As the debate of legalizing marijuana continues to rage on, the difference between key compounds CBD and THC in cannabis is becoming increasingly important. They both have very different effects and uses that range from recreational to medically ground-breaking.
You may have heard of cannabidiol oil (thanks to novelty products like CBD dog treats and vapes), but when talking about legal marijuana, it's important to note key distinctions.
Despite varying public feeling on marijuana, these two separate compounds (CBD vs. THC) have very specific uses, most notably in the medical sphere. The advocacy of many medical professionals has helped the compound CBD garner support for legalization and further research.
What's the Difference Between CBD vs. THC?
The main difference between CBD (cannabidiol) and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is that CBD does not induce a high whereas THC does.
Despite CBD and THC sharing a near exact molecular formula of C21H30O2, and molecular mass of 314.469 g/mol and 314.464 g/mol respectively, the compounds react quite differently.
THC, the psychoactive component of marijuana, induces sleep or drowsiness (a common effect of most strains of marijuana), whereas CBD keeps you up and increases energy. And THC is responsible for the feeling of being high or body-high.
When reacting together, CBD actually works against the effects of THC by reducing anxiety, stress or other negative feelings. For this reason, CBD is often extracted to use separately for non-psychoactive (and non-recreational) purposes.
What Is CBD?
CBD is only one of around 400 compounds in marijuana, and is responsible for counteracting the effects of THC. Although the CBD molecule is almost identical to the THC molecule, it doesn't get you high. On its own, CBD has been proven to have many health benefits and uses, such as treating anxiety, stress, epilepsy and depression. The compound is non-psychoactive, which has helped it gain support in many medical fields for its therapeutic properties.
Its benefits have been maximized by the retail and medicinal markets, with CBD products including oils, vapes, medicines, skincare and drinks. Cannabinoid oil is a popular product created from CBD. Companies from American Eagle to Ben & Jerry's have announced plans to incorporate CBD into some of their new products.
The debate around its legality, however, remains fairly complicated. Marijuana remains a federally illegal drug, and some states, like New York, have sought to crack down on the sales of food and drink that contain CBD. That said, there are states that have legalized medicinal use of CBD by itself, albeit these states have very strict standards for what medical conditions it can be used to treat.
CBD has even been used for dogs to treat conditions like anxiety, mobility, pain and heart disease. Products like dog treats and oils have become increasingly popular in recent years and are often recommended by veterinarians. CBD's antibiotic properties have also been linked to helping fight infections, although research is mixed.
Side Effects of CBD
Based on current research, side effects of CBD are rather limited. According to studies done by Medical Marijuana Inc., some reports of drowsiness, dry mouth and low blood pressure exist, but no links to serious side effects have been found.
What is THC?
THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is a psychoactive component of marijuana, although the THC molecule is surprisingly similar to its non-psychoactive counterpart CBD. THC is what gets you high, and for that reason is somewhat less accepted for medicinal use than CBD.
Still, THC brags its own beneficial uses. THC has properties that have been known to help treat pain, nausea, asthma and even anorexia nervosa. However, as a psychoactive compound, its medicinal uses are still controversial.
Side Effects of THC
As a compound in a federally illegal drug, studies on THC's effects and benefits are fairly limited. But what research has been done has found a number of effects from THC.
In high-concentration THC, common negative side effects include reduced cognitive functions, anxiety, paranoia, dry mouth, red eyes, lethargy and increased appetite. Still, the positive effects of THC include increased relaxation, joint and headache relief, among others. It's worth noting that the increased appetite effect is often looked at as a positive among chemotherapy patients suffering extreme loss of appetite, as well as individuals suffering from an eating disorder.
Health Benefits of CBD vs. THC
The health benefits of CBD have been widely researched. With its non-psychoactive status, CBD has been known to treat health problems, most notably epilepsy. U.S. Food and Drug Administration Deputy Commissioner Anna K. Abram claimed as much.
"CBD has been shown to be beneficial in experimental models of several neurological disorders, including those of seizure and epilepsy," Abram wrote in a notice through the Federal Register in 2017.
It is clear that the positive benefits of compounds like CBD are becoming increasingly uncovered.
