Not Just CBD: Exploring Non-Intoxicating Cannabinoids

Not Just CBD: Exploring Non-Intoxicating Cannabinoids

Non-intoxicating Cannabinoids

Non-intoxicating cannabinoids like CBD, CBN, and CBG are a great option for those seeking to benefit from the cannabis plant's potential medicinal and therapeutic properties without getting high. It’s important to understand that cannabinoids like CBD can be extracted from cannabis varieties containing less than 0.3% THC (i.e. hemp) and/or from cannabis varieties with higher concentration of THC, which are regulated as plants for “medical” or “adult-use.” In either case, cannabinoids produced by these plants are identical chemical compounds, regardless of how they are regulated.

In fact, a temporary policy issued by the Illinois Department of Agriculture this month will allow Licensed Medical and Adult-use Cannabis Cultivation Centers to purchase hemp biomass from registered hemp farmers in any State for extraction at their licensed facilities. It also allows Licensed Cannabis Cultivation Centers to purchase hemp-derived distillates and isolates. These extracts can then be used in medical and adult-use cannabis-infused products sold at Illinois dispensaries.

The new rule gives Cultivation Centers an opportunity to buy CBD at an exponentially lower cost than producing this cannabinoid indoors in their licensed facilities. This leads us to believe that large-scale indoor cultivation is both expensive and unsustainable for the production of cannabinoids. In the future, as the market becomes less constricted by stringent regulations, over-invested companies in such operations may find it difficult to compete with cultivators growing outdoors on price and sustainability metrics as the costs and energy consumption needed to produce cannabinoids outdoors is much lower.

Applying Cannabinoids to Your Personal Wellness

Some people believe that cannabis can only be used for intoxication, to attain a “high” feeling or euphoria. However, to fully understand how cannabis can help us address wellness needs we must take an open-minded, whole-plant approach. CBD and THC are not the only compounds responsible for the positive effects that you can experience when consuming cannabis. Cannabis is a multi-molecule medicinal plant with a wide range of potential therapeutic properties.



Exploring Cannabinoids

Understanding how cannabinoids are chemically related to each other is important when studying or interpreting the effects of products and formulations featuring varying cannabinoid profiles and ratios.

Cannabinoids CBG, CBD, CBN

Generally, cannabinoids can be divided into three groups:

  1. Cannabinoids produced by biosynthesis of the plant (acidic cannabinoids)
    1. CBGA (Cannabigerolic Acid)
    2. THCA (Tetrahydrocannabinolic Acid)
    3. CBDA (Cannabidiolic Acid)
    4. CBCA (Cannabichromenic Acid)
    5. CBGVA (Cannabigerovarinic Acid)
    6. THCVA (Tetrahydrocannabivarinic Acid)
    7. CBDVA (Cannabidivarinic Acid)
    8. CBCVA (Cannabichromevarinic Acid)
  2.  Cannabinoids resulting from decarboxylation of acidic cannabinoids
    1. Δ9-THC (Delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol)
    2. CBD (Cannabidiol)
    3. CBG (Cannabigerol)
    4. CBC (Cannabichromene)
    5. CBGV (Cannabigerovarin)
    6. THCV (Tetrahydrocannabivarin)
    7. CBDV (Cannabidivarin)
    8. CBCV (Cannabichromevarin)
  3. Cannabinoids resulting from degradation influenced by UV-light, oxidation, or isomerization
    1. Δ-8-THC (Delta-8-Tetrahydrocannabinol)
    2. CBN (Cannabinol)
    3. CBNA (Cannabinolic Acid)
    4. CBLA (Cannabicyclolic Acid)
    5. CBL (Cannabicyclol)

Biosynthesis, Decarboxylation, Degradation

Acidic and degraded cannabinoids are thought to be non-psychotropic (not altering internal or external perception) and non-intoxicating, meaning they do not diminish physical or mental control. However, all cannabinoids can be psychoactive, or affect the mind, depending on the dose taken. Therefore, cannabinoids can also be divided into two categories: intoxicating and non-intoxicating.

Below, you can find more information on some of the most common cannabinoids found in cannabis products, both intoxicating and non-intoxicating.


  • Delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ9-THC) is the primary chemical responsible for most of the psychotropic effects associated with cannabis. Due to THC’s infamous euphoria-inducing side effect, stress relief is one of its common uses. When a person consumes THC, dopamine-producing neurons in the brain, modulated by the endocannabinoid system, become more active and release more dopamine. The increase of dopamine leads to a feeling of well-being and sense of pleasure. Medically, THC has been used widely for pain, sleep and appetite management. Too much THC in one’s system, however, can cause increased heart rates and feelings of paranoia; a larger dose of CBD is thought to help mitigate potential discomfort from THC overdose. When ingested orally, Δ9-THC may convert to a more potent cannabinoid 11-hydroxy-THC.

  • Delta-8-Tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ8-THC) is comparable to delta-9-THC but with a lower psychotropic potency.


  • Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCa) is the most abundant cannabinoid found in THC-rich cannabis varieties. THCa is produced by cannabis flowers but must be decarboxylated to Δ9-THC to activate the psychotropic effects associated with cannabis. This is done when heating/igniting or through the extraction process. Using raw THC-rich cannabis flowers in tea or smoothie can be one way of consuming this cannabinoid. The therapeutic value of THCa as an immunoregulatory agent has been patented.

  • Cannabidiolic acid (CBDa) is the precursor to CBD. It isn’t until the plant is cut, dried, and heated that CBD is formed via decarboxylation. One study found that CBDa activates the 5-HT1A receptor, showing promise as a treatment for nausea and anxiety, while having significantly greater potency at lower doses and affinity for this receptor than CBD. Consuming raw CBD-rich flower can be one way of getting your dose of CBDa.

  • Cannabidiol (CBD) is a non-psychotropic cannabinoid with a wide scope of wellness applications. Most research is completed on the decarboxylated and isolated version of CBD. CBD is quickly becoming a popular, natural remedy for many, although a large number of people are still apprehensive about the safety, efficacy, and legality of CBD. CBD used as an antioxidant was patented by the US Department of Health and Human Services in 2003, but the patent has since expired. 

  • Cannabigerolic acid (CBGa) is the precursor to the three major cannabinoids: tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCa), cannabidiolic acid (CBDa), and cannabichromenic acid (CBCa). CBG-dominant cultivars show lower CBD and THC concentrations because these plants do not convert CBGa to CBDa or THCa. CBG-dominant cultivars are sought after for their increased likelihood of passing total THC compliance testing.

  • Cannabigerol (CBG) is decarboxylated CBGa. With CBG research on the rise, consumers will soon see a breadth of CBG products on the market; here’s what you need to know: Preliminary studies show promising results of CBG acting not just as a neuroprotectant but also as a tool to help modulate the nervous system, making it a key cannabinoid in dealing with stress, anxiety, and depression. It appears that CBG and CBD may also share many similar properties, showing potential for pain relief, anxiety/stress, and inflammation.

  • Cannabinol (CBN) is formed through degradation when Δ9-THC is exposed to oxygen, UV light, and heat. CBN has very little psychotropic potency but may be intoxicating when taken in large enough amounts. CBN is not usually found in high concentrations in properly stored cannabis. CBN is believed to induce sleep, but research on this minor cannabinoid is still developing.

Not just CBD and THC

As you can see, many cannabinoids, not just THC and CBD, show potential for a wide range of healing properties. Although THC and CBD are currently the most popular cannabinoids, research into the hundreds of cannabis compounds and their potential effects and synergies is still very limited. The good news is this is only the beginning!

Total number of cannabis-related research studies published in the PubMed database since 1968.