Back to Basics: THC vs CBD


One of the most common questions consumers have about cannabis is, “What’s the difference between THC and CBD?” Before explaining the difference, it’s helpful to understand what cannabinoids are.

Cannabinoids are chemical compounds found in cannabis that elicit a range of effects by interacting with our body’s Endocannabinoid System (ECS).

There are over 100 of them, but THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol) are the most common.

THC – the cannabinoid responsible for the euphoric “high” feeling one experiences after consuming cannabis – interacts with the ECS directly by binding to cannabinoid receptors which produces various effects.

CBD, which hasn’t been studied as extensively as THC, interacts with the ECS indirectly by modulating the ability of other cannabinoids to bind to receptors. It is believed that CBD may counteract some of the undesirable side effects of THC, such as paranoia.

While THC has been associated with cannabis for many years, CBD has only recently gained mainstream attention; prior to the new millennium, most cannabis breeders and growers were solely focused on maximizing the THC content of their cultivars.

THC vs CBD: What's the Difference?

One of the main differences between THC and CBD is that CBD doesn’t get you high1.

Although THC and CBD are both psychoactive (CBD is often referred to as being “non-psychoactive,” which isn’t technically correct), THC is intoxicating while CBD is not.

So, for those wondering “can CBD get you high?” the answer is… probably not. Of course, if you are new to cannabis, you might interpret the calm feeling that some consumers feel after consuming CBD as a high of sorts. However, studies have shown that even at large doses, CBD does not impair cognitive or motor abilities1.

THC, on the other hand, gets you high. It’s also been shown to reduce response times and impair memory2.

In the last couple decades, interest in CBD has increased as more high-CBD strains (such as ACDC and DM2) have become available.

THC vs CBD: Medical Applications

A common misconception is that CBD is the “medicinal cannabinoid” while THC is the “recreational one.” In fact, both cannabinoids have many potential therapeutic applications that we are only just beginning to understand.

Let’s take a look at some of the symptoms that may be reduced or managed with THC vs CBD.

Studies have found that THC may help treat:

  • Chronic pain3
  • Spasticity3
  • Nausea from chemotherapy4
  • Weight loss from HIV/AIDS5

Studies have found that CBD may help treat:

  • Inflammation6
  • Neuropathic pain from MS7
  • Treatment-resistant seizures8
  • PTSD9
  • Anxiety10

Legality of THC vs CBD

Confused about the legality of THC vs CBD? You’re not alone.

Since the legalization of cannabis in Canada in October 2018, many consumers aren’t sure what’s legal and what’s not. So, let’s clear up this hazy topic.

In Canada, THC and CBD are regulated similarly. Cannabis products containing either THC, CBD, or a combination of THC and CBD must adhere to the same strict requirements, including:

  • Childproof packaging with limited branding
  • Labels must include a warning label and THC symbol (yes, even for CBD-only products!)
  • Products can only be sold by licensed retailers

Unlike in the US, where you can buy CBD-infused food and beverages from grocery stores and gas stations, CBD in Canada is subject to the same restrictions as THC.

As a result, there is a thriving black market in Canada for CBD products. Purchasing CBD from any source besides a licensed retailer comes with risks, however. It is illegal to possess CBD obtained from an illicit source, and there is no quality assurance because black market products aren’t required to be tested.