Is CBD Marijuana?

You may have heard about it on the network news, but don’t confuse CBD with CBS, NBC, or UPN.

With its recent explosion in popularity, there’s a lot of confusion and misinformation going around about what CBD actually is, what it does, and if it’s even legal. Lucky you, we’ve got the answers.

Consider this the ABCs of CBD.

What is CBD?

“CBD” stands for cannabidiol, one of several naturally occurring chemical compounds known as cannabinoids. As you might have figured out from the name, these compounds come from a plant called cannabis (thankfully, not cannibalism). Cannabis is a plant that comes in two forms, one of which is marijuana. AKA Pot. Bud. Reefer. Weed. Spliff.

Another form of cannabis is hemp. The big difference between the two? Marijuana contains higher levels of THC, another cannabinoid. So while CBD can be found in marijuana, it is not itself the same as marijuana. If you’re leery of CBD because of the stigma attached to marijuana, know that taking one is not equivalent to taking the other.

Think of it like the difference between water and Kool-Aid. The former is a component of the latter, but in total, drinking a glass of water puts different things in your body than drinking a glass of Surfin’ Berry Punch.


If CBD is the water that goes into a pitcher of Kool-Aid, then THC is the packet of brightly colored powder flavoring that gives it a fruity kick. Although they’re both cannabinoids, they both do very different things. Most notably THC is psychoactive, meaning that it has an intoxicating effect on the mind. In other words, THC is the part of marijuana that gets you high. CBD, meanwhile, is not psychoactive. Regardless of what you may have heard, CBD cannot get you high. Sorry, Cheech and/or Chong.

While marijuana and THC can be used for both medicinal and recreational purposes, CBD is used almost exclusively to treat medical issues. By interacting with receptors in the human body, CBD can help lower blood pressure, alleviate nausea, calm seizures, soothe anxiety, elevate mood, and relieve pain caused by cramps, inflammations, and arthritis. There’s even evidence indicating that CBD can help fight cancer by inhibiting tumor growth!

Is CBD legal?

Yes. And also… no. But mostly yes.

Like anything associated with cannabis, the legal status of CBD in America right now is in flux. The times they are a-changin’, and along with it the laws and regulations surrounding both hemp and marijuana. With the passing of the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018, CBD tinctures, dabs, edibles, and other products derived from hemp plants are legal in the eyes of the federal government provided they are produced under very specific regulations.

The legality CBD products derived from marijuana plants, however, is murkier. Marijuana itself is still illegal on the federal level. On the state level, though, every place is different. As of 2020, there are ten states where both marijuana and hemp are legal for medicinal or recreational use. Marijuana-derived CBD is legal for medicinal use in 47 states, although the conditions for which its use is permitted vary.

If you’re interested in CBD, talk to your doctor to help determine whether or not it’s right for you and to learn more about its legal status wherever you live.