The legal use of marijuana and hemp has been rapidly expanding across the country. This expansion has been remarkable, but has left many consumers wondering which products are the best for their needs. The two most commonly derived compounds are CBD and THC.
These compounds are called cannabinoids.
Both come from plants found within the cannabis plant family. Both cannabinoids are found in hemp and cannabis, but legal hemp cannot contain more than 0.3% THC by weight.
This is why hemp is the primary means of CBD extraction. Marijuana can contain any amount of THC and CBD, and is much more tightly controlled, legally. For this reason, people who use marijuana derived CBD will absolutely feel the intoxicating effects of THC.
If you are looking for a completely legal CBD product, please make sure you look for hemp derived CBD. You can reap the health benefits associated with cannabis, but without feeling the effects of THC.
With so much misinformation out there, lets take a look at some of the most common questions I hear about the differences of CBD vs THC.
Will CBD Get Me High Like THC?
This is one of the biggest differences between THC vs CBD. THC will get the user high, CBD will not. Why is this?
Both CBD and THC interact with the Endocannabinoid System (ECS), but act in very different ways. The ECS comprises various neurotransmitters and their receptors.
These neurotransmitters act like cannabinoids but are produced within the body. The system was discovered in the 1960’s during research into THC and its effects on the body.
Neurotransmitters are chemicals responsible for relaying messages between cells and have roles in functions like pain, immune response, stress, and sleep.
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The differences of CBD vs THC and their effects on the body are expressed in how the body absorbs each compound.
There are two cannabinoid receptors in the body: CB1 and CB2. These are the sites where cannabinoids enter the ECS.
CBD and THC act quite differently, here.
THC binds with both. This binding allows for a number of effects on your body and mind; some more desirable than others. For instance, while THC can induce feelings of euphoria and stimulate your appetite, it can also cause paranoia and anxiety.
CBD does not strictly bind with the cannabinoid receptors CB1 or CB2. It is unclear at this time how CBD is taken into the ECS; it is thought to modulate the receptors instead.
CBD has a low affinity for binding to the CB receptors. Researchers are still relatively unclear exactly how CBD interacts with the CB receptors, but they do know it doesn’t directly bind like THC does.
Why Does THC Get People High?
Your ECS is designed to receive and send messages via endocannabinoids and receptor sites. CB1 receptors are located primarily in the brain and central nervous system.
Scientists have identified two primary endocannabinoids:
- anandamide (AEA)
- 2-arachidonoyl-glycerol (2-AG)
THC fits into the CB1 receptor so well that it actually pushes AEA out of the way, sending a flood of ancillary signals to the brain.
These signals then aggravate or mitigate the various functions listed above. The result is often euphoria.
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I will get into this a bit later, but because THC makes the user high, it is located on a controlled substances list. This list is filled with substances that are regulated by the Drug Enforcement Agency, and normally require a prescription for use.
Medical marijuana, for example, requires the use of a medical card in any state that marijuana or THC isn’t recreationally legal in.
Why Does CBD Reduce Inflammation So Well?
Another of the key differences between CBD vs THC is cannabidiol’s ability to reduce inflammation. This is extremely important when comparing CBD and THC. Why is this?
CB2 receptors have been shown to effect immune function. As mentioned before, CBD does not bind with CB2 receptors, but modulates them. This modulation can occur in a number of ways:
- It can amplify or decrease the receptors ability to transmit signals
- Act as an agonist – mimicking endocannabinoids and activating receptors
- Act an an antagonist – blocking CB1 or 2 receptors and limiting their activity
Which one of these affects that contributes the most to inflammation reduction is unknown. What is known are the lab results showing the effectiveness of CBD.
Related article: Undeniable Facts About CBD
CBD products like CBD balms are extremely popular for this reason. People see, quickly, the benefits that come with applying topical CBD products to the skin.
Once they are on the skin, they are able to penetrate and indirectly stimulate the CB receptors we spoke about earlier.
Is CBD Psychoactive?
Not really. CBD is only psychoactive in that it can alter your moods, or make you feel relaxed. It is not intoxicating in any nature, or psychoactive in the manner that will make you feel high.
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There is simply not enough THC in hemp based CBD extract to get the user high.
You see, a chemical is considered psychoactive when it acts primarily on the central nervous system and alters brain function. This alteration can temporarily change things like mood, consciousness or behavior.
Most people associate the term psychoactive to mean it will make you feel high. While this is definitely part of being psychoactive, it’s not the only meaning.
CBD does not have the intoxicating effect of THC and will not get you high or cause withdrawal effects.
