THC vs. CBD. The battle of the cannabinoids is full-on!
Whether searching online or writing legislative guidelines for normalizing states or regions, the spotlight, if not scrutiny, continues to parse cannabinoids into separate animals. This has the predictable effect not of advancing the scientific inquiries into cannabis per se, but slowing down normalization and regulation to that effect.
And, so far, with some predictably disastrous, if not time-wasting results. The endocannabinoid system of the body both produces and uses externally produced cannabinoids in different ways that often rely on multiple cannabinoid synthesis processes simultaneously.
To date, at least in matters relating to legalization and downstream regulation, the battle lines have been drawn over the two best-known cannabinoids in just about every jurisdiction (including the United States and Europe).
Specifically, Delta or ∆ 9 Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) vs. cannabidiol (CBD).
This even though many other cannabinoids are entering the mix if not conversation (around 130 as of today’s understanding). Look for more delay and diffusion over these too.
One of the best examples to that effect beyond the continued delay of full federal reform of the plant (and not just hemp, which occurred in 2018 with the Farm Bill in the U.S.), is happening right now in Europe.
The Medical Vs. Recreational Discussion Is Well Underway
On one level, it is good news. On the medical front, GMP certified CBD and THC are treated with equal “weight” these days. Namely, one either has one’s pharmaceutical production certificate or one does not, no matter the amount of any one individual cannabinoid in the plant.
That discussion is particularly important in the medical market, because of the ex-in business, but also for other reasons.
Namely, the Europeans do not quite know how to handle CBD shaken free of its medical determination. Thus the first trend to label the entire discussion “Novel” and force companies to pay north of €300,000 per application containing hemp extracts of any kind.
The battle has not ended there, of course. Not content with this designation, the latest news out of European regulatory quarters is that CBD is not “Novel” but a narcotic. Stay tuned for a showdown on this at the European Commission level come September.
Just like THC.
And therein lies the flaw in splitting cannabinoids. Like disinterring the atom, it can have explosive, and unintended consequences.
Is There A Difference Between THC and CBD?
Yes, there are differences. This is mainly a bio-chemical discussion. However, most cannabis strains, including of the hemp plant, have a mix of THC and CBD at varying strengths and percentages, along with other cannabinoids and essential oils (known as terpenes and flavonoids).
The most up to date research suggests that at least when used for medicinal or healing/wellness purposes, including sports medicine, it is the combined effect of all of these chemicals and compounds that have the most impact. The so-called “Entourage Effect” is a theory that also incorporates food and plant science into this idea and promotes the concept that cannabinoids (plural) plus the essential oils of the plant added to a balanced diet are the keys to managing both chronic conditions as well as a healthy status quo also referred to as “wellness.” However, consuming certain kinds of foods, such as citrus fruits, are also known to enhance the cannabinoid entourage effect of cannabinoids when ingested.
What the CBD vs. THC discussion in both the United States and Europe is about right now is the psychoactive qualities of the cannabinoids at stake plus in Europe, plant cultivation, and extraction techniques. How these discussions have unfolded in the last few years has been a lesson in how not to proceed in the future.
Cannabis And Wellness
There is growing evidence, starting with the early trials on cannabis and COVID, that cannabinoids, generally, are on track to becoming humanity’s “an apple a day.” Certainly, in a post-Pandemic, more infectious world that we appear to be headed into for the immediate future.
However, the road is still rough, and there are many obstacles in the way to both consumers and the companies who wish to sell to them.
Generally, from a scientific point of view, cannabinoids are triggers for signaling within the human body. THC and CBD have a somewhat modulating effect on one another, but it is also not as simple as this. Whole plant treatment, generally, is the growing watchword of not only patients but the patient-centered industry.
The separation of different cannabinoids into different pharmaceutical buckets does little to advance either scientific understanding or normalization. Indeed it tends to only muddle the issue at a time when full and basic normalization of the plant, its core chemical components, and indeed vital oils.
Cannabis In The Public Debate
Attempts, in other words, in the public sphere, including legislatively and by regulatory agencies to separate and endlessly classify and reclassify different cannabinoids, or indeed compounds from the cannabis plant, are doomed to failure even if they succeed in the short term in lengthening the transition to a normalized environment for the entire spectrum of cannabinoids and other substances that can be extracted from this plant.
That sadly, so far, is the net effect, if not intent.