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  • CBD VS THC: Understanding The Differences

Written by The Hemp Jubilation Team

Updated on: January 21, 2021

All in all, Experts estimate that the global CBD market will be worth $5.3 billion by 2025. That's a tremendous growth rate of some 40% in just five years!

What do you think? Is CBD just the latest health craze? 

Far from it! Every year, more research comes to light about the potential health benefits of CBD and THC. Laws regarding CBD and THC are changing rapidly too, as more people are eager to try these powerful, all-natural products.

Of course, it's natural to ask questions about these products too. Does CBD make you high? How is it different from THC? Where are CBD and THC legal (and where are they illegal)? And when it comes to CBD vs. THC, which is the better choice for you?

There's a lot of misinformation floating around out there, so we're here to set the record straight. In this post, we'll dive into the similarities and differences of CBD vs. THC so you can make an informed decision.

Your CBD education starts now, so keep reading for the answers to these important questions!

CBD vs. THC: At a Glance

CBD and THC are two of over 100 different chemical compounds found in the cannabis plant.

Why is there suddenly so much interest in a plant that's been around for ages? These compounds of the cannabis plant are chemically similar to your body's naturally-occurring endocannabinoids. As a result, CBD and THC both interact with your body's cannabinoid receptors.

In plain English, this means that CBD and THC can enhance your body's natural functions and processes. This includes mood regulation, anxiety reduction, and relief from pain and inflammation — to name just a few.

Many products have emerged recently that contain CBD, THC, or both compounds. Before you can understand why and how to take CBD or THC, you first need to understand their differences. 

What Is CBD?

CBD is short for cannabidiol. It's the second-most prevalent compound in the cannabis plant, second only to THC.

Two common types of cannabis include marijuana and hemp. We'll discuss their similarities more later, but for now, it's good to know that most CBD products today are made from commercial hemp. Hemp contains large amounts of CBD and only trace amounts of THC.

Why does this matter? Because, as similar as CBD and THC are, CBD is not psychoactive. Unlike THC, CBD will not make you feel "high."

What Is THC?

The scientific name for THC is Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol. It's the most prevalent compound in the marijuana plant, while hemp contains negligible amounts of THC.

THC signals the brain to release a higher-than-normal amount of dopamine, one of your body's feel-good hormones. This spike in dopamine results in that euphoric "high" that people associate with marijuana use.

Regardless of how you feel about getting high, it's important to note that marijuana and products containing THC are still illegal at a federal level (as of January 2021). Some individual states have legalized the use of marijuana and THC products for medical or recreational purposes, but we'll get to that in a bit.

Chemical Structure of CBD and THC

Now that you have a basic overview of CBD vs. THC, let's dig a little deeper and look at their chemical structures.

Interestingly, CBD and THC have exactly the same molecular structure. Both compounds are made of:

  • 21 carbon atoms
  • 30 hydrogen atoms
  • 2 oxygen atoms

This explains why both compounds react well to your body's natural cannabinoid receptors. Why, then, does one compound make you high while the other doesn't?

Psychoactive Components of CBD and THC

The difference lies in how the individual atoms are arranged. Each compound binds with different receptors inside your body, producing beneficial (but very different) results.

The composition of THC allows it to bind to your brain's cannabinoid 1, or CB1, receptors. CB1 receptors control many functions of your central nervous system. This chemical reaction produces that rush of dopamine we discussed earlier, which produces feelings of euphoria.

CBD, on the other hand, binds very weakly (or not at all) to CB1 receptors. Instead, it binds well to TRPV1 receptors, which control pain and inflammation. It also regulates the 5ht serotonin receptor, which may help to treat psychotic disorders.

Legal Issues: The Legality of CBD and THC

Laws regarding CBD and THC are changing rapidly, but the following information is accurate as of January 2021. Before purchasing any products, it's a good idea to check the latest legislation in your state to see if anything has changed.

Where Is CBD Legal?

We'll start with CBD since this is the easiest to explain and understand.

