What is the difference between CBD and THC you might ask? When it comes to smoking marijuana and the desire to be higher, you have to learn the ins and outs. Let’s start with the cannabis plant itself, which is composed of 100 different versions of chemicals called cannabinoids. Those cannabinoids are oils within the plant and two of the most popular are CBD and THC. 

Two Main Flowers – Marijuana and Hemp

There are two main flowers: marijuana and hemp. Cannabidiol (CBD) is a chemical in the Sativa cannabis plant. They produce in both flowers. Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is only in marijuana. By the naked eye these flowers are identical in size and shape. Yet, they carry two different loads found within the chemical makeup.


For the policy lovers, in 2018 the Farm bill was passed allowing for all states to legally grow and sell hemp except for hemp derived Cannabidiol plants. In 2020, CBD is now legal within all 50 states but several states such as Alabama does not allow more than .3% THC levels within the product being sold. One must also note that CBD must come from hemp and NOT from marijuana as it is deemed illegal by the DEA.

How to Tell the Difference

So, then the bigger issue arises – how do you tell the difference between marijuana and hemp? Well the solution is not the naked eye; however, it is the chemical compounds within the plant. THC and CBD differ by only a few bonds but make the whole use of the plant have different results. The cannabinoids in the flowers, or also known as “bud” are generally centered at the top of the plant and protect it from the UV lighting; that being said, light alters the levels of those cannabinoids. 

Cannabinoid Lifecycle

The cannabinoids begin their life at a base sugar level collecting enzymes and changing identities along the way. They have a chance at collecting either a THC-a synthase or a CBD-a synthase enzyme and depending on the attachment determines the growth of that sugar. However, the THC enzyme in hemp is genetically dormant so the choice is easy for that sugar base. Cue the “that was easy” button. 

Some studies have shown that places where two or more federally hemp approved plants are being grown near each other can pollinate with one another resulting in the THC-a synthase activating itself allowing for THC growth. This is due to the fact that cannabis plants only have male or female parts, so the cross pollination causes the once dormant traits to activate. I’ll use another post to go more in depth on breeding and how to prevent this. Some of the offspring produced by this can sometimes ONLY produce THC. So, go ahead hemp states, let them grow so we can sit back and watch nature do its thing. The sweet irony commences.


Let’s discuss why we really enjoy or need to smoke, consume, drink, or however you prefer putting these cannabinoids in our body. For CBD the medicinal benefits have a wide variety such as the reason why all 50 states have legalized it. Studies have shown that families with epilepsy have reported a dramatic decline in seizures when introduced to a cannabidiol product. There are also a good number of studies on reducing anxiety, joint and muscle pains, headaches, nausea, Parkinson’s, Crohn’s, etc. There are much more benefits but lacking a qualitative amount of evidence to back the claim.

Side Effects

As well as benefits, there are also side effects but most of the side effects are results of taking too many CBD doses when taken with serious conditions just like any other medication. It is also POSSIBLY UNSAFE for pregnant women. However, with the proper education and guidelines, the benefits with CBD far exceed the risks. The chemical still needs tremendous study. It affects the area of the brain that produces pain, mood, and mental function and prevent them from breaking down into the bloodstream.


The main component responsible for the majority of cannabis’ psychological effects, THC, actually mimics the cannabinoid chemicals made naturally within the human body. The portion of the brain that involves thinking, memory, time perception, and pleasure have concentrated areas of cannabinoid receptors altered once THC attaches to them. Brains, as chemically fun as they are, then send out dopamine which gives one a high sense of euphoria; however, it interferes with the forming of new memories. So practice safe smoking methods. 

Due to the fact that THC is a psychoactive drug, one should take risk to smoking while driving, having mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, and consuming at a young age. However, THC has plentiful amounts of medicinal purposes in practices for 3,000 years.


Since early 2017, over half the United States has legalized THC to treat cancer patients with nausea related medicines, to increase the appetite within AIDs patients, and to improve memory if taken in small doses according to a study by MICE on LiveScience. Several states have even legalized the full use of weed recreationally. While most others, due to their lack of education on cannabis and/or stringent laws preventing universities within those states the right to study. 

The most common mistake made among those who are fond of cannabis is thinking that THC is what does all the work that goes into numbing joint pains, headaches, seizures and anxieties.  Nevertheless, that credit belongs to CBD. 


Meijer, E.P.M., Bagatta, M., Carboni, A., Crucitti, P., Moliterni, V.M.C., Ranalli, P., & Mandolino, G. (2003, January). The Inheritance of Chemical Phenotype in Cannabis sativa L. Retrieved from https://www.genetics.org/lens/genetics/163/1/335#citations 

CBD School. (2020). CBD Laws By State 2020 – Just The Facts [Is Cbd Legal In 2020?]. Retrieved from https://www.cbdschool.com/cbd-laws-by-state-2020/

Wilson Ph.D., D.R. (2019, May 20). CBD vs. THC: What’s the Difference? Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/cbd-vs-thc

WebMD. (2020). Cannabidiol (CBD). Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-1439/cannabidiol-cbd

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