Marijuana, weed, THC, CBD, hemp—what does it all mean?

Olyvia Neal, News Contributor

When learning about cannabis, you might hear many terms used in reference to it, including hemp, weed, THC and CBD. To the uninitiated, the wide variety of terms used to describe weed can be difficult to parse. Luckily, we’ve clarified these terms for you.


Weed or marijuana are usually used to refer to a form of cannabis that can be used to obtain a high—so one with more than 0.3% content of THC. Hemp and weed are considered to both be forms of cannabis, but are not the same thing.


The term hemp is used to describe cannabis which, according to Healthline, possesses “0.3% or less THC content by dry weight.” It is not a high enough content to be used to obtain a high, but it is often used in the crafting of things such as clothing, rope and other similar items. 


Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is the chemical in weed that is used to obtain a high, usually by smoking the leaves of the plant. It can also be consumed in food, often in an extracted form. 

THC is the main psychoactive compound in cannabis, according to Healthline, and it produces a high, or a sense of euphoria.


CBD, also known as cannabidiol, is the chemical in cannabis often considered to have health benefits. It cannot produce a high, but is often sold in gels, supplements or oils as a form of pain management. 

Some animal and human studies, according to a 2021 article from Harvard Health Publishing, indicate that CBD may be an effective treatment for epilepsy, chronic pain, addiction and anxiety. The article notes that the strongest scientific evidence for CBD’s health benefits are for treating rare and severe seizures brought on by childhood epilepsy syndromes. As such, the Federal Drug Administration approved the first cannabis-derived medicine in 2018 for its treatment of these seizures. There are some theories that CBD may be able to treat more conditions, but research is not yet conclusive, as it is heavily regulated. 


To break it down: Hemp is the version of the plant used in textiles, cannabis is the one that can be used to obtain a high, THC is what gives that high, and CBD is the chemical typically used for medicinal purposes.

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