This is one of the differences between CBD vs THC.
CBD does cross the blood-brain barrier and directly affects the central nervous system. The result of this is a change in mood and/or perception. This is why CBD is shown to treat anxiety, pain, depression, and seizures.
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Not everyone enjoys the intoxicating effects that THC brings them. In fact, if marijuana wasn’t able to get people high, many, many more people would be using it.
Furthermore, many doctors actually prefer prescribing non-intoxicating substances to their patients. This is because the risk to become addicted, or risk of substance abuse, is almost non-existent in non-psychoactive substances.
THC – What’s the Difference in Chemical Structure?
Both THC and CBD have the exact same molecular weight.
They both consist of 21 carbon, 30 hydrogen, and 2 oxygen atoms. The differences between THC vs CBD lay in the arrangement of these atoms. This is why they produce different effects in the receptor sites.
Related article: CBD vs Hemp – Is There a Difference?
As you can see here, they look very, very similar. The difference between CBD and THC is simply the placement of hydrogen and oxygen atoms.
Another of the key differences between THC vs CBD are their legal status. THC IS a controlled substance whereas CBD is not. What does this mean though?
For something to fall into the Federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA), it must be specifically denoted and assigned one of five scheduling criteria.
Schedule I is the most restrictive, indicating the drug has no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. Marijuana falls into this category.
Schedule V, the least restrictive, defines a drug with accepted medical uses in the United States and a low potential for abuse. Schedule V drugs typically consist of preparations containing limited quantities of certain narcotics.
If you examine the CSA, the word “cannabidiol” or “CBD” is nowhere to be found. This does not mean CBD cannot be regulated, however. If it is derived from marijuana, something called the “source rule” is applicable.
This would make any particular CBD product regulated since it came from a controlled substance (marijuana, in this case).
With the passing of the Farm Bill of 2018, hemp became legally defined as unique from marijuana so long as it contained less than 0.3% THC by weight.
Hemp based products also became legalized under the same bill. Again, the hemp based products must contain a THC content of 0.3% or less to remain a legal substance.
Related article: Is CBD Legal in the United States?
This definition opened cultivation of limited “pilot” programs. The Farm Bill of 2018 took this even further, allowing the transfer of hemp-derived CBD across state lines for commercial or other purposes.
It also puts no restrictions on the sale, transport, or possession of hemp-derived products.
Typically, states where cannabis is legal for recreational or medical purposes, should also allow the purchase of CBD.
As with anything that has a tricky legal standing, check your state’s laws concerning possession of CBD or THC. For more information on this, follow this link (internal link).
Now that we know some of the differences between THC vs CBD, lets get into applications.
CBD and THC have many overlapping medical benefits.
However, since CBD does not cause the euphoric “high” of THC, many people may prefer it since it lacks this side effect. Below is a list of symptoms commonly treated with either THC, or CBD.
- chronic pain
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Crohn’s disease
- lack of appetite
- muscle spasms
This is by no means a complete list, new research is being done everyday into new applications. Also worth noting, non-prescription products often have inaccurate dosing amounts on their labels.
When purchasing a CBD or THC product, ALWAYS look for a scannable QR code on the packaging.
All reputable CBD organizations will have these codes on their CBD oil products. They are scannable via any cell phone, and link to a third party lab result showing the exact cannabinoid content (like THC, CBD, etc…).
This lab report is a complete chemical analysis of the product so you know exactly what is going into your body. Credible products will always provide this.
If you do not see any QR code, please make sure you have a good product. Chances are, you don’t. All of New Phase Blends hemp derived CBD products have this code.
Also, make sure you are buying actual CBD oil, which might also be called hemp CBD oil, or even hemp oil.
DO NOT purchase hemp seed oil thinking that it’s the same thing as CBD oil. It is not. Hemp seed oil contains a lot of healthy fats, but actually contains no cannabinoids like CBD and THC.
Wrapping Up | CBD vs THC
CBD and THC both have profound medical benefits. They’re both considered safe, but keep in mind the possibility of interactions with other drugs you’re taking.
One key takeaway from this article should be that THC and CBD different mainly in the fact that THC will make you feel high (and is therefore a controlled substance), while CBD will not.
They both offer a number a different health benefits, the effects of THC are simply different from the effects of CBD.
The cannabis plant is full of so many potential benefits to our health and wellness. Imagine being able to reap all of the rewards of something like medical marijuana, without the need to get a prescription, and without having to get high when you use it.
Always consult your physician before substituting or supplementing your current medications with CBD or THC.
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