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CBD vs. THC: What’s the difference?

Cannabis consumers have long prized potency (a high THC content) as one of the main factors that makes a particular strain more desirable. Though traditional demand for THC has caused an oversaturation of high-potency products, many consumers are starting to prefer less intense products that are lower in THC and higher in the non-intoxicating compound called CBD (cannabidiol).

What’s the difference between CBD and THC?

THC and CBD are both cannabinoids derived from the cannabis plant, but they’re different in many ways that may influence your next dispensary purchase.

An easy way to think about it is that THC is defined by what cannabis makes you feel, while the effects of CBD can’t be felt. The important distinction is that, unlike THC, CBD will not intoxicate you. It also addresses one of the most common reasons people choose to use CBD—pain management.

CBD can also block some of the intoxicating effects of THC. By binding to cannabinoid receptors, it will keep THC from activating those receptors. This translates to a less intense psychoactive effect, which is why products with a mix of CBD and THC are great for first-time consumers.

This does not mean that CBD, by itself, cannot offer an effect. High doses of CBD often produce a profoundly relaxing experience. Like stepping out of a hot tub, your body may feel tingly and relaxed, and your brain may be clear.

CBD vs. THC: legality

With the passing of the Farm Bill in December 2018, industrial hemp became a legal agricultural commodity in all 50 states. While the DEA still considers CBD to be a Schedule I controlled substance, it clarified in a memo that trace amounts of CBD found in hemp stalks or seeds were legal.

However, the legality of hemp-derived CBD may vary from state to state, so it’s important to check your state’s laws before stocking up on hemp-derived CBD products.

Cannabis strains that have a high CBD:THC ratio are legal only in states with legal, regulated cannabis markets.

What are the medicinal effects of CBD?

The list of conditions CBD may help with is ever-expanding. More research is needed to better understand the efficacy and range of CBD’s benefits, but it’s popularly used to manage the following symptoms and conditions:

  • Epilepsy and seizure disorders
  • Pain and inflammation
  • PTSD and anxiety
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Opioid withdrawal

Though clinical and anecdotal evidence suggests CBD can help manage different conditions, CBD became most famous for treating a rare and debilitating form of pediatric epilepsy.

Dravet’s Syndrome is notoriously resistant to current treatment methods. People with the condition are plagued by seizures, often up to hundreds a day, and they usually worsen as people age and can be life-threatening. Currently, treatment methods include having a child wear an eyepatch, specialized diets, and brain surgery, but all have mixed success rates.

One of the earliest success stories involves a young girl named Charlotte who was given an ingestible oil derived from Charlotte’s Web , a CBD strain that was specifically developed to provide her with all the benefits of the drug without the high.

In less than two years, Charlotte went from a monthly seizure count of 1,200 to about three. Other success stories followed and more parents have begun to speak out, particularly parents desperate for access to this life-saving treatment.

CBD has no lethal dose or known serious side effects. The idea of using cannabis-derived compounds for pediatric conditions remains a touchy subject in a culture where cannabis has been stigmatized.

If you would like to know more about the benefits of CBD, check out our CBD Guide.

Although THC is best known for its mind-altering euphoria, it too has important medical benefits. There’s some overlap in what CBD and THC can treat, but THC is particularly effective in relieving nausea, appetite loss, insomnia, among other symptoms. Many patients find that a balance of CBD and THC offers the best symptom relief as the two work together synergistically.

What are some high-CBD strains I can try?

CBD is typically the second-most abundant cannabinoid in cannabis, but this isn’t always the case. A strain may deliver CBD and THC in the following ratios:

  • High THC, low CBD (e.g.,10-30% THC, trace amounts of CBD)
  • Balanced CBD/THC (e.g., 5-15% THC and 5-15% CBD)
  • High CBD, low THC (e.g., 5-20% CBD, THC under 5%)

(The Cannabiz Agency/iStock)

High-CBD strains tend to deliver very clear-headed, functional effects without the euphoric high associated with high-THC strains. They’re typically preferred by consumers who are extremely sensitive to the side effects of THC (e.g., anxiety, paranoia, dizziness).

