The CBD and medical marijuana industry are booming the U.S. Even though these industries are subject to a state-level patchwork of different legal classifications and grey areas, medical marijuana and CBD consumption continue to grow in popularity. With the passage of the new 2018 Farm Bill, hemp-derived CBD oils are now legal on a federal level to buy and ship into the U.S., although residents of states where cannabis is illegal should proceed with some caution. This has generated considerable discussion on the topic of THC vs CBD.

The fact remains though; this industry isn’t slowing down any time soon. But one of the biggest questions people have when they first learn about CBD oil is, “Can this stuff get you high?” The thing is, there is a considerable difference between THC, the stuff that gets a person high, and CBD and therefore, CBD oils. Hopefully, this article will clear things up for people who aren’t familiar with the cannabis industry and its collection of products.

How are Cannabaceae classified?

Before the question surrounding the difference between THC vs CBD can be answered, it is essential for the readers to understand the cannabis plant, its genome, and how it is classified.

The cannabis plant comes from the family Cannabaceae, which is the hemp family of the rose order, or Rosales. This plant family contains 11 genera and more than 270 species of different, aromatic herbs that grow throughout the Northern Hemisphere. Before modern times, cannabis was a part of the mulberry family or Moraceae. From here, the cannabis species can be broken down into more granular categories.

There are two main types of cannabis plants, called either marijuana or hemp.



Marijuana is a plant that is used for recreational and medicinal purposes. It is also a plant that contains the highest levels of THC.


Hemp, on the other hand, is a strain of cannabis that contains little to no THC. Smoking a hemp plant won’t get someone high.

In most cases, hemp is used to make products like cloth and rope, since the plant fibers are incredibly strong and durable. Before the advent of modern rope fibers such as nylon, ropes, sails, and even paper and clothes were made out of hemp. Today, hemp is often used as a health food, a supplement, or it is made into an oil and put into lotions and hair care products.

Also, both marijuana and hemp can be classified into either indica or sativa strains. Cannabis enthusiasts believe that plants deriving from these strains produce different effects, thanks to the unique cannabinoid make-up of these different species. For example, an indica strain is supposed to offer superior physical, relaxing effects, while a sativa plant will help someone pursue creative endeavors or become more social. But, there is no research into these claims yet, either supporting or disproving them. What is known though is that indica and sativa plants look and grow differently.

Cannabis sativa is a tall and narrow plant with skinny leaves. In most cases, the plant is light, bright green and grows in warmer areas. It also produces a longer flowering cycle. Contrast that with an indica strain, which is short, stout, and dark green. Indica does well in colder regions and has a short flowering cycle. Both hemp and marijuana plants can be either indica or sativa. Most CBD oil companies will use hemp that derives from a sativa strain.

What is a cannabinoid?

Here is where things get interesting. A cannabinoid is the chemical component of the cannabis plant, and it directly impacts the human body. Both THC and CBD are cannabinoids. The cannabis plant is home to more than 100 different cannabinoids, but THC and CBD are the most abundant.

The human body is home to a complex neural highway called the endocannabinoid system. Naturally occurring neurotransmitters, or endocannabinoids, travel throughout this system. It is responsible for many different bodily functions, including the body’s ability to regulate sleep, appetite, and the registration of pain. The cannabinoids in cannabis bind to endocannabinoid receptors in the body, impacting the way a person functions and feels.

When CBD oil is manufactured, the cannabinoids are extracted from the plant with superheated CO2. The cannabinoids are then suspended in a carrier oil. Most CBD oil companies use either grapeseed or coconut oil to house the cannabinoids. CBD oil can contain THC or none at all.

What is THC?

THC is the primary cannabinoid in the cannabis plant, except for hemp, and it stands for tetrahydrocannabinol. THC binds to the body’s endocannabinoid receptors. Once it does, the effects are pronounced. THC is a psychoactive chemical compound, meaning a person is impaired both physically and mentally. It is also biphasic, and can produce feelings of anxiety and heightened alertness in some users. THC is the active ingredient in marijuana that can make someone paranoid, and as such, it should not be used in high doses, even for medicinal purposes. Studies have found that young teens should not use THC, in that it can cause cognitive issues.

In states that have legalized recreational and medical marijuana, THC is legal to possess and use. However, the marijuana plant is still considered a schedule 1 substance, and as such, it is illegal on a federal level.

What is CBD?

CBD stands for cannabidiol. Cannabidiol will not get a person high and has calming effects on the body. In fact, CBD can counteract the effects of THC. The side effects of CBD include increased relaxation, reduced nausea, reduced muscle pain, dry mouth, and drowsiness. The full effects of CBD are not fully understood yet, but preliminary findings indicate that CBD offers an array of health benefits.

The legalities surrounding CBD manufacture, transport, and use are murky. But the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill caused significant changes in the way the U.S. federal government views CBD. These changes have to do with the type of plant CBD oils and products come from.

The hemp plant possesses virtually no THC. Even though marijuana is still considered a schedule 1 substance, the 2018 Farm Bill took hemp out of the DEA classification and has since made hemp an “agricultural” commodity. This means that CBD oils and products that contain less than .3% and are derived from hemp grown by a licensed farmer, are legal to buy and ship across state lines. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that CBD is legal everywhere in the country.

Three states have made medical and recreational marijuana illegal, and these states also consider hemp and hemp-derived products a legal grey area. Purchasing and possessing and using CBD products in these states is risky. They are Idaho, South Dakota, and Nebraska.

THC vs CBD for Medical Purposes

The use of CBD and medical marijuana is a new development in the U.S. so far, and there aren’t very many studies on the product’s long-term effects. But what is available so far looks promising.

For example, the FDA has recently approved a medical marijuana product for the treatment of childhood epilepsy. Studies on CBD oil containing THC are useful for alleviating the symptoms associated with MS and Huntington’s Disease. CBD and THC are suitable for loosening stiff muscles and joints that tend to lock up in these health problems.

Other studies have indicated that CBD and THC are effective at alleviating nausea and vomiting in cancer patients and people who take HIV and AIDS drugs. Chronic pain patients can also benefit from CBD and THC in combination.

CBD oil alone is useful for treating insomnia, depression, and anxiety. It can also alleviate muscle soreness, aches, and pains. Some studies have also indicated that CBD oil can prevent migraines from starting. In patients who are prone to migraines, stiff neck muscles can trigger the condition. Using a CBD oil cream can loosen these muscles and prevent a migraine.

Can a person buy, produce, or distribute THC vs CBD?

On a federal level, THC is still considered illegal, even though ten states have legalized the recreational and medicinal uses of marijuana. People who live in these ten states can buy, produce, and sell either CBD or THC. However, they will risk issues with federal authorities, although this is rare.

When it comes to CBD alone, 33 states plus the District of Columbia have legalized its use. In these states, people can buy, produce, and distribute CBD, but not THC.

On a federal level, CBD derived from hemp is legal to buy and sell across state lines. Users can also legally purchase CBD from overseas and have it shipped to them. But again, consumers in Idaho, Nebraska, and South Dakota risk getting in trouble with state authorities regardless of whether or not a CBD product contains THC.

The medical marijuana and CBD industries are predicted to grow to almost 5 billion dollars in yearly revenue within the next two years. As time goes on, more and more states and the federal government are becoming aware of the possible health benefits of these cannabinoids. But it is vital for intended users to speak to a doctor first before buying and using a CBD product.

Last updated May 16 2019

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