Communities and sub-cultures tend to use acronyms as shorthand for concepts and terms, and the cannabis industry is no exception.
If you’ve ever wondered about the difference between CBD (cannabidiol) and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) – two of the most important cannabinoids naturally sourced from the plant – we’ve got you covered here.
We’ll focus on the molecular distinctions, how they interact physiologically with the human body differently, and how CBD and THC are treated respectively in the eyes of the law.
What Are the Molecular Differences Between THC and CBD?
CBD and THC are more similar than they are different (even though the differences matter greatly both in terms of their therapeutic benefits as well as their legal status).
Each cannabinoid contains a combination of:
- 30 hydrogen atoms
- 21 carbon atoms
- 2 oxygen atoms
The crucial difference is in the arrangement of the atoms.
Botanists engineer different strains of the cannabis plant with the goal of either producing greater concentrations of CBD or THC.
How THC and CBD Affect the Brain and Body
Although THC and CBD are both cannabinoids, their molecular differences produce different physiological effects. They each interact with the endogenous cannabinoid system in distinct ways.
The Effects of THC in the Human Body
THC is best known for inducing the characteristic cannabis “high” popularized in movies and music. This effect occurs due to THC’s’ interactions with the nervous system’s neurotransmitters via the CB1 and CB2 endocannabinoid receptors, in particular dopamine and norepinephrine. For recreational users, this is often the primary effect that they seek.
In addition to euphoria, THC can also trigger other effects, both positive and potentially negative (usually due to high-potency strains or low tolerance in the user):
- Increased appetite (aka “the munchies”)
- Faster heart rate
- Boosted libido (sex drive)
- Enhanced creativity
- Greater introspection
- Dry mouth (aka “cotton mouth”)
- Distorted time perception
- Anxiety and panic attacks
Despite its popularity among recreational users, THC also has potent medical applications. Doctors prescribe THC to treat various physical and mental health conditions, such as:
- Multiple sclerosis
The Effects of CBD in the Human Body
CBD also interacts with the endocannabinoid system. Unlike THC, however, it does not produce any psychotropic effects (i.e. the “high”). For this reason, CBD is safe to prescribe to children as well as adults.
Where CBD shines is in its multiple proven, often dramatic health benefits:
- Reduced systemic inflammation
- Treating anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions
- Protecting the brain from neurodegeneration via action as a powerful antioxidant
- Chronic pain relief
- Improving sleep quality and fighting insomnia
- Potent antioxidant activity
CBD users commonly experience what they frequently describe as “miraculous” health turnarounds in terms of pain relief, normalized sleep, and reduced or eliminated depression and anxiety.
Within increasing recognition in the medical community of the impressive clinical applications of CBD, it is now regularly prescribed for the treatment of multiple health chronic, often hard-to-treat health conditions:
- Cancer treatment
- Crohn’s disease
- Multiple sclerosis
Best of all, CBD doses, in almost all instances, can be escalated as needed with minimal risk of adverse side effects as even extreme doses.
Lethal overdose on CBD and THC alike is practically impossible, and no deaths from their overuse have ever been recorded. However, excessive THC use, again, may trigger uncomfortable psychological effects.
What Is the Legal Difference Between CBD and THC?
In addition to distinct molecular structures and producing different physiological and therapeutic effects in humans, the law also treats CBD and THC very differently.
First, it’s important to understand that the US has a federal system, meaning that the federal government and state governments (and even local counties and cities) have their own sets of laws. Usually, they are very similar but in the case of cannabis, they are often wildly conflicting. This makes navigating the complex legal status of cannabis and its compounds like THC and CBD difficult.
On the federal level, the Controlled Substances Act has prohibited the sale or possession of THC-containing cannabis products since 1971.
CBD products with less than 0.3% THC were legalized at the federal level via the historic US Farm Bill of 2018. That was a big win for patients who benefit from the therapeutic health benefits of CBD as well as for hemp farmers who raise cannabis crops for various legitimate purposes.
A few US states still fully outlaw CBD (this doesn’t include Georgia), but their numbers are dwindling and many analysts believe CBD will achieve full legality at both the federal and state level in the very near future.
Is THC Legal in Georgia?
Unfortunately, Georgia hasn’t caught up with the dozens of other states in the union that have fully legalized all cannabinoids, including THC, for medicinal and recreational purposes. It remains illegal in the state, with potential jail time and/or fines for possession and sale.
Is CBD Legal in Georgia?
In line with federal law, Georgia does allow “low-THC oil” that contains under the federal limit of 0.3% THC. It is considered, therefore, “partially legal” – legal but with certain restrictions.
What Is the ‘Entourage Effect’?
If you’ve spent time browsing the scientific literature on cannabis, you may have come across a phrase called the “entourage effect“:
“In 1998, Professors Raphael Mechoulam and Shimon Ben-Shabat… postulated that this helped to explain how botanical drugs were often more efficacious than their isolated components… the concept of botanical synergy has been amply demonstrated contemporaneously, invoking the pharmacological contributions of ‘minor cannabinoids’ and cannabis terpenoids to the plant’s overall pharmacological effect.”
Put simply, the 100 cannabis compounds unique to the plant have the greatest therapeutic effect in combination as they are found in the whole cannabis plant.
The enormous medical benefits of cannabis are largely due to the synergistic interactions between cannabinoids and the other molecules in the plant like terpenes and flavonoids seen in the entourage effect.
The entourage effect is why many doctors who prescribe CBD to their patients for the treatment of various health conditions recommend “full-spectrum CBD.”
Full-spectrum means that the CBD product contains all the naturally-occurring cannabinoids in the plant. Full-spectrum CBD stands in contrast to CBD isolate, which may be appropriate for patients that require high concentrations of CBD but which does not contain the other beneficial cannabinoids.
Both CBD isolate and full-spectrum CBD sold in the United States are required by law to contain less than 0.3% THC.
Learn More About CBD, THC, and Other Cannabinoids
We know that navigating the intricate world of cannabis and its various compounds can be confusing. If you’d like to learn more or have any questions about the similarities and differences between CBD and THC, please don’t hesitate to contact Georgia Hemp Co. We’ll be happy to guide you in the right direction with authoritative information.