A high-CBD strain would also be a great choice for someone needing to medicate throughout the day to control pain, inflammation, anxiety, or other chronic conditions.

Balanced CBD/THC strains will be a little more euphoric than CBD-dominant strains, though they’re much less likely to induce anxiety, paranoia, and other negative side effects. Strains like these tend to be the most effective for pain relief, and they’re also well-suited for THC-sensitive consumers who’d like a mellow buzz.

CBD strains can be consumed just as you would THC strains. You can smoke or vaporize CBD-rich flower, eat a CBD-infused edible, swallow a CBD oil capsule, apply a CBD lotion, or use a CBD tincture sublingually. Hemp products also contain CBD, though it is a less efficient source and lacks the beneficial chemical diversity of cannabis-derived CBD products (more on that here).

Keep in mind that CBD levels may vary from crop to crop—even from plant to plant. We also recommend checking with dispensaries about the specifics of their strains’ CBD levels. It’s always a good idea to purchase only lab-tested products that clearly state the CBD/THC levels so you know what kind of experience to expect.

This post was originally published on July 3, 2018. It was most recently updated on April 1, 2020.

CBD and THC are both derived from cannabis plants, but they’re very different. Learn the difference between CBD and THC.

How Much THC is in CBD Oil?

October 28, 2019

How much THC is in CBD oil

Although the cannabis plant produces over 100 distinct cannabinoids, two of them – THC and CBD – garner the most attention. They also make up the vast majority of cannabis’ cannabinoid content, with others like CBG and CBC being present in much smaller amounts.

Due to its psychoactive properties, THC has historically been considered a sort of superstar of cannabinoids. The booming market for medicinal and recreational marijuana places it at the forefront, with growers producing record-breaking strains of up to 40% THC.

The medicinal qualities of hemp oil have been known for thousands of years, but CBD oil is still the newcomer of the cannabinoid kingdom, and with the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, its popularity is soaring. Despite this, it remains unregulated by the FDA, leading many consumers to question just what exactly they’re buying when they purchase CBD oil.

So, How Much THC is in CBD Oil?

THC in CBD oil

One of the more common inquiries heard is “how much THC is in CBD oil?” The answer varies depending on a variety of factors. Although research indicates that a full-spectrum extract – whereupon both THC and CBD are present amongst a host of other cannabinoids – is the most effective form of CBD, the difference in legal status between CBD and THC causes concern for some consumers. For example, some worry that an excess of THC in CBD oil may lead to a failed drug screen.

It’s important to note that while cannabis can contain both THC and CBD in high amounts, the plant’s genetics typically predispose it toward one or the other. In other words, cannabis plants that are bred specifically for THC potency will naturally have much lower CBD content, and vice versa.

CBD oil must contain less than 0.3% THC to be considered federally legal, though there is still confusion over this in many parts of the country. From there, state and local laws must also be taken into account – check your local statutes to understand whether CBD oil is truly legal in your neck of the woods.

To appease consumers in both markets, dispensaries in states like Colorado now stock tinctures of varying CBD-to-THC ratios, from 18:1 to 4:1 to 1:1. This provides buyers who benefit from both CBD and THC to have the best of both worlds and find a product tailored to their individual needs.

Because industrial hemp naturally contains very little THC (0.3% or less), it remains the sole (legal) option for CBD production in any state without recreational or medical marijuana laws. This is a substantial bottleneck for CBD production in these states, for allowing a higher level of THC would naturally result in higher CBD levels and make the extraction process much more efficient.

There is no definitive answer to how much THC is in CBD oil. It varies depending on a multitude of factors, from the science behind the plant to its current legal status at the state and local level to the trustworthiness and integrity of numerous manufacturers in an unregulated industry. When purchasing full spectrum CBD oil or CBD capsules, always remember to do your research and choose a reputable source with a track record of satisfied customers.

Do you know how much THC is in CBD oil? Do you know how to check CBD products for THC levels? Click here to read more from our experts.