The ABCs of THC

Ngaio Bealum is a Sacramento comedian, activist and marijuana expert. Email him questions at

High, Ngaio. I am confused as to what all is in my marijuana. What is the difference between CBD and THC and all that other stuff? Thank you.

—Sassy Bubbles

It would be my pleasure. There are more than 400 different compounds in the cannabis plant. The ones we know the most about are: tetrahydrocannabinol, cannabidiol and terpenes.

THC is the chemical that gets you stoned. It works by binding to the cannabinoid receptors in your brain. That’s right, your body is designed to enjoy weed. I’m exaggerating a little, but the human body does produce its own cannabinoids. It’s true. Look it up. But I digress. To continue: THC causes your body to release dopamine, which creates a mild euphoria. THC also messes with your hippocampus, which is why your short term memory gets a little fuzzy. THC can also cause the munchies, and in large doses can create hallucinations.

CBD is the newest star in the cannabis universe. Because CBD has no psychoactive effects—er, doesn’t get you stoned—the chemical was almost bred out of the cannabis plant, but recent research has shown CBD to be very effective as a mood leavener and as an anticonvulsant (it’s good at stopping seizures). CBD is also a good antiemetic, or thing that helps you not vomit, although I don’t recommend getting drunk and then smoking a joint so you won’t throw up. Trust me, that’s a really bad idea. You can learn more about CBD at

Terpenes are the chemicals that give marijuana such a distinctive aroma. So far, more than 100 terpenes have been discovered, and they all have cool names like limonene and myrcene and terpineol. Different terpenes have different aromas and different effects (myrcene makes you sleepy, limonene is good for stress relief, etc.) which is probably why some people are so picky about what their marijuana smells like. There’s a good list over at Other than that, there are two main kinds of cannabis strains: sativas, which generally produce energetic, “buzzy” effects, and indicas, which are known for their mellow “couch lock” results. Indicas and sativas can also be cross-bred, producing hybrid strains. A good resource for learning about different strains and their effects is

Hmm. If weed has all this good stuff in it, shouldn’t we be making it easier for scientists to do research? Of course we should. Write a letter to the DEA today and tell them to reschedule cannabis. Thank you.

Hey, what’s going on this weekend?

—Eric D.

I’m glad you asked. I will be attending the International Cannabis Business Conference in San Francisco. All the cannabis experts will be there: Rick Steves, Dr. Carl Hart, Steve DeAngelo, Amanda Reiman … I could go on. Oh, and Del tha Funkee Homosapien is performing. I wonder if he will change the name of his song from “Mistadobilina” to “Mista-dab-alina”? More info at