Chemical structure

Both CBD and THC have the exact same molecular structure: 21 carbon atoms, 30 hydrogen atoms, and 2 oxygen atoms. A slight difference in how the atoms are arranged accounts for the differing impacts on your body.

Both CBD and THC are chemically similar to your body’s own endocannabinoids. This allows them to interact with your cannabinoid receptors. The interaction impacts the release of neurotransmitters in your brain. Neurotransmitters are chemicals responsible for relaying messages between cells.

 

Psychoactive components

Despite their similar chemical structures, CBD and THC don’t have the same psychoactive effects. In fact, CBD is a nonpsychoactive compound. That means it doesn’t produce the “high” associated with THC.

THC binds with the cannabinoid 1 (CB1) receptors in the brain. It produces a high or sense of euphoria.

CBD binds very weakly, if at all, to CB1 receptors. In fact, it can interfere with the binding of THC and dampen the psychoactive effects.

 

Legality

The issues of legality for both CBD and THC in the United States are evolving regularly. All forms of cannabis are illegal in states that haven’t legalized it. Marijuana and THC are on the list of controlled substances, so they’re prohibited under federal law.

However, 20 states plus Washington, D.C., have passed cannabis-related laws making medical marijuana with high levels of THC legal. The marijuana must be prescribed by a licensed physician.

In addition, nine states plus Washington, D.C., have made recreational use of marijuana and THC legal. It still remains illegal federally.

In states where marijuana is legal for recreational or medical purposes, you should be able to buy CBD legally. In some states, legislatures have passed laws that make CBD for medical purposes legal.

Before you try to buy either product, be aware of your state’s laws. If you possess cannabis-related products in a state where they’re illegal or don’t have a medical license in states where the products are legal for medical treatment, you could face legal penalties.