Cannabis is a drug that has now been legalized in the US for medicinal purposes. However, knowledge about it amongst the masses is still grim. Many people struggle to understand how cannabis works and what other plants carry it. 

You may have often heard terms like hemp, marijuana, and CBD. CBD is sold openly in retail stores. Medical marijuana is also a thing, helping people with relieving specific symptoms. However, people don’t realize that all three of them are different. 

They may have some similarities but have entirely different properties. So let’s explore each in detail, differentiating them in the process. 

Hemp and Marijuana

The first thing you need to understand about hemp and marijuana is plants. That’s the only thing common between them. Taxonomically speaking, they’re the same plant but have different names with different uses and properties. 

Their most distinguishing feature is the difference in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). For example, hemp carries a THC of 0.3%, whereas marijuana contains a THC of 50%. The vast difference between the THC amounts represents the intoxication level of each plant.

Most people wonder if they can get high through hemp; they can’t. Since THC is the ingredient that gets one high, hemp won’t do the trick owing to its lack of THC. Marijuana, on the other hand, gets you high easily since THC present in it is substantial. Some marijuana plants contain up to 90% of THC. 

What is CBD?

Cannabinoid, or CBD, is often mistaken to be cannabis itself. However, it is NOT. CBD is a compound present in cannabis. You’ll be surprised to know there are plenty of such compounds in cannabis, THC also being one of them. So, to recap, CBD and THC aren’t plants themselves but combinations you will find in plants. 

However, CBD and THC work differently and for specific purposes. CBD has become an essential tool in medicine as it’s used actively by healthcare workers to treat people with different conditions. One thing to know about CBD is it doesn’t get one high, no matter the amount present in marijuana or hemp. CBD, now, comes infused in plenty of products as it’s sold as a remedy for many things. 

People take it to treat their insomnia; some do so to relieve pain, while others prevent nausea by smelling CBD-infused oils or candles. CBD is also present in marijuana, making marijuana an excellent healing property. However, due to the high amounts of THC in it, many misuse it as a tool to get high, which is why it isn’t legalized in many states. 


As mentioned earlier, CBD and THC are natural compounds found in cannabis. They can be extracted from hemp and marijuana and be used for different reasons. So, how are CBD and THC different from one another if they’re derived from the same plant? Let’s explore the differences in a bit more detail. 

Chemical Structure 

If you study both the compounds’ chemical structures, you won’t find much difference. Their molecular arrangement is pretty similar, with twenty-one carbon atoms, thirty hydrogen atoms, and two oxygen atoms. The only difference is how they’re arranged; the configuration changes each compound’s effects on your body. So how do both the compounds interact with our body’s endocannabinoids? Through the chemical structure. Since they’re all similar, our body accepts CBD and THC; however, the effects vary according to how the neurotransmitters in our brain perceive them. 

Chemical Structure of CBD and THC.

Psychoactive Components

Just because CBD and THC have the same molecules, it doesn’t mean they act in the same way. CBD is more of a medicine or a pain-reliever of some sort. At the same time, THC is consumed to numb the brain, often known as “getting high” in contemporary culture. It binds tightly with the cannabinoid 1 (CB1) receptor in our brain. The reason why CBD cannot do so is because of its weak link or attachment to CB1. Ironically, CBD reduces the brain’s numbness (high state) caused by THC. This is because THC binds well with the CB1 receptor – causing sedation, while CBD doesn’t and interacts with them indirectly, failing to cause intoxication.

Medical Benefits

The medical benefits one gets from both compounds are pretty similar. Both are good pain relievers but with varying side effects. The significant difference between CBD and THC is the state of sedation. The former doesn’t get you numb, while the latter does. That’s a difference many people enjoy. Ones who want relief without getting high consume CBD, and those who wish to be in a numb state prefer consuming THC. However, one thing to note is that too much THC use can slow the brain down in the long run. Since it’s a chemical you keep injecting into your brain, you’ll eventually get addicted to it (the high) and struggle to live without it.

Side Effects 

Since both the compounds interact with our neurotransmitters differently, the side effects also vary. CBD is generally considered a safe ingredient to have in our system. Nothing risky happens even when you consume it in large doses. We can’t say the same for THC. It has a more intense interaction with our brain receptors, causing our body to experience a completely different state. Consuming too much of it can have harmful effects that can linger. There have been cases with people rushing to emergency rooms due to an overdose. Some side effects of THC include increased heart rate, dry mouth, anxiety, red eyes, etc.,


Like CBD and THC fall into the same category but work differently, hemp and marijuana belong to the same family but have different uses. Hemp and marijuana may be the same plants, but there’s a difference in the intensity of the compounds in each. This difference makes both the plants have contrasting properties.

Many people aren’t aware of how cannabis works, consuming them in different doses without knowing their bodies’ responses. Hence, it’s crucial that people thoroughly educate themselves about the cannabis world if they plan to ingest it for medical purposes.