Before we dive into the differences between CBD & THC, we first need to look at how they interact with the body.
Both CBD and THC interact with the endocannabinoid system (ECS), a system of cannabinoid receptors populated throughout the entire body.
Cannabinoids produced naturally by the body and plant-based cannabinoids – like CBD & THC – interact with the ECS. Cannabinoids influence appetite, mood, memory, pain management, and other necessary functions.
So what makes CBD different from THC?
The chemical makeups of either compound are nearly identical… Nearly, that is.
This subtle variance in the chemical structures of CBD and THC makes all the difference. THC binds to both the CB1 & CB2 receptors. By binding to the CB1 receptor, THC mimics a chemical called anandamide (aka “the bliss molecule”) and makes you feel high. CBD does not bind to CB1 receptors, which is why you don’t feel intoxicated when you consume CBD. However, CBD does bind to CB2 receptors.
Although CBD does not directly bind to the CB1 receptor, it inhibits an enzyme called Fatty Acid Amide Hydrolase (FAAH). FAAH is known to break down anandamide. In essence, when CBD inhibits FAAH, anandamide levels can build up and stay in the body for longer. More bliss!
Why is CBD legal vs. THC?
In December of 2018 the US Farm Bill was passed. The bill made hemp a federally legal crop.
But can’t CBD be extracted from other cannabis plants beyond hemp? Yes. However, only hemp-derived CBD is federally legal for sale in all 50 states.