CBD versus THC : Both Similar and Different

Cannabis Nurse Medical Reviewer, Lashonda Broom

CBD versus THC: When we started in this business in 2016, we heard it all the time – aren’t these the same things? The quick answer is no, they are not the same. That answer is true for a whole host of comparisons: hemp & marijuana, indica & sativa, and certainly CBD and THC.

Hemp and marijuana legality have been a swiftly changing landscape.  At the time of this article, hemp is fully federally legal and marijuana is at least medically legal in 48 states.  As this landscape shifts, people want to learn more about these plants.  How are they alike? How are they different? What can they do for me?  Let’s dive in to learn more about these elusive compounds – THC oil versus CBD oil.

CBD vs THC: How They’re Both Similar and Different

Molecular Structure of CBD and THC

CBD and THC share the same molecular structure, consisting of 21 carbon atoms, 30 hydrogen atoms, and 2 oxygen atoms, with the only difference lying in how these atoms are arranged. It’s intriguing how such a seemingly minor distinction in atom placement can significantly impact how these compounds function in our systems.

Cannabis Genus and its Species

Cannabis, a genus of plant originating in Asia between 2000 BC and 1400 BC, comprises three known species: Cannabis Sativa, Cannabis Indica, and Cannabis Ruderalis. The legal and physical disparities between hemp and marijuana plants, the two manifestations of Cannabis Sativa, extend beyond the THC content, with hemp’s versatility and nutritional value contrasting with marijuana’s cultivation solely for its cannabinoid-rich buds.

CBD, THC, and the Endocannabinoid System

CBD (cannabidiol) and THC are the most extensively studied compounds due to their prevalence, with ongoing research shedding light on other cannabinoids. Both CBD and THC interact with the receptors in the Endocannabinoid System (ECS), aiming to maintain biological balance at every level, irrespective of cannabis use.

Contrasting Effects of THC and CBD

The majority of the receptors that THC engages with are in the brain, contributing to its intoxicating or “euphoric” effects, responsible for the “high” associated with marijuana. While THC can be present in both hemp and marijuana, the legal THC limit in hemp plants is set at 0.3%, contrasting with the average THC content of 12% in marijuana products available in US dispensaries.

On the other hand, CBD, the primary cannabinoid in hemp products, is non-intoxicating and interacts with receptors in various areas of the body, delivering effects that do not induce the sought-after “high” while catering to diverse user preferences.

CBD versus THC: Benefits

Just as that atom placement varies, benefits of THC versus CBD will vary as well.  CBD and THC can work both in partnership and separately to assist with some of the same conditions, but there are areas where they will stand alone.  It’s important to note that we are not doctors and cannot diagnose, prescribe, treat or cure any ailment.  What we can do is share research and anecdotal information learned through years of working in this industry.

  • Sleep- THC has been found to aid in falling asleep, while CBD can help maintain sleep. It typically doesn’t induce sleepiness unless taken in excess or combined with other sleep-inducing ingredients such as melatonin.  We’ve got a great article on sleep if you’re interested in learning more.
  • Seizures – The FDA has approved just one cannabis product to treat seizures. Epidiolex, approved in 2018, is an isolated CBD product – it does not contain THC.
  • AppetiteTHC has the ability to increase appetite.  While that’s not ideal for all of us, it can be critical for people living with some medical conditions that have led to unwanted weight loss.

CBD and THC: Side Effects

While it’s often stated that CBD does not have any side effects, that’s not entirely accurate.  Any plant based product can lead to allergies.  The most common side effects include:

  • Nausea
  • Sleepiness
  • Itchiness or irritation
  • Low Blood Pressure

Side effects of THC vs CBD can be a little more concerning:

  • Dizziness
  • Vomiting
  • Inability to Concentrate
  • Sleepiness
  • Loss of Balance

Not to mention that “high.”  Some people, especially those living with chronic pain, find it a relief to be able to get that off their minds for a brief time. Others may feel a lack of control from that intoxication or an inability to function normally, which is not a welcome feeling.

CBD and THC… The Legal Stuff

The legality of THC versus CBD can be a complicated thing.  The US Farm Bill of 2018 made hemp, and thereby hemp that contained CBD, fully federally legal.  The FDA is choosing to not yet regulate CBD, which means that manufacturers are essentially self-regulating.  There is no standardization in labeling, language, or recommended serving sizes.   That can definitely lead to consumer confusion.  In addition, every state has their own Controlled Substances Act (CSA) that can lead to straying from federal guidance.  THC in hemp gets even murkier. Some states are looking to further restrict the amount of THC that can be sold in a hemp product. One example of this is Oregon, who has limited the milligrams of THC in a hemp product in addition to the federal percentage limitation.

CBD and THC in Hemp and Marijuana are clearer. The packaging must legally include the CBD content in marijuana along with the THC. CBD can balance out the intoxicating effect of THC, so many customers want to see that information to make their buying decisions.

Marijuana remains federally illegal. It is, however, at least legal in some fashion for medical patients in 48 states. A physician may need to prescribe cannabis, or it may be obtainable at a dispensary with a medical “card.”

Marijuana, with those higher levels of THC, is recreationally legal in 18 states, the District of Columbia, The Northern Mariana Islands, and Guam as of the time of this article. It’s also been decriminalized in 13 other states as well as the U.S. Virgin Islands. State laws prohibit shipping THC outside the 0.3% limit across state lines and traveling with it. You can find additional state by state legality information here.

Where to Buy CBD and THC Products

CBD products that do not exceed the THC threshold abound. Really. They sell CBD lotion at my hair salon.  You will find a wide variety of strengths, product types, and costs.  THC products will generally be purchased from a dispensary.  They should be clearly labeled with THC content and an indication that it is an adult use product.  Some brands sell both CBD and THC products, which can make your shopping a little more confusing.  Here’s an example from our friends at Wyld. The top gummies are their hemp based CBD gummies and the bottom are their THC gummies.  The branding and flavor is the same, so they could absolutely get mixed up. It’s always a great idea to check lab results to ensure that what you “think” is in that product is actually there.

If you want to begin with CBD, that’s our main focus here at Green Wellness, and we are eager to assist you. Give us a call at 866-244-4223 or drop an email to  Prefer to do your own research first? No problem. We always recommend starting with our Buyer’s Guide.

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