Massachusetts anticipates being able to offer recreational marijuana some time in the summer of 2018. Medical marijuana has been legal for the last couple of years but consumers still seem to be unsure of it. One of the their largest concerns is about becoming mentally impaired when they use marijuana products. To understand the psychoactive effects of cannabis, it takes an understanding of the difference between TVC vs CBD.
As Massachusetts moves closer to a date when marijuana can be sold in stores, two acronyms are dominating the discussion of merchandise – THC and CBD.
Both are chemical compounds found in cannabis. THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the psychoactive chemical compound in marijuana – it’s what makes you high when you smoke, eat, or otherwise take a dose.
CBD, or cannabidiol, is not psychoactive, but proponents say it has a lot of the same medical benefits.
“If you don’t want to feel any psychoactive effects, definitely look into CBD,” said Andover-based Healing Rose co-founder Zach McInnis. The Healing Rose sells CBD-infused products.
There might be close to 100 chemical compounds, called cannabinoids, in cannabis, said Christopher Hudalla, chief scientific officer for marijuana testing facility ProVerde Laboratories. THC and CBD are the most dominant in marijuana and hemp, respectively.
“They’re like cousins,” he said from the Milford-based business. “They’re structurally related.”
Though the psychoactive aspect is the biggest difference between the two, researchers and retailers say which one you use depends on what effect you want.
“(CBD) calms nerves, it’s got antispasmodic properties to it, it just makes you feel better,” said Beverly Barish, owner of Natick’s Wicked Chronic, which sells a variety of CBD products. “I have CBD here because it helped me and I know it helps other people.”
Research into cannabis is still preliminary, different people are affected in different ways, and the complication is further confused depending on which strain, cannabinoid, terpene, or combination thereof is used. Individuals are encouraged to keep a journal of their reactions to different types and settle on what works best for them.
Generally however, consensus is that CBD helps with seizures and epilepsy, anxiety and other mood disorders, and is a relaxant. Barish said CBD worked for her when she’d reached the end of her rope with more traditional medicines prescribed for her migraines.
THC, on the other hand, is much more helpful with pain management, according to consensus within the cannabis community and some scientists, and is more helpful to cancer patients than CBD.
“I would say THC is really good at helping people find pain relief,” said Scott Churchill, director of compliance and technology for MCR Labs. “It can encourage sleep in some people, it can improve appetites, and sense of well-being.”
Cancer patients going through chemotherapy struggle with all those difficulties, he said.
Both substances fight inflammation.
Barish and others said when it comes to managing something like cancer, patients may want to use the whole plant, not just a THC extract, to get the benefits of CBD and THC.
“It boosts it,” Barish said, of THC, when used with CBD.
The use of terpenes makes a difference, too. Those are compounds naturally found in cannabis that contribute to the aroma of a product – smelling like anything from lavender to citrus – that can act as an additional relaxant or stimulant.
While Massachusetts residents aren’t going to find THC-laden products in stores until July 2018, when retail marijuana shops will be allowed to open, CBD products are already on shelves.
That’s because federal law, which has labeled marijuana a schedule I drug – alongside heroin and LSD – is a little vague. Retailers have taken that to mean hemp, which is a type of non-psychoactive cannabis plant, is legal. That’s where most CBD retailers say their product comes from.
Barish said she’s able to sell her products in large part because she can prove to Natick’s town government that her store only sells CBD made from hemp, and it contains an infinitesimal amount of THC.