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CBD vs THC Cannabis: What’s the Difference?

Medically reviewed by Dr. Scott Hacker, MD on Apr 09, 2020

CBD vs THC Cannabis: What’s the Difference?

No doubt you’ve heard stories about cannabis and marijuana products as they slowly become legal in more states. Both THC and CBD are getting a lot of attention. For nearly 100 years now, the US government has demonized and criminalized all cannabis. In a complete about-face three years ago, the United States began to distinguish between the two.

*Video courtesy of Joy Organics

Cannabis and hemp are plants that contain many compounds called cannabinoids in different proportions. Cannabidiol, or CBD and tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC are two of these compounds. The hemp plant is high in CBD but contains less than 0.3% THC.

With the change in allowed use of cannabis, a new world has become available of possibilities for people seeking the potential health benefits of cannabis.   

Many questions arise as more and more people look to the medicinal properties of cannabis.

Why is one federally legal now while the other is not?

How might the substances affect you differently?

CBD Vs THC Cannabis: Legality 

The US Farm Bill now defines a cannabis plant with less than 0.3% THC as industrial hemp. Hemp has many practical uses, including the making of hemp rope.

Certain parts of hemp cannabis are also naturally high in CBD.

Hemp and the CBD products derived from it are legal in the US.

On the other hand, cannabis used for recreation typically has over 12% THC . Wow! That's 40X what's in hemp. This is marijuana cannabis. It's still illegal federally in the US and highly regulated in most states.

Interestingly, in its natural state, hemp cannabis is visually indistinguishable from THC cannabis. Only lab testing can confirm the difference.

THC Vs CBD Cannabis: The Benefits

Studies show that both THC cannabis and cannabis high in CBD may have some health benefits.

For example, THC may reduce nausea and increase appetite. This can help those with cancer, HIV AIDS and other diseases that make it hard to eat. It may also help people with hard to treat seizures.

A growing body of literature about CBD shows that it may help people suffering with many conditions including:

While studies support the use of THC and CBD for other ailments, these conditions have the most substantial scientific support at this time. More clinical trials are needed to confirm who can be helped and to establish precise dosing recommendations.

Recently, the FDA has approved the CBD-containing drug Epidiolex for the treatment of seizures. And European countries have approved other THC-CBD medications for nausea, loss of appetite, and chronic pain.

As a quick aside, it's important to note here that hemp products do not necessarily contain CBD. CBD is mostly found in the buds and leaves.

If you want CBD, you're looking for products clearly labeled as containing a specific amount of CBD, not hemp seeds or hemp products.

CBD Vs THC: The Effects

THC is the chemical in cannabis that causes the high/euphoric feeling people want to achieve when they use marijuana. But because hemp is very low in THC, it cannot create altered mental states.

Buying CBD Products

CBD products are believed to be generally safe. If you choose to vape or smoke CBD products, you should be aware of the risks associated with those two methods, which have nothing to do with the CBD itself.

You should choose a trusted brand that tests and delivers a product compliant with the <.3% rule. This should be confirmed through third-party testing.


Palapa takes CBD seriously. We only sell products that have been carefully considered for their medicinal value and third-party testing to ensure quality. We strive to take the guesswork out of choosing the most effective CBD products for your situation. Check out our selection of high-quality CBD products.


Information provided in the Palapa section of is based upon best available data and is intended solely for informational purposes to users. Representations regarding the efficacy and safety of CBD products have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, prevent, treat, or cure any disease. *WARNING* CDB products may activate the endocannabinoid system and therefore may increase or decrease the effects of any medication taken while using this product. ALL INFORMATION PRESENTED HERE IS NOT MEANT AS A SUBSTITUTE FOR OR ALTERNATIVE TO INFORMATION FROM HEALTHCARE PRACTITIONERS. PLEASE CONSULT YOUR HEALTHCARE PROFESSIONAL ABOUT POTENTIAL INTERACTIONS OR OTHER POSSIBLE COMPLICATIONS BEFORE USING ANY PRODUCT. PLEASE CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN PRIOR TO USE IF YOU ARE PREGNANT OR NURSING. THE FEDERAL FOOD, DRUG AND COSMETIC ACT REQUIRES THIS NOTICE.

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