As of November 2018, medical marijuana-based medications are available on the NHS. CBD has already been classified as a medicine since 2016, and several high-profile cases brought to light the potential of cannabis-derived medications.
It was becoming evident that children suffering from severe forms of epilepsy could benefit from these types of medications. A young boy called Billy Caldwell, for example, was thrown into the limelight when he had his cannabis oil taken away from him by UK customs at Heathrow airport – his mother was trying to bring cannabis oil from Canada back home to treat her son.
The thing is, CBD oil food supplements are actually available to purchase right here in Britain, so why couldn’t Billy’s parents buy the UK CBD oils on the shelves? The answer lies in THC.
What is THC?
There are a vast number of cannabinoids that exist; these are the active compounds in the cannabis plant. Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is one of the most famous because it is the reason cannabis has the ability to get people high.
In the 1960s, Dr. Rafael Mechoulam was able to successfully isolate this cannabinoid for the first time, allowing him to explore the effects of cannabis on the human body. It was due to this breakthrough that science discovered the endocannabinoid system (ECS), made up of cannabinoid receptors and endocannabinoids – kind of like cannabinoids we make ourselves. By interacting with the ECS, THC is able to evoke certain feelings and reactions.
Similar to our very own endocannabinoids, THC is able to bind with our cannabinoid receptors. It has a particular affinity for the CB1 receptors, which are found predominantly in the brain and central nervous system. We have an endocannabinoid called anandamide which behaves very similarly, and the interaction between anandamide and CB1 is what causes dopamine and serotonin release. By triggering the release of these chemicals, THC causes a buzz known as a high.
Since the CB1 receptors are also packed into the nervous system, the high can be concentrated in the body, too. Users of cannabis often feel euphoric and relaxed at the same time.
Of course, cannabis is illegal in the UK due to its use as a recreational drug – this is all down to THC. There are also some side effects to note, including anxiety, paranoia, and dizziness.
What is CBD?
THC is far from being the only cannabinoid in the plant. In fact, there are estimated to be over 100 cannabinoids, although many are only present in negligible quantities.
THC steals the limelight often, due to its psychoactive properties and its sheer notoriety. However, more and more attention is being paid to its cousin, CBD. Scientifically named cannabidiol, CBD is surprisingly very different to THC.
Rather than binding directly with our endocannabinoid receptors, CBD has a much more indirect influence on the endocannabinoid system. CBD simply encourages the creation of more endocannabinoids, which bind with the corresponding receptors by themselves. What is the purpose of this, though?
The ECS is a very important biological system because it helps to regulate a huge number of bodily functions such as mood, sleep, appetite, pain, and more. It keeps us alive by maintaining homeostasis in the body, but it can’t do this without endocannabinoids. Since CBD stimulates the release of more endocannabinoids, it can help us to stay healthy by making sure the ECS is in tip top condition and operating smoothly.
It is for this reason that many Brits are turning toward CBD food supplements. As such a healthy substance, it’s no wonder people are wanting to take it! What’s more, CBD has very few side effects, and none of them are severe. Side effects include dry mouth, drowsiness, and nausea, but most of these are initial reactions to CBD and/or can be quickly solved.
CBD Oil vs. THC Oil
Cannabinoids can be extracted from the cannabis plant and sold as isolate products, so that people can get the health benefits of different cannabinoids without having to smoke weed. This has become popular practice recently, with plenty of CBD brands hitting the shelves.
Most often, the extracted cannabinoids are suspended in an inert oil such as MCT oil or coconut oil. The result is, unsurprisingly, called CBD oil or cannabis oil.
However, you might have seen the term ‘THC oil’ floating around on the web. Are CBD oil and THC oil the same thing? Well, no, because CBD oils usually contain little to no THC whatsoever, whereas the latter does in fact contain higher levels of THC.
With medical marijuana-based products beginning to be used to treat patients, there are several things to consider here. For example, do you want a CBD oil or a THC oil? Before we get into the legal issues, it’s important to remember that the only THC products really available in Britain are those available on prescription.
Sativex is currently the only legal, licensed medication containing both CBD and THC. It is used in very severe cases to treat epilepsy, as it has been shown that THC seems to reduce the frequency and intensity of seizures, while CBD might be able to balance out the psychoactive effects of THC. Remember that this is currently the only licensed medication containing THC, and anything else is more or less illegal!
Is it Legal to Buy Either CBD or THC Oil?
Laws surrounding cannabinoids are complicated in the UK. According to certain guidelines, CBD is a medicinal product and therefore is only licensed and regulated if contained within other medications. However, it is also sold as a food supplement to help people live a healthy lifestyle – this is a huge grey area.
As the consumer, all you need to worry about is whether the product contains any THC. Marijuana is strictly illegal in Britain, so no CBD products can come from it. However, there is actually another variety of cannabis you might have heard of called hemp, which, by definition, contains less than 0.3% THC. This quantity is nowhere near enough to get you high, which is why hemp can be grown in the UK under a permit.
Basically, CBD products must come from hemp if they are to be sold in the UK, as the final product will be non-psychoactive. Some companies sell products that explicitly state they contain 0% THC, whereas others do contain a little. That being said, it is still legal to buy a CBD product containing THC in the UK as long as it contains a maximum of 0.2%.
To summarise, CBD oils are legal in the UK as long as they contain less than 0.2% THC. However, THC oils or cannabis oils (as they are sometimes called) are illegal because they contain high quantities of a controlled substance.
THC vs CBD: Summary
The only real difference between THC oil and CBD oil is the quantity of cannabinoids contained within them. Although you might find THC cannabis oils in other countries where laws surrounding marijuana are more relaxed, they are not legal to possess or use in the UK, so it’s important to exercise caution!
You should only ever buy CBD oils from a reputable source, one that can provide third-party lab reports to verify that their products do in fact contain less than 0.2% THC.