The Difference Between CBD and THC
If you didn’t already know – CBD and THC have the exact same chemical makeup: 21 carbon atoms, 30 hydrogen atoms, and 2 oxygen atoms.
The two are nearly identical twins.
What differentiates the two compounds, however, is the arrangement of a single atom, which you can observe in the illustration above.
For any of you who weren’t paying attention in chemistry class – an atom is about a million times smaller than a human hair…so we’re talking about a microscopic difference here.
Now you’re probably wondering, with such a microscopic difference, how different can CBD and THC be?
The short answer – very, very different – but let’s go over the details.
Cannabinoids and the Endocannabinoid System
Before we dive in, it’s important to understand what cannabinoids are and how they work with the body.
There are currently 85 known cannabinoids found in the Cannabis plant, the most prominent of which are Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD).
A cannabinoid is a compound that interacts directly with our body’s Endocannabinoid System (ECS), which in short, is a network of receptors that interact with cannabinoids to maintain vital functions throughout our body.
Scientists discovered the first cannabinoid receptor in 1988, and by 1993, they had identified a second receptor. In 1995, the two receptors were classified as the CB1 and CB2 receptors.
CB1 receptors are found abundantly in regions of the brain responsible for mental and physiological processes such as memory, high cognition, emotion, and motor coordination, while CB2 receptors are found throughout the central nervous and immune systems.
The interaction between the CB1 and CB2 receptors with cannabinoids like CBD and THC is where the different positions of that tiny atom come into play.
Because THC and CBD have different molecular structures, they do not interact with the CB1 and CB2 receptors in the same manner, which is likely the biggest concern when comparing CBD to THC.
CBD vs THC: How Each Affects the Body
While CBD and THC both bind to the CB2 receptor, they interact with the CB1 receptors in different ways.
Because of its molecular structure, THC is able to bind directly with CB1 receptors. When this bond is formed, the reaction creates signals that are sent to the brain, which results in the psychoactive effects of “getting high.”
CBD vs THC: The Legality Explained
Because of its ability to induce mind-altering effects on the user, THC has been classified as an illegal substance in most countries around the world, including the United States.
Under the US Farm Bill of 2018, CBD derived from hemp is federally legal. While this is a federal law, it does not legalize CBD derived from marijuana, and it does not overrule state law. Because states can determine their own laws pertaining to CBD, and the distinction between hemp and marijuana is still unclear to many, the legality of CBD from state to state has become much more stable.
CBD vs THC: Conclusion
In closing, CBD and THC share many similarities, but they also have distinct differences. I want to clarify that neither CBD or THC is better than the other. To some, the psychoactive effects of THC could be a benefit instead of a negative side effect. It’s all based on the needs of the individual.