Most potheads ,and even many neuroscientists, have always assumed that the active ingredient in cannabis — the chemical that makes you giddy and hungry — is THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol. This thinking is what led to the invention of Marinol, which is the form of medical marijuana the federal government would like patients to take. (It’s pure THC in pill form.)
New research, however, is revealing that THC alone isn’t responsible for the pleasant high of pot. Instead, scientists are discovering, good marijuana depends on the proper ratio of THC and cannabidiol, a little-studied chemical that accounts for up to 40 percent of the mind-altering extracts in many of the most valuable marijuana plants. In this recent BBC documentary, Should I Smoke Dope, a reporter took injections of both pure THC and pure cannabidiol in order to experience the differences between these two compounds. While cannabidiol produces a Big Lebowski–esque euphoria — the reporter couldn’t stop laughing — pure THC induces a mild paranoia. (Interestingly, a certain kind of pothead logic might suggest that the federal government recommends the paranoia-inducing zero-cannabidiol variety precisely because it causes such unpleasant emotions.) This anecdotal evidence is supported by a recent study demonstrating that pot smokers who used weed with higher levels of cannabidiol reported far few episodes of paranoia while high.