As the legal use of marijuana and other cannabis products grows, consumers are becoming more curious about their options. This includes cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), two natural compounds found in plants of the Cannabis genus.
CBD can be extracted from hemp or from marijuana. Hemp plants are cannabis plants that contain less than 0.2 percent THC, while marijuana plants are cannabis plants that contain higher concentrations of THC. CBD is sold in the form of gels, gummies, oils, supplements, extracts, and more.
THC is the main psychoactive compound in marijuana that gives the high sensation. It can be consumed by smoking marijuana. It’s also available in oils, edibles, tinctures, capsules, and more.
Both compounds interact with your body’s endocannabinoid system, but they have very different effects.
Read on to learn more about these compounds. While they may have a lot in common, they have some key differences that determine how they’re used.
CBD vs. THC: Chemical structure
Both CBD and THC have the exact same molecular structure: 21 carbon atoms, 30 hydrogen atoms, and 2 oxygen atoms. A slight difference in how the atoms are arranged accounts for the differing effects on your body.
Both CBD and THC are chemically similar to your body’s own endocannabinoids. This allows them to interact with your cannabinoid receptors.
The interaction affects the release of neurotransmitters in your brain. Neurotransmitters are chemicals responsible for relaying messages between cells and have roles in pain, immune function, stress, sleep, to name a few.
CBD vs. THC: Psychoactive components
Despite their similar chemical structures, CBD and THC don’t have the same psychoactive effects. In fact, CBD is a nonpsychoactive compound. That means it doesn’t produce the “high” associated with THC.
THC binds with the cannabinoid 1 (CB1) receptors in the brain. It produces a high or sense of euphoria.
CBD binds very weakly, if at all, to CB1 receptors. In fact, it can interfere with the binding of THC and dampen the psychoactive effects.
CBD vs. THC: Legality
In the UK CBD is legal. It’s CBD’s cousin, the cannabinoid THC, that makes marijuana illegal. CBD products can contain a very little amount of THC as long as it is below the UK legal limit of 0.2% or less.
In the United States, cannabis-related laws are evolving regularly. Marijuana and THC are on the list of controlled substances, so they’re prohibited under federal law.
However, many states and Washington, D.C. have passed cannabis-related laws making medical marijuana with high levels of THC legal. The marijuana may need to be prescribed by a licensed physician.
In addition, several states have made recreational use of marijuana and THC legal.
In states where marijuana is legal for recreational or medical purposes, you should be able to buy CBD.
Before you try to buy products with CBD or THC, get information about your state’s laws. If you possess cannabis-related products in a state where they’re illegal or don’t have a medical prescription in states where the products are legal for medical treatment, you could face legal penalties.
CBD vs. THC: Side effects
CBD is well-tolerated, even in large doses. Research Trusted Source suggests any side effects that occur with CBD use are likely the result of drug-to-drug interactions between CBD and other medications you may be taking.
THC causes temporary side effects, such as:
- increased heart rate
- coordination problems
- dry mouth
- red eyes
- slower reaction times
- memory loss
These side effects are part of the compound’s psychoactive properties.
Neither compound is fatal.
However, high THC use may be connected to long-term negative psychiatric effects. This is especially true for adolescents who consume large amounts of THC.
The effect on the brain is more profound for teens.
CBD vs. THC: Drug testing
Cannabinoids like THC and CBD are stored in the body’s fat. They can show up on drug tests for several days or weeks after you use them.
Not every drug test will be able to detect CBD, but CBD-sensitive tests are available. Most standard drug tests will look for chemicals related to THC, so THC or marijuana use might show up on a screening.
Likewise, hemp can produce some THC in addition to CBD, so a test could be positive for THC even if you’ve not used it.
Why do people talk about THC content in CBD oil if THC and CBD are two different compounds?
CBD and THC are two of the most prominent cannabinoids found in the Cannabis plant. Both marijuana and hemp produce CBD and THC.
However, marijuana has a higher concentration of THC. Hemp has a higher concentration of CBD.
The average marijuana strain today contains about 12 percent THC. CBD oil may contain small amounts of THC because it’s present in the hemp plant. CBD can have no more than 0.2 percent THC to be legal at the in the UK and at federal level.