THC vs CBD – What’s the Difference?

Learn the basics about CBD vs THC so you can pick the right percentages for any occasion. We simplify the science for cannabis users.

THC vs CBD – What’s the Difference?

CBD vs THC. Even the most seasoned cannabis users can have trouble explaining the difference. The legal weed industry is still relatively green – no pun intended. That means consumers haven’t had as much time to read up and learn the science behind one of our “new” favourite pastimes.

Before you start rolling, it’s helpful to have a basic understanding of the science. This will help guide your journey and help you choose the right weed for the occasion. 

Need more guidance? We organize our bud by intent. You can explore these categories to get started. Each group has a different ratio of THC to CBD. More on that later.

 In this article, we’ll break down some of the science. Then we’ll get into the differences. After reading this you should have a better understanding of what the THC and CBD percentages on your weed actually mean – so you can pick the perfect bud every time.

Holding up Cannabis Flower

CBD vs THC – The Science

Before we knew as much about weed as we do now, most people thought the type of plant influenced the kind of high you’d experience. Sativas were believed to be more uplifting. Indicas were thought to be more calming.  We now know this has more to do with THC vs. CBD ratios than the type of plant.

We use acronyms because their full names are fancy.  They’re not easy to remember, but if you do, you’ll sound super impressive to your friends. 

In this section, you’ll learn about:

  • The Endocannabinoid System
  • Cannabinoid Definition
  • Tetrahydrocannabinol Definition
  • Cannabidiol Definition
  • CBD vs. THC Chemical Structure


Endocannabinoid System

Inside your body right now is your Endocannabinoid System, or ECS. 

The endocannabinoid system was discovered in the 1990s. It gets its name from how it was discovered, which was by researchers studying the impact of THC – a cannabinoid.  Everyone has an ECS, regardless of whether or not you smoke weed.

Your ECS is made up of two things:

  • Cannabinoid receptors
  • Endocannabinoids

Cannabinoid receptors are in nearly every part of your brain, central nervous system, and immune system.

There are two types of cannabinoid receptors:

  • CB1 receptors are primarily located in the central nervous system.
  • CB2 receptors are primarily in the immune system.

Endocannabinoids are cannabinoids your body naturally produces.  Your endocannabinoids fit into your cannabinoid receptors like a perfect puzzle piece. When they bind, it helps send messages from cell to cell.

Here’s where it gets interesting: Because THC and CBD are similar in chemical structure to endocannabinoids, they can basically hijack this pathway. That’s how we feel its effects.

Passing a Joint

Cannabinoid Definition

Cannabinoids are the active chemical compounds found in the cannabis plant. THC and CBD are examples of cannabinoids.

In their mother plant, cannabinoids are believed to play an evolutionary role, helping the plant defend against insect predators, UV light, and environmental stressors.  

When you smoke or ingest them, they enter your body and bind with your endocannabinoid system instead, impacting your appetite, mood, memory, and movement in different ways. 

Cannabis is one seriously impressive plant. While THC and CBD are the most notorious cannabinoids, researchers report there being at least 144 types, each with varied effects. Not all are psychoactive. While they all share a similar chemical structure, they all work differently.


Tetrahydrocannabinol Definition (THC)

The notorious THC. It stands for tetrahydrocannabinol.  

THC is the most popular cannabinoid derived from the cannabis plant.  It’s the cannabinoid famous for the cerebral high.

THC Chart

When THC binds with your CB1 receptors, it can cause:

  • A dopamine release that causes feelings of relaxation and happiness
  • A physical response, like increase in appetite
  • A cerebral response, with varied effects on memory, focus, mood, or movement – depending on what region of the brain is stimulated.


Cannabidiol Definition (CBD)

CBD stands for cannabidiol.  Cannabidiol is another type of cannabinoid.   Think of it as THC’s more responsible big sister.

CBD binds very weakly, if at all, to cannabinoid receptors. Because of that, it won’t get you high. It does have a host of other health benefits researchers are exploring. These include anxiety reduction, anti-inflammatory capabilities, glaucoma treatment, and more.

When CBD and THC are both present, CBD can also reduce or lessen or reduce the effects of THC. 

CBD Chart

CBD vs. THC Chemical Structure

CBD and THC are actually pretty similar in chemical structure. There’s one key difference.

THC has what’s called a cyclic ring. CBD doesn’t have that ring. It has a hydroxyl group instead.  That ring is what makes THC a perfect fit with our endocannabinoid system. This is why THC will get you high, but CBD won’t.


CBD vs THC – Recapping the Science

Here’s a quick recap of the science:

  • Everyone has an endocannabinoid system.
  • Cannabinoids, like THC and CBD, can tap into this system.
  • THC taps into your cannabinoid receptors, causing the cerebral high.
  • CBD binds very weakly, if at all, to cannabinoid receptors.
  • CBD is being researched for its many health benefits, like treatment for anxiety and inflammation,
  • When CBD is present, it lessens THC’s impact.


