What Are Cannabinoids? The Chemicals in Marijuana

What Are Cannabinoids? The Chemicals in Marijuana

What is Cannabis? Cannabis is a unique plant that produces the potent psychoactive chemical THC, as well as hundreds of other additional compounds called “cannabinoids.” These cannabinoids are quite similar to neurotransmitter chemicals the body produces naturally, which is why marijuana has such a broad range of effects when consumed.

Cannabis was recently made legal for recreational consumption, meaning you can find strains containing all of the cannabinoids found below. You also have the option to choose industrial hemp lifestyle products that have just some of the compounds but none of the psychoactive effects.

A Complete List of Cannabinoids

In total, there are over 400 different chemicals in weed, at least 60 of which are cannabinoids.1

Providing a truly complete list of cannabinoids or all the chemicals in marijuana would offer an overwhelming amount of information. Instead, we’ll highlight some of the broader categories of cannabinoids and explain in brief what they do.

  • Delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)
  • Cannabidiol (CBD)
  • Cannabinol (CBN)
  • Cannabichromene (CBC)
  • Cannabigerol (CBG)
  • Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCv)
  • Cannabidivarin (CBDv)
  • Delta-8-Tetrahydrocannabinol (Delta-8-THC)

So, are you ready to start learning?

Δ⁹-Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and THCA, the Most Famous of Chemicals Found in Cannabis

chemicals in marijuana

THC is the main attraction for most cannabis users since it is the most potent psychoactive substance in the plant. Mimicking the human body’s own natural chemicals, it attaches to neurotransmitters to create some of marijuana’s most famous effects.

Most people who consume marijuana recreationally want strong psychoactive effects, so they’ll seek out high-THC strains when they buy marijuana online in Canada.

Common side effects of THC result from our natural cannabinoid system’s nearly all-encompassing connections. Pleasure, memory, coordination, concentration, pain sensation, sensory perception, and time perception can all be affected. A number of effects would be considered undesirable, including anxiety and paranoia. The more concentrated the THC source is, the more powerful and noticeable these effects will be.

Surprisingly, you won’t find THC naturally in cannabis. Instead, you will find a precursor chemical called Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinolic acid, or THCA. Cannabis must be somehow heated to initiate the chemical process called decarboxylation that changes THCA and other acidic compounds into cannabinoids your body can access.

Cannabidiol (CBD) and CBDA

Many describe cannabidiol as the yin to THC’s yang. That’s because CBD can actively cancel out the effects of THC by acting as an antagonist, shutting off the chemical reactions the psychoactive drug creates.

Having a substantial portion of CBD in a cannabis product can temper your high. This effect can sometimes be good, since too high THC levels can equal anxiety.

CBD also induces a holistic effect on the body, thanks to its interaction with our CB2 endocannabinoid system. Studies show that CBD can interact with processes related to pain, inflammation, anxiety, stress, and other symptoms.

The broad range of effects has lead to CBD oil becoming an immensely popular product. You can even find CBD infused in everyday food and drink products.

Like other cannabinoids, CBD has a “raw” acidic state known as CBDA before decarboxylation.

Cannabinol (CBN)

Cannabinol is a by-product of THCA that has been allowed to decompose. Exposure to light, oxygen and heat can all cause the gradual breakdown. Marijuana that has been improperly stored and exposed to these elements will be more likely to have its THCA content converted to CBN.

Of the chemicals in marijuana, CBN is one of the most potent among the complete list of cannabinoids. Most people will want to avoid having their THC converted to CBN, since this will result in less potency.

Cannabichromene (CBC)

Now we’re moving into the lesser-known chemicals found in cannabis, starting with cannabichromene, or CBC for short. This cannabinoid is not well understood because of a lack of study, but it is known to have an antagonist effect on THC similar to CBD. It also happens to be the second-most common among the complete list of cannabinoids found in marijuana by volume and weight.

Cannabigerol (CBG)

chemicals found in cannabis

Cannabigerolic-acid (CBGA) is a molecule typically found during the early growth stages of a marijuana plant. As the plant develops, the CBGA content gradually goes down to almost nothing as it gradually transforms into other chemicals like THC.

Like CBD and CBC, CBG acts as an antagonist to CB1 and CB2. This means it can also temper the strong effects of a high while interacting with the body’s inflammation, pain reception, and stress-related (GABA) systems.

Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCv)

THCv is another poorly understood chemical but is one of the few chemicals in marijuana that provides a psychoactive effect. The chemical structure of THCv is almost identical to THC, except it lacks a chain and a few other key components. Research suggests that THCv has about 20% of the psychoactive potency of THC.2

Cannabidivarin (CBDv)

CBDv is CBD’s counterpart to THCv – a simplified molecule with less potent effects when consumed. Of the chemicals in weed, it is one of the least studied but holds interest to the pharmaceutical community.

Δ8-Tetrahydrocannabinol or “Delta (8)THC”

Delta (9) THC is the best known of the chemicals found in cannabis, but it has a lesser-appreciated cousin with a similar structure known as Delta (8) THC. This compound attaches to different receptors, leading to a less-potent psychoactive effect.

Researchers and extractor companies are currently experimenting with delta (8) THC in an attempt to create a less potent but still enjoyable high.

What Is Cannabis? A Collection of These 8 Major Cannabinoids

complete list of cannabinoids

You’ve now become acquainted with eight of the most notable chemicals in marijuana. Next time someone asks, “what is cannabis and what makes it special?” you can respond with your knowledge!

Note, too, that industrial hemp can provide many of the cannabinoids found above. For instance, you can find hemp seed oil which can potentially contain CBG as well as nourishing omega-3 fatty acids.

Research the particular cannabinoids that interest you and select the perfect product to meet your personal and recreational needs.

Interested to know some more chemicals in cannabis? Check out our article about cannabis terpenes.



  1. Atakan Z. Cannabis, a complex plant: different compounds and different effects on individuals. Therapeutic Advances in Psychopharmacology. 2012May;2(6):241–54.
  2. Mcpartland JM, Russo EB. Cannabis and cannabis extracts: Greater than the sum of their parts?. Journal of Cannabis Therapeutics. 2001;1(3-4):103–32.