Know Your Stuff: A Quick Guide to Cannabis Products in 2019

image of author CaitlynBy Caitlynn Bohanon, AOD PHE

In today’s day and age, there is a large focus on valuing your body and all that goes into it. Whether it’s food, drink, medicine or candies, it is important to know what you’re putting into your body and how it can impact you. This applies to substance use as well. All over the country, marijuana and cannabis products are becoming more prevalent, bringing hundreds of different products along with them! To help understand the various products out there, here is a guide to common cannabis products used today.


There are hundreds of chemicals that can be derived from cannabis, and there is a lot of conflation surrounding them. Here is a quick tutorial of the chemicals found and commonly used in products coming from cannabis.  

CBD: Cannabidiol (commonly known as CBD), is a common chemical compound derived from the cannabis plant, and is easily obtainable in many parts of the country. CBD is the part of cannabis products that is known to have “medicinal” effects and is nonpsychoactive. CBD has shown evidence of reducing anxiety, insomnia, and chronic pain, and pure CBD has shown little to no evidence of dependence or misuse. In fact, according to a report from the World Health Organization, “In humans, CBD exhibits no effects indicative of any abuse or dependence potential…. To date, there is no evidence of public health related problems associated with the use of pure CBD.”

 There are multiple CBD-based medicines that have been FDA approved and are currently on the market in the United States. The FDA has approved Epidiolex, which contains a purified form of the drug substance CBD for the treatment of seizures associated with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome or Dravet syndrome in patients 2 years of age and older (For more information on FDA approval, click here).

 (For more information about CBD, click here)

THC: Tetrahydrocannabinol (commonly known as THC) is perhaps the most commonly known chemical compound associated with cannabis. THC is the psychoactive portion of the cannabis plant, therefore it is the part that creates a “high.” This is also the portion of cannabis that is still illegal in many areas of the country, and is the part of the cannabis plant that can make its use dangerous.

Our brains naturally have cannabinoid chemicals that help us feel happy, relaxed, perceive time, coordinate movement, think clearly, etc., and cannabinoid receptors are responsible for regulating these processes. THC attaches to these receptors, activates them, and impacts a person’s memory, pleasure, movements, thinking, concentration, coordination, sensory and time perception.

Our brains are naturally very lazy, and always look for the easiest and most efficient way to stimulate our bodily processes. As continued exposure to THC occurs, the body naturally creates less and less dopamine (since the THC mimics dopamine in the cannabinoid receptors). This therefore reduces the brain’s ability to create dopamine, causing heavy THC-users to feel depressed and fatigued when the body is not in contact with THC. This effect is what creates THC dependence, where the body feels the need to have THC at all times just to feel like it is at a “normal” level of dopamine. The formation of THC-dependance can also come with some awesome withdrawal symptoms such as irritability, feeling restless, craving marijuana, decreased appetite, and trouble sleeping.

There are other FDA-approved used of THC, when it is extracted or synthesized in regulated doses. Dronabinol is an FDA-approved medication that is a light yellow oil and is currently used to treat or prevent nausea and vomiting associated with cancer medicines and to increase the appetites of people with AIDS. (For more information about dronabinol, click here).

For more information on THC and its bodily impact, click here.

Hemp vs. Marijuana, they’re the same, right?

The cannabis plant offers many different types of extractable chemicals that are used in a variety of ways. The different forms of cannabis impact the body in different ways, so let’s dive into their similarities and differences.

Hemp and marijuana are both types of the cannabis sativa plant, but hemp differs from marijuana mainly in its low THC content. Cannabis sativa is illegal at the federal level, but there are exceptions for most common uses of hemp in the United States.

Hemp is commonly used for its strong and sustainable fibers in products such as rope, paper, wax, clothing, and much more. Some people choose to smoke hemp to receive the effects of CBD, but this is not recommended due to the negative impacts of intentionally inhaling smoke (from anything, really). Hemp oils and extracts are commonly used to benefit skin conditions and inflammation due to its natural fatty acid content (more on this here).

 So, long story short, hemp is a common component to many things that are on the market, and the next time you use a hemp lotion or shampoo you are not rubbing liquid marijuana on your body, so don’t worry.

For more information on hemp, click here.

 So, what?

With the rise in popularity of cannabis products, it is hard to tell what is and isn’t harmful to yourself and others. Smoking is almost never healthy for your body, and THC levels have increased drastically over the past 4-5 decades. In 1960, a single marijuana joint would have approximately 0.2% THC, and in 2014, common marijuana was found to have almost 20% THC levels. Not to mention, many marijuana concentrates being used today in the forms of wax, butter, and honey can have over 80% THC levels!  

The bottom line is, know your stuff! Be aware of the products you are putting into your body. If you choose to use any products derived from the cannabis plant, there are different risk-levels and factors that should go into your decision. If you don’t know, there are many resources out there dedicated to giving you accurate information about marijuana products such as the CDC, DEA, FDA, and many other local and federal resources dedicated to comprehensive cannabis education. If anything, just find one of your friendly WashU Alcohol and Other Drug Peer Health Educators, we would love to talk to you!

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