Is cannabis and CBD the same thing? (2022)

pink cannabis plant leaf

CBD vs THC – What’s the Buzz?

In the last few years, there has been a lot of talk about cannabinoids. There have been many revolutionary changes in the field, especially medical use of cannabinoids. Let’s take a look at these molecules’ chemical structures, because in the world of medicinal chemistry, chemical structure is directly equal to physiological & individual function, meaning the tiniest changes in a molecule’s structure changes its function drastically.

CBD Molecule, THC Molecule
Pictured: CBD molecule on the left and THC molecule on the right 1, 2

Here we see how chemically related the two molecules actually are – I have oriented them so the differences are easier to spot. Reiterating what I said earlier about how one tiny change makes the world of a difference; you can see above that the CBD and THC molecules have a tiny difference towards the bottom right of the molecule. This ether bond is intact in the THC molecule (the ring with the oxygen) but broken in the CBD molecule (the open ring with a OH group hanging off). It is this minute chemical difference that results in all the differences between the two molecules. 


hemp-derived CBD

Well, what about the legality?

CBD and THC are a part of cannabis, so that they are both considered Schedule I drugs under federal law. This means that they are highly regulated and must be treated as such. However, hemp-derived CBD products (with less than 0.3% of THC) are legal on a federal level, but states can regulate hemp-derived CBD as they see fit.     

Cannabis-derived CBD products are illegal on a federal level, but legal under many state laws. As of August 2022, thirty-seven U.S. states, three U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia allow for medical use of Cannabis products (5).

If you live in a state where cannabis products are still illegal, make sure to research the laws in your state prior to buying CBD or THC products online, as if products are illegal in your state and you are caught possessing the items, you could face legal consequences.


If I use CBD, will it show up on a drug test? What about THC?

Short answer, probably not with CBD, definitely yes with THC.

Cannabinoids are very lipophilic drugs, meaning they are ‘fat-loving’, and they tend to hangout in your body’s fat tissue for up to months after ingestion. This tends to be how they get detected on drug tests even months after ingestion.

A true CBD-only product should not show up on most standard drug tests. Additionally, CBD products derived from hemp have a fairly low THC content, but since it lingers in your system and depending on how much CBD you are using, the THC could build up and show as positive on a drug test.

It is important to read labels and get your CBD products from a reputable source, since some products that make certain claims about CBD may also contain higher levels of THC without you knowing. 

Most drug tests include THC testing in their panel of drugs they test for, so if you are drug tested, I would steer clear of unreputable CBD products and all THC products since most standard drug tests are testing for THC.


What kind of labeling should I focus on when buying CBD products?

CBD is a very popular label, but CBD products marketed as so can be contaminated with many other chemical ingredients. True CBD labels require “analytical characterization of its identity, purity, and stability, rather than blanket statements such as “pure” or “natural” (4).

There are three common types of CBD sold: full-spectrum CBD, broad-spectrum CBD, and CBD isolate.

The main differences between these groups are listed below.

Full-spectrum CBD has all the naturally occurring compounds in a plant when extracted. So, for example, in hemp-derived CBD, the THC content will not exceed 0.3%.

Broad-spectrum CBD has all the naturally occurring compounds in a plant when extracted, without the THC. There can be lingering amounts of THC, but it is close to negligible.

CBD isolate is exactly what its name implies – it is pure CBD with no contaminants.

Vegan halal CBD gummiesAdditionally, you want to ensure when buying CBD products, that the product has a “Certificate of Analysis.” As I mentioned earlier, true CBD requires analytical characterization to ensure the product is truly the product being advertised. This is done when the company producing the product sends their product to get a certificate that the product was analyzed in a laboratory to certify that the product is truly CBD.


Will I have any intoxicating effects from CBD?

Unlike THC, you will not have the traditional euphoric “high” sensations produced from THC. CBD is not intoxicating, even at high doses (4).


What medical uses are there for CBD? What about THC?

The most common use for THC is for pain control, muscle spasms, glaucoma, insomnia, along with appetite stimulation. THC does not tend to be the first line treatment for most disease states, due to the intoxicating nature of the drug.

As for CBD, there are a plethora of medical uses for it. It can be used as the first line treatment in pain management, anxiety, mania, depression, seizure prevention, Parkinson’s Disease, nausea, lowering inflammation, helping treat insomnia, and the list goes on! 

All in all, CBD is a great, natural source to treating many ailments, and if you feel as though you qualify for treatment with CBD, please contact our founder, Dr. Najifa Choudhury.





This article was written by Dr. Choudhury and Dr. Peace Lily Scientific Communications Intern, Greta Johnson. She is a Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) student at Northeastern University School of Pharmacy at the Bouvé College of Health Sciences in Boston, Massachusetts. 


1 National Center for Biotechnology Information. PubChem Compound Summary for CID 2978, (-)-delta9-trans-Tetrahydrocannabinol. Accessed Aug. 25, 2022.

2 National Center for Biotechnology Information. PubChem Compound Summary for CID 644019, Cannabidiol. Accessed Aug. 25, 2022.

3 Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018.

4 Nelson KM, Bisson J, Singh G, et al. The Essential Medicinal Chemistry of Cannabidiol (CBD). J Med Chem. 2020;63(21):12137-12155. doi:10.1021/acs.jmedchem.0c00724

5 National Conference of State Legislatures.

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