CBD vs. THC: differences in effects, legality, and more

Clearing up some of the confusion people have with CBD vs. THC (cannabidiol vs. tetrahydrocannabinol), from the effects on the body to legal status.


Clearing up CBD vs. THC

CBD vs. THC (cannabidiol and tetrahydrocannabinol, respectively) can be perplexing topic. Many people are confused about the differences and similarities between the two. Both are considered cannabinoids. Both can be found and extracted from the marijuana plant. As far as how they effect the human body, the substances are starkly different. In terms of legality, in many cases they’re treated similarly, but there are also distinct differences. The following will help clear up some of the issues in the CBD vs. THC debate.

CBD vs. THC: molecular structures and sources

CBD chemical structure
CBD chemical structure

The image above shows CBD (left) and THC (right) on a chemical level. As you can see, they have entirely different molecular structures. Although they can come from the same plant, there two distinct substances. As such, they should be regarded as two different substances.

As I mentioned earlier, cannabdidiol and tetrahydrocannabinol can both be extracted from the marijuana plant. Plant-based extracts of either substance often contain the other. Even CBD extracted from low-THC and high-CBD hemp variety of cannabis sativa will have traces of the former. However, it is possible to achieve purity through various processes. Koi CBD, for example, claims to use 99-percent pure CBD through a natural isolate extraction process. The company has lab results to back up its claim.

The only way to completely remove the THC is using a natural CBD isolate extraction process and thus making it 100 percent legal to buy and sell. Through an Isolate, the amount of CBD will be consistent every time.

It will not vary, it will not have trace levels of THC, and it will not cause you to fail drug tests. Consistency is the key. You can always be assured of what you’re getting and if you have the company’s lab results as well, you can be assured of the purity of the CBD you’re getting.

Cannabidiol and tetrahydrocannabinol have both been synthesized in labs. Research is still being done on synthetic CBD and THC in terms of how effective they are over natural extracts, as well as any side effects they may have. Some users of CBD and THC products frown upon synthetics, preferring natural versions and claiming that are still too many unknowns. Pharmaceutical companies are keen on synthetic CBD and THC, since they fit in nicely with their existing labs and facilities.

CBD vs. THC: the effects on the body

Koi CBD Benefits

One of the biggest differences between THC and CBD is that the former is a far more potent psychoactive ingredient. It is responsible for the sensations many recreational users of marijuana enjoy — euphoria, giddiness, warm fuzzies, etc. It’s also responsible for the undesirable effects, such as paranoia. While CBD isn’t nearly as mood-altering as THC, some users claim that it has a calming effect or that it makes them mildly happier.

Both CBD and THC have medical uses as well. I outlined the many ways cannabidiol is used to treat numerous ailments in my main CBD article. Tetrahydrocannabinol has been users to treat glaucoma, insomnia, nausea, pain, and poor appetite. Pharmaceutical companies are pursuing the use of both substances for use in medicine.

Cannabidiol and tetrahydrocannabinol can have a synergistic effect. Depending on the ailment being treated, the substances can work more effectively in conjunction than separately. It is commonly referred to as the “entourage effect.” Surprisingly, this has nothing to do with Vincent Chase, Johnny Drama, and Turtle.

CBD vs. THC: legality


The legality of both CBD and THC vary from country to country and even from region to region within the same country. In the most basic terms, CBD is legal in more places than THC. Even still, things get tricky and granular. In the US, the legality all depends on how the CBD in extracted.

The United States Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) currently lists marijuana as a “Schedule I” substance. This is defined as, “drugs, substances, or chemicals are defined as drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” While there have been rumors over the years of marijuana being reclassified as Schedule II substance, which is much less restrictive, there doesn’t appear to be any movement towards that at the time of this writing. Given marijuana’s classification, CBD and THC extracted from the plant is considered “illegal.” This, of course, doesn’t apply to states that have legalized medicinal marijuana.

Beyond that, there are currently 16 US states that allow for the use of products that are high in CBD and low in THC. They are often referred to as “CBD-Only” states. There are currently 16 states that allow for medicinal CBD, while 25 states and the District of Columbia allow for medicinal marijuana.

Another source of confusion comes from CBD products derived from hemp or chemically-isolated extracts. These products are often touted as “legal in all 50 states.” These are the types and class of products most often found in health food stores and from companies that sell CBD e-liquid. Some people are concerned about the efficacy and purity of these products, which is justifiable. In these cases, it’s best to go with a company that offers transparent lab results.

The legality of CBD and THC is, as with many legal matters, confusing and nebulous. While being familiar with national law is always good, it’s best to understand your local rules and regulations that cover CBD and THC.

Two vastly different substances from one source

As you can see from the information above, CBD and THC are distinctly different substances. While they can work together synergistically, they are also being used independently in various treatments. The legality of both substances can be confusing to work out. Hopefully the information in this article can help you determine which substance is right for you and if it’s legal where you live.

Raymond Padilla
Raymond Padilla is a level 26 Pokemon Go trainer, a longtime journalist, and an accomplished verbal entertainer. Kindly visit him at his personal website "RPadTV" (linked above) or his various social media accounts (linked below).