What is the Difference Between CBD & THC?

Thankfully, we are getting to the point where ‘Cannabis’ is no longer a dirty word. Or at the very least, no longer such a scary one.

As many people are beginning to learn, there are a variety of cannabinoids found in cannabis and hemp plants. Two of the most common and widely known cannabinoids are THC and CBD. While they are both found in cannabis and hemp, they are quite different. On two different planets, you may say. 

There will be more than a few of you reading this who already understand the difference between CBD and THC intimately, but we also felt the need to break down the main differences between the two cannabinoids. So, here they are.


Psychoactive Effects

The most obvious key difference between THC and CBD is that THC produces a psychoactive effect, commonly known as ahigh, while CBD does not (at least not in the same way).

THC binds to the CB1 receptors (of the Endocannabinoid System) in the brain. The CB1 receptors are located in the central nervous system and also where cognitive function is influenced. When THC enters our body, it attaches to the receptors and the user starts to feel a bit strange.  The most interesting part of THC is that it affects everybody differently – some people have a powerful reaction, others feel nice and others go through misery. Each brain reacts to chemicals differently. 

CBD, tends to prefer the CB2 receptors and does not produce a psychoactive effect. Like THC, everybody’s reaction is different again.



Legal Status

Boooooo. Another difference between THC and CBD is their legal status. Under UK law (Misuse of Driugs act 1971 -which is simply not up to the purpose for 2023). CBD was legalised in 2016 and has been openly sold in the UK alongside other minor cannabinoids – usually found in trace levels in full-spectrum CBD products. 

While THC is still illegal, the UK is among the largest producers of medicinal cannabis in the world. Those products contain THC.




Just considering the very different nature of the two cannabinoids, it is fairly obvious to note that THC and CBD also have different uses.

THC is mainly used for recreational and medicinal purposes, while CBD is used for well-being purposes. You may see this in action during a short break in Amsterdam. The cannabis cafes there feel like a crossover between a pharmacy and a swanky cocktail bar. There are bright lights, lots of art and a ton of products to try. 

CBD finds itself more comfortable on a pharmacy shelf or a chilled-out well-being health shop.

There is a fair bit of crossover between the benefits of the two cannabinoids, however, where things get tricky is the side effects of THC. 


Side Effects

THC and CBD also have very different side effects. It is unpopular to say, but THC can cause some extremely unpleasant side effects, such as paranoia, anxiety, and dizziness. This does not happen for everybody, but many people cannot even consume a trace of THC without feeling the negative side effects. 

There are also long-term effects of THC which include poor mental health and THC can also be an addictive compound.

CBD, on the other hand, is generally welltolerated and does not cause significant side effects. While the FSA has currently set the maximum limit of CBD to 70mgs there are many who dispute this number as “pulled out of a hat” and “non-sensical”. 



Lastly, THC and CBD also have different availability. THC is mainly available in the states (many of them anyway) where cannabis is legal, while CBD is more widely available in many parts of the world. There is still a huge amount of stigma and misunderstanding behind these products, so both cannabinoids are not considered legal everywhere. 

THC is very accessible in the UK, and this is a huge failure on the part of the UK authorities. THC products are completely unregulated and there are often dangerous drugs being missold for profit. That is not even touching the surface CBD & THC ratios and the potential harm of high THC isolates. The legalisation of Cannabis would help to regulate and protect consumers, who are already consuming THC regularly.

CBD is much more available and can be found in high-street supermarkets and shops, however, it has its problems too. The UK government have set out to regulate CBD products and rather than making the industry safer, it seems that they have tended to the side of caution and promoted Isolated CBD products. Which in their own right are nowhere near as beneficial as full-spectrum natural extracts. It is a sad reality that many of the products legally on the shelves are of poor quality, and customers are forced into the black market to access CBD products which have real benefits.

In conclusion, THC and CBD are two popular cannabinoids found in cannabis and hemp plants. While they are both found in these plants, they have many differences. The key differences between THC and CBD are their psychoactive effects, legal status, uses, side effects, and availability.