Cannabis Nurse Medical Reviewer, Lashonda Broom
RN & HHP
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
CBD and THD are actually the same molecular structure. They’re both made up of 21 carbon atoms, 30 hydrogen atoms, and 2 oxygen atoms. The only difference is how these atoms are arranged. Interesting that such a thing as atom placement can have a profound impact on how these compounds work in our systems, but it does. But, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s step back.
Cannabis is a genus of plant that originated in Asia between 2000 BC and 1400 BC. Within the genus are three known species:
- Cannabis Sativa
- Cannabis Indica
- Cannabis Ruderalis
Cannabis Sativa can be either a hemp or marijuana plant. The legal difference between the two centers on the amount of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) in that plant, but the physical differences are much more than that. Hemp is grown with the intent to use the whole plant. It can grow as tall as 20 feet high. Hemp is stronger and longer lasting than cotton. The plant seeds are rich in protein, fiber, and fatty acids. They’re considered by many to be a super food. Marijuana is grown strictly for the buds of the plants. It’s the buds and flowers of these plants that contain 100+ cannabinoids, or compounds.
Of these compounds, CBD (cannabidiol) and THC are the two that we know the most about because they occur in the highest quantity. The other compounds such as CBDa, CBG, and more, are referred to as minor cannabinoids. We’re learning more about these compounds every day, but until this point, most of the cannabis research has been pointed at CBD vs THC.
Both CBD and THC work with receptors in your Endocannabinoid System (ECS.) This system exists and is active in your body even if you don’t use cannabis. It’s goal is to promote homeostasis (balance) at every level of biological life. Most of the receptors that THC interacts with are in the brain, which is why it can be intoxicating or “euphoric.” THC is the compound associated with marijuana that makes you feel “high.” While THC can be present in both hemp and marijuana, the legal limit on THC in hemp plants is 0.3% on a dry weight basis. By contrast, the average amount of THC in a marijuana product available in a US dispensary today is 12%. CBD is the primary cannabinoid in hemp products. It’s non-intoxicating. CBD interacts with receptors in different areas of the body, and won’t cause that “high” that some people are looking for and others are looking to avoid.
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 assist with falling asleep. While CBD can help you stay asleep, it doesn’t generally make you sleepy unless you’ve taken more than your body can process or it’s married with other sleep inducing ingredients like 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.
- Appetite – THC 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:
- Itchiness or irritation
- Low Blood Pressure
Side effects of THC vs CBD can be a little more concerning:
- Inability to Concentrate
- 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 (a bit) clearer. CBD content in marijuana is legally required to be included along with the THC on the packaging. 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. Cannabis may need to be prescribed by a physician, or it may be available 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. As the laws vary from state to state, THC outside that .3% limit cannot be shipped across state lines, nor can you travel 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 can be found all over the place. 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’re looking to get started with CBD, that’s our focus here at Green Wellness and we would love to help you. Give us a call at 866-244-4223 or drop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Prefer to do your own research first? No problem. We always recommend starting with our Buyer’s Guide.