Understanding CBD and THC Ratios

Every cannabis strain falls into one of three main categories, or chemotypes, based on their total ratio of THC to CBD.

Cannabis chemotypes:

  • THC-dominant Strains
  • CBD-dominant Strains
  • Balanced Strains


THC-dominant Strains

THC-dominant strains contain mostly THC and zero to little CBD. These strains will have strong psychoactive effects.  

THC Levels Chart

CBD-dominant Strains

CBD-dominant strains have mostly CBD and very little THC. 

CBD is getting a lot of attention in the medical field.  Where legal, it’s now being used to treat epilepsy, pain, arthritis, anxiety, depression, sleep disorders, acne, Parkinson’s, nausea and vomiting, and glaucoma.

Of course, if weed hadn’t been so stigmatized for so long, we’d probably be way further along down the road of medical possibilities. Now we’re playing catch-up.

If you’re considering using CBD for medical reasons, please speak with your doctor to develop a plan that’s right for you.

CBD Levels Chart

Balanced Strains

Balanced strains fall somewhere in between. They have THC and some CBD, but generally not the same amount as THC or CBD-dominant strains.  You’ll still get high, but it might be a different less-intense high.

If your balanced bud does have mid-high THC, but also has CBD, the CBD can lessen the psychoactive impact of the THC in the strain. 

Budtenders Tip:  If you feel like you’ve consumed too much THC, countering it with some CBD may help level out.

Rolling a Joint

Choosing Your Weed – THC vs. CBD

Everyone responds differently to THC and CBD. Because our endocannabinoid systems are so unique to our biology, different people can have totally different reactions to the same strain.

That’s why at Dimes we categorize our weed by desired intent. It helps most people find the right bud for each occasion. You may want different weed when you’re chilling solo listening to music than you would when you’re in the mood to get social.

If you’re into exploring different strains, consider a cannabis journal. Just like a wine sommelier will make tasting notes, weed sommeliers make smoking notes.  We like Gold Leaf’s cannabis journals.

Your notes might include the THC and CBD ratio, terpene profile, plant type (indica or sativa) and your personal experience. Tracking your experience can help you develop your taste and find your favourites. 

If you’re not interested in becoming a weed sommelier, we won’t hold it against you. We know some people just want to smoke their bud with their buds, and that’s all good.

Here’s how we categorize our weed at Dimes:

Sun: Energize


Get a dose of energy with THC dominant sativa. These strains are often found to be uplifting, making them ideal for morning or daytime use. Try it when going for a walk, cleaning the house, brainstorming, or having one of those really good deep conversations with a friend. 

Our Top Hits:

Wind: Flow

Wind: Flow

Get into your creative flow with THC leaning Hybrids. Studies show that these strains can ignite both the body and mind to promote creativity and relaxation. They can be a good choice for chilling at the cottage, dreaming up new creative ideas, and opening your mind. They’re ideal for daytime or evening use.

Our Top Hits:

Earth: Balance

Earth: Balance

Get a milder more balanced high with strains that are equal parts THC and CBD. These strains are generally lower in THC (under 10%). The CBD helps counteract the THC, reducing the anxiety some users can experience with high THC strains. It’s a good choice for parties, micro-dosing, or novices.

Our Top Hits:

Water: Calm

Water: Calm

Find your zen throughout the day or into the night with calming CBD-dominant strains. Some people find they can help ease anxiety, inflammation, and pain. Pro tip: if you feel like you’ve consumed too much THC, countering it with some CBD may help level you out. 

Our Top Hits:

Moon: Rest

Moon: Rest

Unwind at the end of the day with THC dominant indica strains. Studies show they can give your body and mind some serious rest and relaxation. If you’re feeling achy or tired at the end of the day, THC dominant indica can help ease you into a peaceful night’s sleep.

Our Top Hits:


THC vs CBD – Conclusion

Shopping for cannabis doesn’t have to be overwhelming. When shopping at Dimes, you can always speak with one of our Budtenders. Or you can use our helpful categories to shop by intent. 

When looking at CBD and THC ratios, remember – the higher the THC, the higher you’ll get. The more CBD, the more balanced your high will be. If it’s all CBD, you won’t get high at all, but it can help treat some conditions. If medicating is your goal, we recommend speaking with a professional. While we’re here to offer advice, we’re not medical professionals. 

Need More Help Choosing Your Strain?

Want to learn more about our THC-dominant, CBD-dominant, or balanced strains?

Our team of Budtenders is here to help. Come by for a visit, PM us on Instagram, or call us at 416-516-7250.

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