As of the end of 2018, all 50 states have officially legalized the use of hemp-based CBD products. In fact, hemp has been removed from the Controlled Substances Act. Great news, right?

Before you rush out to buy CBD, note the term "hemp-based." Remember earlier when we said that hemp contains only trace amounts of THC? CBD products made from hemp contain only trace amounts (less than 0.3%) of THC, meaning there's no conflict with federal law.

However, some CBD products on the market today are sourced from marijuana, not hemp. CBD products derived from marijuana will also contain THC. If you live in a state that's legalized marijuana, you're free to choose products that contain both compounds.

But if you live in a state where marijuana and THC products are not yet legalized, you'll want to stick with hemp-based CBD products.

Where Is THC Legal?

In December 2020, the House passed a historic bill to decriminalize cannabis. We'll have to wait and see how this plays out, for now, cannabis (and its main compound, THC) is still illegal at a federal level. 

However, 35 states have legalized the use of marijuana for medical or recreational purposes (or both). This means that you can use marijuana and THC products on state-owned land or in the privacy of your own home.

Here's a quick list of states that have legalized marijuana for recreational use:

  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Illinois
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Montana
  • New Jersey
  • Nevada
  • Oregon
  • South Dakota
  • Vermont
  • Washington State
  • Washington, DC

In addition, 20 other states allow the use of marijuana and THC for medical reasons only. These states are:

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

More states are joining their ranks each year. If you're interested in using THC products, be sure to keep up with the latest laws in your locale.

Potential Health Benefits of CBD and THC

Our discussion of CBD vs. THC wouldn't be complete without mentioning why people seek to use it in the first place: for the health benefits!

Both CBD and THC provide many of the same benefits to your body. Keep in mind, though, that THC will also produce those euphoric "high" feelings in users. If you want to experience the healing benefits without the high, be sure to choose hemp-based CBD products.

Health Benefits of CBD

You may remember back in 2018 when the FDA approved Epidiolex, the first prescription medication to use CBD. It was developed to treat rare and difficult-to-control types of epilepsy.

The majority of people who use CBD, however, use it for other reasons. Some studies suggest that CBD can help with:

Depending on your needs, you can take CBD orally or topically. CBD gummies are most popular as a sleep aid, while topicals are best for targeted pain relief. However, it's worth doing some more research to see which type of CBD products (edibles, tinctures, salves, etc.) will be best for you.

Health Benefits of THC

People who seek prescriptions for medical marijuana (or otherwise choose to use THC products) often do so for the following reasons.

CBD is well-tolerated and considered safe for most people. Research suggests that side effects if any, are rare and usually a result of an interaction with other drugs or medications.

However, cannabis (marijuana) should not be considered completely harmless. Marijuana has several physiological effects, such as rapid heart rate and dilation of the blood vessels, that in limited cases could be hazardous, particularly for those with pre-existing cardiac conditions.

Of course, before you try CBD, THC, or any other health products, it's always a good idea to talk to your doctor first. 

Is CBD better than THC?

It depends on a few different needs and wants. If you're looking for a more stoned, relaxed feeling then THC will give you that. It does come with side effects: memory impairments, lowered reaction time, increased heart rate, dry mouth, and bloodshot eyes.

On the other hand, CBD lacks the psychoactive effects of THC, it won't get you high. But there have been some reports of dry mouth, light-headedness, and drowsiness. 

All in all, the lower health risks of CBD, combined with its efficacy, make it a better candidate for a natural, safer method than THC.

Final Thoughts: CBD vs THC

Both products offer potential health benefits that could improve your quality of life. CBD products derived from hemp are legal in all 50 states, while products containing THC may (or may not) be legal in your state.

Before you make your final decision, be sure any product you're considering is in full legal compliance with your state's laws.

Now that you're well-versed in the subject of THC and CBD, what's next? If you've decided to try CBD, you'll want to choose only the best products that are backed by expert research and reviews.

Click here for our unbiased reviews of some of the best THC Free CBD products on the market today.

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