As of late, there’s been a whirlwind of information flying around about cannabis, hemp, cannabinoids, CBD & THC. In just the past year, there’s been a sharp surge of interest in CBD specifically. For anyone trying to get real information about why there has been such a push across the board, from the business world to legislation, it can get real overwhelming and confusing real quick. But it’s important to understand what each term is and how it plays a role in an imminent new wave ready to hit the mainstream. Countless new businesses have sprouted up and even more still are being formed, based around the fundamental difference between CBD & THC. Here is the breakdown of what the differences between CBD & THC are and some of the pertinent information surrounding them.

The Basics

First of all, it’s important to understand what cannabinoids are. They are a class of diverse chemical compounds that interact with cannabinoid receptor cells in our body – they alter the neurotransmitter release in the brain. The cannabis plant produces a variety of these cannabinoids – it has been said that it is over 100, but the exact number of cannabinoids is not known. About 85 or so have been identified. CBD & THC are the most well known and talked about out of these cannabinoids, and they are found in and extracted from the cannabis plant. CBD is short for cannabidiol and it is a chemical compound extracted from the cannabis plant. THC is also a cannabinoid; this one is short for tetrahydrocannabinol. The main difference between these is that THC is psychoactive – meaning it can get you high – while CBD does not.

Legal Differences

Due to THC’s ability to induce that high, mind-altering effect on its users, it has been classified as a Schedule 1 drug by the United States Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), even though some states have legalized marijuana for personal, medical or recreational use. They consider it to have a high potential for abuse, has a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision and doesn’t have a medically accepted treatment purpose in the U.S.

CBD, on the other hand, is federally legal when it is derived from hemp, as of the US Farm Bill of 2018 and is no longer on the list of controlled substances. It is considered an agricultural commodity and that also includes its extracts, cannabinoids and derivatives. The Drug Enforcement Administration no longer has any claim to interfere with the interstate commerce of hemp products as long as the THC level is at or below 0.3%. With this clarity set forth, it should give federally regulated entities, such as banks, merchant services, pharmacies, e-commerce sites, distributors, advertising platforms, companies and more – confidence to go about their business so long as these specifications are observed. This is a federal law, however, that does not legalize CBD if it is derived from marijuana and it doesn’t overrule state law. States continue to retain their own restrictions and regulations that pertain to CBD – providing they do not interfere with its transport across state lines.

While the legality of all cannabis products remains patchy and fragmented, there is a serious push in the government towards full legalization eventually – which is why the industry surrounding CBD is projected to be at $22 billion as quickly as the year 2020.

States in which marijuana is fully legal are:

  • California
  • Alaska
  • Colorado
  • Washington
  • Vermont
  • Nevada
  • Oregon
  • Michigan
  • Massachusetts
  • Maine

Treatments and Uses for Both CBD & THC

CBD and THC each have their role; but a difference here is which ailments and illnesses they each have been used to treat. CBD has been used to help with many conditions including epilepsy, inflammation, chronic pain, psychosis and mental disorders, inflammatory bowel disease, anxiety and depression, nausea and migraines. THC has been used to treat muscle spasms, a low appetite, anxiety, nausea, insomnia, glaucoma and chronic pain. They are like a venn diagram, with some parts overlapping and others not touching. However, another difference is other side effects that THC has that CBD does not have, this is in addition to the high feeling many users get. THC also causes some temporary side effects, including dry mouth, memory loss, slower reaction times, red eyes, problems with coordination and an increased heart rate. These other side effects are another reason why many people choose CBD isolates or CBD oils that separate the CBD from the THC.

CBD & THC: Beyond Differences

Now that the fundamental differences are clear, it’s also important to understand how CBD & THC work together and compliment each other. It isn’t so cut and dry to say that CBD is the good cannabinoid and THC is the bad one, or that one is medical and the other is purely recreational. THC, although psychoactive, also has many therapeutic properties. Studies conducted by the scientists at Scripps Research Center in San Diego have reported THC’s ability to inhibit an enzyme that is implicated in the formation of beta-amyloid plaque – a major player in Alzheimer’s related dementia. CBD and THC have also been found to work best together. Scientific research has pointed to the conclusion that the two compounds work in synergy, helping enhance each other’s therapeutic effects. They have been shown to tackle health issues in tandem, displaying anti-inflammatory properties and anti-tumoral effects, working better together than on their own.

Another necessary perspective is to re-examine the cultural attitudes towards THC’s psychoactive effects. It has been shopped to the average American that any mind-altering effects are inherently bad. While, for many, it is not something that is prefered, there are still many patients going through chemotherapy, for example, who have been allowed more freedom with medical marijuana in some states, can attest to the pain relief they experience due to the use of the whole plant and all its cannabinoids working in together. It all comes down to the specific needs the individual happens to have and what will work best for them.

Another important detail to note that both CBD and THC share in common is that they are both stored in the body’s fat and can show up on drug tests for many days or weeks after use. While most standard drug tests are more sensitive to THC , other tests can still detect CBD. Even if a product like a CBD oil is matching or just under the 0.3% THC rule, it can still lead to a positive drug test should an individual take one following use, so it is a precaution meant to be taken by the individual depending on their circumstances.