Why CBD works better with a little THC (even if you don’t want to get high)
Way back in 2014, I wrote an article called “Desperately Seeking CBD” that profiled several families who either broke the law or moved clear across the country to access cannabidiol (CBD)—a non-intoxicating compound found in the cannabis plant that’s proven effective in treating pediatric seizure disorders that don’t respond to more conventional therapies. At the time, the father of a two-year old epilepsy patient explained that they’d uprooted their entire existence and moved to Colorado just to try the treatment.
The best available science makes clear that whole-plant cannabis preparations are quantifiably superior to single compounds.
Five years later, you can buy CBD ice cream in Texas. Cannabidiol is officially “trendy.” Capsules, tinctures, ointments, and oils containing the compound can be readily purchased online (as well as at gas stations and hair salons nationwide), and the legalization of hemp farming this December via the most recent US Farm Bill means that this rapidly growing market segment will likely expand exponentially over the next five years.
All good news, even if the recent media focus on shiny objects like CBD-infused cocktails has threatened to crowd out significant research showing cannabidiol has tremendous promise in treating cancer , diabetes , head trauma , chronic pain , neurodegenerative disease , depression, anxiety , and addiction .
But unfortunately, along the way, there’s been a lot of shady operators selling CBD in a largely unregulated grey market, and as a result, a ton of misinformation has attached itself to this potentially life-saving cannabinoid.
In fact, Project CBD—a non-profit dedicated to boosting science-based understanding of cannabidiol—has compiled an extensive list of pervasive misconceptions, one of which is “CBD is medical, THC is recreational.”
On the contrary, even small doses of THC combined with CBD can improve the efficacy of your cannabis medicine.
THC is TLC for your CBD
Originally, cannabis contained far less THC than it typically does now, and a lot more CBD. But over time, breeders have created ever more potent strains, as that’s what fetches the best price in the underground market. These breeders certainly understood that selecting for greater potency meant maximizing THC output, but just ten years ago few had even heard of CBD, never mind realized it was steadily getting bred out of existence.
Project CBD was founded in 2009, a time when CBD had almost entirely vanished from the cannabis gene pool. The organization’s founders recognized that while there’s long been evidence of CBD’s medical efficacy, unlike THC, it wasn’t reaching actual medical cannabis patients in appreciable amounts. So they worked directly with cannabis labs in California (then a new phenomenon) to identify the few remaining CBD-rich strains in circulation and make them available to growers, researchers and patients.
Which means you can put them down as big fans of CBD. Just don’t put down THC while you’re doing it.
Project CBD receives many inquiries from around the world and oftentimes people say they are seeking “CBD, the medical part” of the plant, “not THC, the recreational part” that gets you high. Actually, THC, “The High Causer,” has awesome therapeutic properties… [but] diehard marijuana prohibitionists are exploiting the good news about CBD to further stigmatize high-THC cannabis, casting tetrahydrocannabinol as the bad cannabinoid, whereas CBD is framed as the good cannabinoid. Why? Because CBD doesn’t make you feel high like THC does.
Project CBD categorically rejects this moralistic, reefer madness dichotomy in favor of whole plant cannabis therapeutics.
The best available science makes clear that whole-plant cannabis preparations are quantifiably superior to single compounds because the plant’s complex mix of cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids interact synergistically to create an “entourage effect” that enhances each other’s therapeutic effects.
- A study conducted at the California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco found that combining THC and CBD produces more potent anti-tumor effects when tested on brain cancer and breast cancer cell lines than either compound alone.
- A 2010 study found that patients with intractable cancer-related pain tolerated medicines that combined THC and CBD notably better than a pure THC extract.
- A 2012 study in the Journal of Psychopharmacology found that CBD “inhibits THC-elicited paranoid symptoms and hippocampal-dependent memory impairment”
Finding the sweet spot
Products with a balance of THC and CBD are becoming more commonplace in cannabis shops as consumers realize the value of cannabinoid synergy. (Elise McDonough for Leafly)
Lots of people (like yours truly) enjoy the psychoactivity of cannabis and find it mood elevating and healing in and of itself, but rest assured that you don’t need to get high AF to reap the benefits of THC.
However, finding your optimal dose will involve some trial and error.
According to Project CBD:
The successful use of cannabis as a medicine depends to a great extent on managing its psychoactive properties. The goal is to administer consistent, measurable doses of a CBD-rich cannabis remedy with as much THC as a person is comfortable with… Preclinical science lends credence to the notion that a small amount of THC can confer health benefits. Oral administration of a low dose of THC (1 mg/day) resulted in “significant inhibition of disease progression” in an animal model of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), according to a 2005 report in Nature , which noted: “This effective dose is lower than the dose usually associated with psychotropic effects of THC.”
In a feature called We Asked a Scientist: What’s the Right Dose of CBD? , Nick Jikomes, Leafly’s in-house neuroscientist, explored the complicated process involved in optimizing the benefits of cannabis without going one toke over the line, including managing the complex interplay between THC and CBD.
