have reported suffering a few mild side effects. Furthermore, it is worth noting that CBD may interact with any other medications that you might be taking.

Before purchasing or using CBD and/or THC products, it is important to check local state laws. THC is illegal at the federal level. However, recreational and medical use is legal in some states. Hemp derived CBD with less than 0.3 percent THC is legal at the federal level as per the provisions of the 2018 Farm Bill. However, its legality at the state level varies from state to state, as per the applicable state laws.


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