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With the growth in the legal use of cannabis and hemp-derived products, consumers are becoming more aware of its uses and benefits and their options.

Cannabidiol (CBD) and Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are two naturally occurring compounds found in Cannabis plants. To be considered legal hemp, the product should contain less than 0.3 percent of THC. CBD is available in the market in the form of oils, supplements, gummies, gels, extracts, etc.

On the other hand, THC is the primary compound within cannabis that is responsible for the eutrophic sensation when consumed. While THC can be consumed by smoking cannabis, it is also available in the market in the form of oils, capsules, tinctures, edibles, etc.

While both THC and CBD interact with the human body’s endocannabinoid system, the effects of both are vastly different. Though they may have certain similarities, there are some key differences to note.

cbd vs thc

Chemical Makeup

When it comes to molecular structure, both THC and CBD are similar – 30 hydrogen atoms, 21 carbon atoms, and 2 oxygen atoms. However, the difference in the way the atoms are arranged makes a difference in the effect it has on the human body.

Both THC and CBD interacts with the body’s cannabinoid receptors and in the body and impacts the release of neurotransmitters in the brain. Neurotransmitters are directly responsible to convey messages between cells and have a critical part to play when it comes to immune function, stress, pain, sleep, etc.

Psychoactive Factors

Despite them being similar in chemical structure, THC and CBD have quite dissimilar psychoactive effects. While they are both psychoactive to a degree, CBD does not produce the euphoria that is usually associated with THC when consumed. However, CBD is shown its effectiveness in countering seizures, anxiety, and depression to a fair degree.

THC attaches itself to the Cannabidinoid 1, or CB1 receptors in the user’s brain. This produces it’s signature high.

On the other hand, CBD manages a very week binding with CB1 receptors, if at all. Therefore, CBD uses THC’s binding properties to attach itself to CB1 receptors and, in return, takes the edge off the psychoactive effects of THC.

Legal Considerations

Laws related to Cannabis and Cannabis consumption is evolving every day in the United States. Generally speaking, federal law still considers CBD a Schedule 1 drug.

While Hemp is no longer governed by the Controlled Substances Act, the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) and the FDA (Food & Drug Administration) continue to classify CBD as a Schedule 1 drug.

That being said, a majority of state governments and Washington DC have passed laws related to Cannabis and have given legal status to medical cannabis containing a high concentration of THC. The caveat being that users may need a prescription from a licensed medical professional.

Additionally, several states in the US have passed laws making it legal to possess and use cannabis for recreational purposes. In these states, CBD products should be freely available. However, there may be legal repercussions in states where possession and use of cannabis products for medical or recreational use are not yet legal, or if you do not have a prescription from a medical professional.

It is strongly advised to verify the laws of the state applicable to you before purchasing any products that contain CBD or THC.

Medical Benefits

THC and CBD share a few similar medical benefits. While both relieve many of the same conditions in patients, CBD accomplishes this without causing the ‘high’ that comes with THC. Therefore, some people tend to choose CBD over THC given the absence of this side-effect.

In June 2018, the FDA approved ‘Epidiolex’, the first prescription drug that contained an active CBD component. Epidiolex is used to treat rare and extreme cases of Epilepsy.

Though not approved by the FDA to treat the following conditions, CBD can also help with pain, inflammation, nausea, inflammatory bowel disease, seizures, psychosis, depression, anxiety, etc.

Alternatively, THC can be used to treat muscle spasms, pain, insomnia, loss of appetite, nausea, glaucoma, and anxiety.

Side Effects

In most cases, CBD is fairly tolerable, even when consumed in large doses. A World Health Organization report published in November 2017 confirmed, “To date, there is no evidence of recreational use of CBD or any public health-related problems associated with the use of pure CBD.”

However, the report goes on to suggest that if any side-effects occur because of the use of CBD, it will most likely be due to inter-drug interactions occurring between CBD and other medications.

On the other hand, THC is known to have certain side-effects when consumed. These include decreased coordination, redness in eyes, dry mouth, anxiety, memory loss, increased heart rate, decreased reaction times, etc.

Side-effects of CBD may include changes in appetite, fatigue, dizziness, weight loss, and diarrhea.

While these effects are a part of the psychoactive properties of both CBD and THC, none of them are fatal. That said, long term consumption of THC may lead to certain psychiatric effects. This holds special importance for young adults consuming large quantities of THC.



CBD products that are derived from Hemp and contain less than the prescribed .3 percent of THC are legal per federal law. However, certain state laws may still deem it illegal.

CBD products that are derived from Marijuana are illegal per federal law but remain legal under laws of certain states.

It is advisable to check the appropriate state laws in case of travel. It is important to note that over-the-counter CBD products are not approved by the FDA.


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