CBD is essentially getting in the way of THC’s ability to bind the CB1 receptor, which is why the presence of CBD has a significant impact on the psychoactivity of THC-containing products, [and] why the ratio of the two compounds is important for anticipating the effects of cannabis products… While THC and CBD have different pharmacological properties, they can both have similar physiological effects, probably acting through different mechanisms. For instance, both compounds can have analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects; they may act through different mechanisms, so having THC and CBD could potentially enhance an outcome surrounding pain relief.
If you’re fortunate enough to have access to a legally operating cannabis dispensary, you should have no problem finding flowers, concentrates, topicals, and edibles with a wide range of THC-to-CBD ratios. But patients and consumers still sourcing their cannabis from the underground market will encounter more difficulty.
Browse menus near you for CBD/THC products
One suggestion is to try combining whatever form of CBD you can access locally with the best whole-plant cannabis you can lay your hands on. Perhaps this means swallowing a CBD capsule and then taking a few puffs off a joint an hour later.
As always with cannabis, start with small doses and work you way up until you find the sweet spot.
Cannabis research has shown that even a small amount of THC can make your CBD medicine more effective. Here's why.
Cbd oil with low thc
Many locations are now offering to sell CBD or THC products, but this leaves many individuals questioning what is legal and what is not.
The first step to understanding the legality of these items is understanding how Georgia law defines them.
As of May 10, 2019, hemp and hemp products, as defined by Georgia law, are no longer a violation of Georgia’s Controlled Substances Act. In Georgia law hemp is defined as “the Cannabis sativa L. plant and any part of such plant, including the seeds thereof and all derivatives, extracts, cannabinoids, isomers, acids, salts, and salts of isomers, whether growing or not, with the federally defined THC level for hemp or a lower level,” while hemp products are defined as “all products with the federally defined THC level for hemp derived from, or made by, processing hemp plants or plant parts that are prepared in a form available for legal commercial sale, but not including food products infused with THC unless approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration.”
Currently, the federally defined THC level for hemp is a “delta-9-THC concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis.” Many of the products that people are referring to as CBD oil fall within this category. These products are legal so long as they are not food infused products, unless they have been approved by the FDA. Production and distribution of these products, outside of commercial sales, is still highly regulated in Georgia and must strictly comply with Georgia’s laws.
The next category that we look at is what Georgia law defines as “Low THC Oil.” Low THC oil is defined in the law as “an oil that contains an amount of cannabidiol and not more than 5 percent by weight of tetrahydrocannabinol, tetrahydrocannabinolic acid, or a combination of tetrahydrocannabinol and tetrahydrocannabinolic acid which does not contain plant material exhibiting the external morphological features of the plant of the genus Cannabis.”
Low THC oil can be possessed by a person who has registered with the Georgia Department of Public Health and is in possession of their registration card, so long as the person possesses less than 20 fluid ounces of low THC oil and it is in a pharmaceutical container labeled by the manufacturer stating the percentage of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
The law defines who qualifies for these types of cards and the process to obtain them, but the easiest course of action to ensure compliance with this law is to go through a licensed physician in Georgia to determine qualification.
When a person violates the provisions of the law regarding low THC oil and possesses less than 20 fluid ounces of low THC oil, then the person is committing a misdemeanor, which carries a maximum penalty of up to 12 months in jail. If a person possesses more than 20 fluid ounces of low THC oil then the person is committing a felony. Additionally, if a person not approved to manufacture, distribute, dispense, sell, or possess with intent to distribute low THC oil does so, regardless of the amount, it is a felony. The range of punishments for felony violations of this law vary depending on the amount of low THC oil, but on the low end it carries one to 10 years in prison.
Possession of THC, other than low THC oil or hemp products as described above, is a felony in Georgia and possession of marijuana is still illegal throughout the state of Georgia. Possession of marijuana less than one ounce is a misdemeanor, while possession of more than one ounce is a felony. Much like low THC oil, when a person manufactures, distributes, dispenses, sells, or possesses with intent to distribute marijuana, regardless of the amount, it is a felony.
Unless an individual is prescribed low THC oil and is complying strictly with those requirements, these laws can create many challenges for the average member of the public. The process in which CBD oils are regulated and tested can vary significantly from state to state, which could mean that what is written on the label is not accurate. If the product contains more THC than listed on the label, possession could be a crime as outlined above.
Other challenges arise from the fact that other states and the federal government may have different laws regarding these items, which could result in federal prosecution or violations of the laws of other states when traveling. Some courts are also reporting that CBD oil may cause individuals to have positive drug screens for THC. If a person is charged with possessing any of these products, having a clear understanding of the differences and how these differences are determined is fundamental to raising appropriate defenses to these charges.
With the rise of companies selling CBD or THC items, many people are questioning what is legal and what is not. Read more about the legality of these items.