CBD vs. THC: What’s the Difference and Which One Do I Need?

As their legal status changes at the state and federal levels, CBD and THC products are both becoming more popular among various users for their different effects.

With so many acronyms getting tossed around, how can you keep them straight and know which one you should pick?

Our helpful article will break down the key differences between CBD and THC and give you some tips on how to choose between them.

CBD and THC are Both Cannabinoids, But They Have Different Effects on the Body

CBD and THC are two of the most well-known cannabinoids found in cannabis plants. Like other substances derived from cannabis plants (aka the “cannabis sativa” plant family), both of these compounds interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS). The human body’s ECS, which is part of the central nervous system (CNS), regulates mood, memory, appetite, and pain sensation.

Although they both come from the cannabis plant family, CBD and THC have different effects because they bind to different cannabinoid receptors in the endocannabinoid system.

Cannabidiol (CBD)

Cannabidiol (CBD) is a non-psychoactive compound found in marijuana and hemp plants. CBD interacts with the body’s ECS to produce a calming effect by binding to cannabinoid receptors that regulate mood and pain sensation.

Most commercially available CBD products are derived from the hemp plant, which is part of the cannabis plant family but is a separate organism from the marijuana plant.


Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the psychoactive compound in the cannabis plant known as marijuana that causes users to experience a “high.”

Unlike CBD, THC also binds with cannabinoid receptors in the ECS that regulate memory and appetite. This causes an increase in dopamine levels, which can result in feelings of euphoria.

The Importance of Psychoactive vs. Non-Psychoactive Effects

Perhaps the largest difference between CBD and THC is that the former is non-psychoactive, meaning it does not produce the “high” associated with THC. CBD can actually counteract the psychoactive effects of THC.

CBD is thought to have therapeutic and even medical benefits, such as reducing anxiety and pain. It can also be used by patients who suffer from seizures.

THC, on the other hand, is psychoactive and produces the “high” associated with marijuana use. Like CBD, THC is also believed to have therapeutic benefits, such as reducing pain and nausea. However, because it is psychoactive, it can also cause anxiety and paranoia in some users.

Not all THC products are created equal, though. For instance, Delta-9 is considered a “classic” form of THC, but Delta-8 is considered milder and less likely to cause any feelings of paranoia.

This is one of the reasons it is important to be aware of the difference between CBD and THC before consuming any cannabis products.

Different Legal Statuses

Both the legal status and the societal attitudes toward cannabis-related substances have changed a lot in recent years. This will likely inform your decision between CBD and THC products.


Legal Status of CBD Products

Thanks to a 2018 change to the Controlled Substances Act, hemp-derived CBD products are legal at the federal level as long as they contain no more than 0.3% THC.

In addition, CBD products are legal in most US states. Obviously, you should check with your local jurisdiction regarding any purchases, but the regulation of CBD products is a lot more relaxed now compared to the past!

Legal Status of THC Products

In the United States, THC products are generally still illegal according to federal law and in many states. However, 11 states have legalized recreational cannabis use, and 33 states have legalized medical cannabis or medical marijuana use.

In addition, non-prescription CBD and delta-8 THC are legal at the federal level as long as they have been derived from hemp and possess less than the legal limit of 0.3% THC content.

Drug Test Concerns

Another major difference between THC and CBD is that CBD products are unlikely to cause a positive result in a drug test.

If you use CBD products, it is still possible that trace amounts of THC could show up on drug tests if the product contains more than 0.3% THC (which some CBD products do!).

However, since most CBD products contain less than 0.3% THC, it is unlikely that it would cause a false positive result on drug tests.

On the other hand, THC products are much more likely to show up on a drug test since they typically have higher concentrations of this psychoactive compound. If you use either CBD or THC products, be sure to check the label for the THC content before use.

Decide Your Reasons for Using Either CBD or THC

As with any product that you are considering, you should make it clear to yourself why are you interested in the first place. What benefits are you expecting to find?


Why Could Be Right for You

Research into the effects and medical benefits of CBD is ongoing, but several studies have suggested that CBD can help with issues as varied as pain relief, nausea, migraines, and even anxiety.

CBD can also help with sleep on the one hand and your ability to focus on the other hand.

Another area of interest that is under study is CBD’s potential to help users with inflammation-related issues. CBD can also be useful for people suffering from arthritis.

Why THC Could Be Right for You

THC has been of interest at both the medical and recreational levels for several reasons. Users have found applications for issues such as pain relief, muscle spasticity, increasing low appetite, nausea, and anxiety.

Like CBD, THC may also be able to help with certain sleep problems.

Generally speaking, THC can help with some of the same issues as CBD, albeit at a stronger and more potent level.

Potential Side Effects of CBD and THC

It is important to note that CBD products are generally considered safe, especially when compared to THC. CBD is not known to produce any significant side effects in most users.

However, it is possible that CBD can cause fatigue or an upset stomach in some people. It can also affect a person’s sense of drowsiness or sleepiness.

THC, on the other hand, can have more serious side effects, at least in the short term. These issues do not necessarily affect every user but can include an increased heart rate, red eyes, decreased reaction times and coordination, memory issues, anxiety or confusion, or tiredness.

Neither CBD nor THC will cause you to have a fatal overdose, though research suggests that long-term use of THC (especially in young people) can decrease motivation and otherwise affect your mental state.

Both CBD and THC Products are Available in a Variety of Forms

Both CBD and THC are available in various forms, including oils, tinctures, edibles, and concentrates.


Oils and Tinctures

CBD oil and THC oil can both be applied directly to the skin, either as a topical or in an edible form. CBD oil tinctures are also available for oral use and can be added to food.



CBD edibles are often formulated into gummies or capsules, while THC edibles usually come in the form of cookies, brownies, lollipops, and other baked goods.


CBD and THC concentrates are usually extracted from the plant and are more potent than other CBD or THC forms. CBD concentrates, such as CBD wax, can be added to edibles or applied directly to the skin.

stethoscope, cbd capsule, cbd oil


So, what’s the difference between CBD and THC? As we’ve seen, they are both cannabinoids, but they have different effects on the body.

THC is psychoactive and can cause users to feel high, while CBD does not have any psychoactive effects.

CBD is used to treat a variety of medical conditions, while THC is mainly (but not always) used for recreational purposes.

Both CBD and THC products are available in various forms, including oils, tinctures, edibles, and concentrates.If you’ve decided that CBD or THC products might be right for you, check your local laws to make sure you’re all clear, then check out our full line of products online!

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