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Cannabis (Marijuana) and Cannabinoids: What You Need To Know

Cannabis (Marijuana) and Cannabinoids: What You Need To Know

Is marijuana the same thing as cannabis?


People often use the words “cannabis” and “marijuana” interchangeably, but they don’t mean exactly the same thing.

  • The word “cannabis” refers to all products derived from the plant Cannabis sativa.

  • The cannabis plant contains about 540 chemical substances.
  • The word “marijuana” refers to parts of or products from the plant Cannabis sativathat contain substantial amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC is the substance that’s primarily responsible for the effects of marijuana on a person’s mental state. Some cannabis plants contain very little THC. Under U.S. law, these plants are considered “industrial hemp” rather than marijuana.

Throughout the rest of this fact sheet, we use the term “cannabis” to refer to the plant Cannabis sativa.


What are cannabinoids?


Cannabinoids are a group of substances found in the cannabis plant.


What are the main cannabinoids?


The main cannabinoids are THC and cannabidiol (CBD).


How many cannabinoids are there?


Besides THC and CBD, more than 100 other cannabinoids have been identified.


Has the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved cannabis or cannabinoids for medical use?


The FDA has not approved the cannabis plant for any medical use. However, the FDA has approved several drugs that contain individual cannabinoids.

  • Epidiolex, which contains a purified form of CBD derived from cannabis, was approved for the treatment of seizures associated with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome or Dravet syndrome, two rare and severe forms of epilepsy.
  • Marinol and Syndros, which contain dronabinol (synthetic THC), and Cesamet, which contains nabilone (a synthetic substance similar to THC), are approved by the FDA. Dronabinol and nabilone are used to treat nausea and vomiting caused by cancer chemotherapy. Dronabinol is also used to treat loss of appetite and weight loss in people with HIV/AIDS.


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