The Similarities and Differences Between CBD and THC – Molecular and Legal
There is a lot of spin surrounding Cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). As part of our effort to demystify CBD Growing Tree CBD will give you some facts explaining the differences between CBD and THC from both a legal and scientific point of view.
Classed as phytocannabinoids, both CBD and THC interact with specific cells mainly in our brains and other organs (You may be amused to know that our brains are considered an “organ”), causing a-number-of different effects in our bodies.
Both CBD and THC have a wide range of applications and are similar at the molecular level yet are quite different in how they stimulate the body. THC stimulates the CB1 cannabinoid receptor, resulting in its characteristic psychotropic effects, while CBD alters the shape of the CB1 receptor, which is why it generally does not produce any psychoactive effects. However, the chemical properties of CBD and THC vary widely enough to classify THC as a psychotropic drug strictly controlled by federal authorities, while CBD is regarded as legal and safe worldwide.
Hemp-derived CBD Legalization at the Federal Level
On December 20, 2018, President Donald Trump signed the 2018 Farm Bill which included the Hemp Farming Act of 2018, signaling the official nationwide legalization of industrial hemp, while placing cultivation oversight in the hands of states and allowing for the sale of hemp-based derived CBD across state lines provided that the raw or manufactured product did not contain more than 0.3% of THC. Per section 10113 of the Farm Bill, any cannabis plant that contains more than 0.3 percent THC would be considered non-hemp cannabis or marijuana under federal law.
The promotion of hemp-related research was strengthened with Section 7605 of the Hemp Farming Act of 2018 not only re-extends the protections for hemp research and the conditions under which such research can and should be conducted but also extends hemp research by including hemp under the Critical Agricultural Materials Act. This provision recognizes the importance, diversity, and opportunity of the plant and the products that can be derived from it, but also recognizes an important point: there is a still a lot to learn about hemp.
Meanwhile, at the federal level for both recreational and medical use of cannabis (aka Marijuana) remains illegal. Cannabis remains a Schedule I drug at the federal level, prohibiting even its medical use. The Rohrabacher–Farr amendment prevents federal enforcement in states that have legalized medical, however. No such protections exist regarding recreational, but the federal government has so far generally not intervened.
The Mammalian Endocannabinoid System
Yes, this includes us, humans.
The main reason why cannabinoids like Cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) have psychoactive and/or medicinal effects on the body is because the human body has a system in place to interact with them via the endocannabinoid system (ES/System), which is responsible for regulating and balancing the response of the human body to certain triggers (e.g., appetite, metabolism, immune change, communication between body cells, etc.)
Throughout the ES cannabinoid receptors are found on the surface of the cells of which many types of but only two of them have been widely studied and researched- CB1 and CB2. The distribution of these receptors within the body system explains why cannabinoids have certain profound effects on us:
- CB1 receptors are present in:
- the brain and spinal cord.
- high concentrations in the parts of the brain that are associated with the behaviors they influence.
- the hypothalamus and the amygdala, which are responsible for appetite regulation, control of stress and anxiety, reducing nausea as well as for memory and emotional processing.
- nerve endings where they act to reduce sensations of pain (one major reason why cannabis is used as a pain killer).
- CB2 receptors are located in the immune cells of the peripheral nervous system. Once activated, they trigger an immune response to reduce inflammation, a role that is important in treating many chronic diseases.
It is through this System that the active components of cannabis, which are referred to as cannabinoids, interact with our body’s biological system and elicit therapeutic effects as described in “The Endocannabinoid System as an Emerging Target of Pharmacotherapy”. The study described that modulating the activity of the endocannabinoid system turned out to hold therapeutic promise in a wide range of disparate diseases and pathological conditions, ranging from mood and anxiety disorders, movement disorders such as Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease, neuropathic pain, multiple sclerosis, and spinal cord injury, to cancer, atherosclerosis, myocardial infarction, stroke, hypertension, glaucoma, obesity/metabolic syndrome, and osteoporosis, to name just a few.
And, that the of the selective CB2 receptor agonists which lack psychoactive properties (e.g. CBD), could represent another promising avenue for certain conditions.