The FDA is aware that "marijuana or marijuana-derived products are being used for a number of medical conditions including, for example, AIDS wasting, epilepsy, neuropathic pain, treatment of spasticity associated with multiple sclerosis, and cancer and chemotherapy-induced nausea," according to their website. Still, the use of many medical marijuana and even CBD products are still awaiting official approval.
THC, while not used for quite as many applications as CBD, brags quite a few health benefits itself. In cannabis-oil form, studies have shown that THC can be used to treat neurodegenerative disorders, including Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. These studies also showed that THC can ease pain and help alleviate multiple sclerosis.
CBD vs. THC For Anxiety
Both THC and CBD have been used to treat anxiety.
CBD has been used as an anxiolytic, or anxiety-treating drug, to some success. Studies show its potential to treat not only anxiety but also depression, PTSD, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
However, THC has mixed reviews when it comes to treating anxiety. Due to its psychoactive nature, THC has been linked to feelings of anxiety or paranoia (perhaps most commonly experienced during marijuana use). However, the level or concentration of THC present is largely responsible if the consumer feels anxious or not, so the appropriate dose is more of the key.
While the jury in some ways is still out, studies so far have shown relatively few negative side effects of CBD and THC use. However, some studies show that the neurotransmission systems involved in processing CBD can be linked to cannabis addiction and dependence, and found links to the three stages of addiction. Positive effects were also found in the study.
Additionally, the THC compound in marijuana can have varying effects on stimulating anxiety. Various studies have shown increased anxiety with marijuana use, but results largely vary depending on the individual's preconditions to anxiety or paranoia.
Legality of CBD Vs. THC
The legality of both CBD and THC has been up for debate for quite a while. Apart from the nationwide debate (some may argue worldwide) on the legalization of marijuana, CBD's health benefits are still largely untapped due to FDA regulations.
In fact, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has attempted several times, more recently in 2016, to classify both THC and CBD as Schedule I drugs under the U.S. Controlled Substances Act, meaning they have "no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse."
Despite such resistance, the continued medical data and research continues to flood in in favor of legalizing components such as CBD for widespread use.
However, CBD is illegal in all 50 states as of the writing of this article. Although the 2014 Farm Bill semi-legalized hemp production, it only covered a small set of hemp cultivation opportunities, such as academic and researching purposes.
THC is often looped in with marijuana in legality. As of 2018, medical marijuana is legal in 28 states plus Washington, D.C. However, the legality of purchasing or using THC is still a bit convoluted -- it pretty much only applies to states that have already made medicinal or recreational marijuana legal.
Although a bit of a blurred line, it is smart to be cautious when purchasing or using CBD products, as their legality is still questionable. The same goes for THC, which is perhaps the more controversial compound of the two for legal use.
CBD Investment Opportunity
CBD has been used for products from oils to beverages, but most recently is a component of an epilepsy medication called Epidiolex, awaiting FDA approval. If approval is obtained, the over-$1 billion marijuana industry could have huge investment potential. Several companies have begun buying out producers of cannabis in anticipation, notably Scott's Miracle-Gro Co. (SMG - Get Report) .
The ruling on the FDA approval of Epidiolex and the use of CBD in such drugs is set for the end of June. Not only are we seeing an increase in the legalization of marijuana, but the medicinal benefits of compounds found in marijuana, such as CBD, have huge market and investment potential.
Increasing Legalization of Marijuana
Both recreational and medical marijuana have had a huge upswing in approval ratings in recent years, according to Gallup polls. With more and more states legalizing its use, both THC and CBD have potential for medicinal and production applications. And, with the huge marijuana market ready to be tapped, we should see greater investment potential in CBD-related manufacturing.
Currently, there are 11 states that have passed complete legalization of both medical and recreational marijuana, with the most recent being Illinois. It's a marked increase from just 4-5 years ago. 22 additional states have passed laws allowing medical marijuana for certain conditions, while several other states have limited allowances for medical CBD if the patient meets certain criteria.
For now, it's important to know the difference between CBD and THC as the legalization of medical marijuana becomes increasingly fruitful.