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CBD vs. THC: A Spotlight On Two Famous Cannabinoids

The image shows a split-screen of the same woman in two scenarios. On the left, labeled 'CBD,' she is clear-eyed and focused, studying a book in a well-lit, scholarly environment. On the right, under 'THC,' she appears relaxed with a light haze around her, still holding a book, but with a dreamy, unfocused gaze, suggesting the contrasting effects of CBD and THC.

A battle royal, CBD Vs. THC!
These two cannabinoids get compared to one another, and for good reason; they're the two most popular cannabinoids in Cannabis!

This MEGA ARTICLE compares all the possible key distinctions and commonalities between CBD and THC, and would be a great read for anyone curious about the intricacies of these cannabis compounds.

Table of Contents

EST. READING TIME: 19 Minutes
EST. READING TIME: 19 Minutes

Introduction

An attractive female librarian is wearing a green blouse with black glasses and red lipstick. She is center stage as she prepares to introduce her audience to a new book in a live-book reading on cannabinoids and cannabis compounds. The librarian casually smokes a tightly rolled cbd preroll to show the audience first hand how cbd doesn't make you high like thc does.
Librarian introduces her audience to a new book in a live-book reading on cannabinoids and cannabis compounds.

This comprehensive analysis will shed immense light on THC andamp; CBD; multifaceted cannabis compounds that have helped millions of people worldwide. Think of this article as a highlight reel for these two cannabinoids, you’re going to learn some cool stuff.

If you want complete overviews of either CBD or THC, use these links:

What Is Cannabidiol?

What Is Tetrahydrocannabinol?

What Are Phytocannabinoids?

The Basics

Scientist immersed in observation, peering intently at a 3d molecular model of cbd suspended in mid-air through holographic technology. The laboratory setting is advanced, featuring quantum computers, touch-sensitive glass panels, and biometric security measures. Light sources emanate from both the high - tech equipment and subtle overhead led lights, casting a dynamic mix of shadows and highlights. The scientist wears a lab coat equipped with smart fabric technology and holds a glass tablet displaying real - time data. Expressions of awe and focus fill the scientist's face, eyes magnified by smart glasses providing augmented reality analytics.
Scientist observes intently at a 3d molecular model of cbd suspended in mid-air through holographic technology.

Please get familiar with the table of contents below. You’ll notice these several times throughout this article. If you want section-specific on-page navigation, these little pink navigators are awesome.

The Molecular Formula andamp; Chemical Structures of CBD and THC will be dissected first!

Section 1: The Basics

Molecular Formula andamp; Structure

CBD andamp; THC Similarities

  • Both have the same molecular formula: C₂₁H₃₀O₂ (21 carbons, 30 hydrogens, and 2 oxygens) [1].
  • Both have a molecular weight of 314.464 g/mol.

The Critical Difference

  • THC contains a cyclic ring, which is a closed loop of atoms forming a circle in the molecule.
  • CBD has a hydroxyl group, which is a combination of one hydrogen atom and one oxygen atom bonded together.

While CBD and THC share the same molecular formula, a slight variation in their molecular structures gives them distinct properties.

This difference may seem minor, but it’s this unique variation in molecular structure between THC and CBD is the specific reason why the effects are completely different. 

This “minor” difference allows THC to bind directly to cannabinoid receptors (higher affinity for CB1 Receptors) in the body, causing psychoactive effects. In contrast, CBD does not directly bind to these cannabinoid receptor sites and is not intoxicating.

Plant Origin

A cannabis botanist is engrossed in scientific scrutiny, delicately handles young marijuana seedlings. The marijuana greenhouse is lush, overflowing with cannabis plants at diverse growth stages. Pervading the space is a smart hydroponic systems, real-time nutrient analyzers, and tablet - controlled climate settings. The botanist is attired in a lab coat embedded with smart sensors, monitoring their physiological responses for research. The facial expression is one of intent focus,
A cannabis botanist is engrossed in scientific scrutiny, delicately handles young marijuana seedlings.

Same Plant Origins, But Different Plant Classifications

While both CBD and THC are derived from cannabis plants (hemp andamp; marijuana plants), they are typically extracted from different varieties:

CBD:

  • CBD is primarily found in Hemp plants; making hemp the preferred source for extracting CBD
  • Hemp is scientifically known as Cannabis Sativa, L.
  • Cannabis Sativa, L (Hemp) is a variant species within the Cannabis Sativa plant.
  • Hemp plants contain trace amounts THC.
  • Hemp is defined as cannabis containing 0.3% or less ∆9-THC content on a dry-weight basis.

THC:

  • THC is primarily found in Marijuana plants; making marijuana the ideal plant for extracting THC
  • Marijuana’s classification name is
  • (Marijuana) are variant species within the Cannabis Sativa plant.
  • Marijuana plants contain minimal CBD content.
  • Marijuana plants contain anywhere from 5-30% THC on average.

Its safe to say that when strictly comparing the available amounts of CBD and THC, marijuana plants and hemp plants are complete opposites.

Product Options andamp; Availability

How easy is it to buy CBD vs THC products?

Thanks to its legal status, CBD is widely accessible in shops and online as capsules, oils, edibles, topicals and more. THC products remain far less available and are technically illegal in states that are not legal recreational or medical marijuana is allowed.

UNLESS:
It’s derived from a Hemp Plant
and
it’s under andlt;0.3% ∆9-THC on a dry-weight basis.
(More on this in the next section).

CBD

  • Hemp-derived CBD is sold in many mainstream stores, websites, coffee shops, and specialty stores all across the U.S.
  • Numerous CBD product formats, flavors, and CBD brands are widely available and have expanded internationally due to a growing world-wide acceptance.
  • CBD is readily available to be purchased online legally.

THC

  • Not as many options available to the public.
  • Outside of legal states, THC remains available only through illegal, unregulated channels, and hemp-derived THC products, which usually have lesser potencies of THC. 
  • There is a far less variety of THC edible brands compared to massive CBD market.
  • Medical Marijuana THC cannot be purchased online or transported over state lines legally.