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Overwhelmed by all the non-THC cannabis compounds? Our weed guru breaks it down

Illustration of 8 cannabis buds engaging in a range of activities
From helping with sleep to curbing appetite, the lesser-known cannabinoids have prized properties too.
(Micah Fluellen / Los Angeles Times)
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This story is part of our coverage on the future of cannabis in L.A. See the full package here.

Back in the day, choosing what cannabis to consume was all about three little letters — THC — and the more of it there was, the higher you’d get.

Today, picking a product means facing an avalanche of acronyms, each representing a lesser-known chemical compound derived from the cannabis plant and each with its potential health and wellness superpower. Here’s a guide to help cut down on confusion.

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THC

A cartoon cannabis bud holds a guitar.
The O.G. rockstar cannabinoid THC is famous for its psychoactive properties.
(Micah Fluellen / Los Angeles Times)

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THC, or delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, is the O.G., rock star, familiar A-list celebrity of the cannabinoids and the chief psychoactive component found in marijuana. It’s legal in a handful of states but remains illegal at the federal level.
Superpower: Gives you that old-school high.
Where to find it: Available in loose flower, pre-rolled joints, edibles, concentrate and topicals.

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CBD

A cartoon cannabis bud meditates
CBD is a darling of the health and wellness category.
(Micah Fluellen / Los Angeles Times)

First isolated in 1940, CBD, or cannabidiol, is the second-most famous chemical compound found in pot. Since it’s legal under federal law, CBD has become a darling of the health and wellness category.
Superpower: Widely used to combat anxiety, insomnia and inflammation, the FDA has approved the CBD-containing drug Epidiolex to control some types of epileptic seizures.
Where to find it: Long popular in edible and topical products (Lord Jones offers both); L.A.-based Dad Grass offers loose hemp flower and pre-rolled joints.

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CBG

An illustration of a cartoon cannabis bud jogging and pouring water.
In addition to having CBD-like properties, CBG has potential for battling a form of brain cancer.
(Micah Fluellen / Los Angeles Times)

CBG, or cannabigerol, is nicknamed “the mother of all cannabinoids” because it’s converted into THC and CBD as the cannabis plant matures.
Superpower: In addition to being touted for its CBD-like effects, including anxiety and pain relief, studies in animals have shown promise in relieving the symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease, slowing the growth of colorectal cancer cells and battling glioblastoma — the cancer that claimed the lives of U.S. senators John McCain and Ted Kennedy.
Where to find it: L.A.-based Goodekind makes a CBG topical and a concentrate that can be smoked.

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CBN

An illustration of a cartoon cannabis bud sleeping in bed
CBN is a cannabinoid often pitched as a sleep aid.
(Micah Fluellen / Los Angeles Times)

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CBN, or cannabinol, barely shows up in fresh cannabis, but its presence increases over time because it’s a byproduct of THC oxidation, which essentially means you can increase your CBN stash at home simply by leaving a bag of weed open on your coffee table.
Superpower: Most often touted as a sleep aid, research has shown that it may have value as a potent antibacterial, and animal studies indicate it may be helpful in delaying the onset of ALS as well as stimulating appetite.
Where to find it: A wide range of edible products including Kikoko’s Tranquili-Tea.

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CBC

A cartoon cannabis bud wearing a lab coat.
The cannabinoid CBC may help block pain and alleviate migraines according to some studies.
(Micah Fluellen / Los Angeles Times)

CBC, or cannabichromene, is a lesser-known minor cannabinoid that proponents say shares many therapeutic properties associated with its more famous cousins CBD and THC but without the psychoactive impact of the latter.
Superpower: CBC has been studied as a possible cancer fighter and acne inhibitor, and some studies indicate it and CBD may have therapeutic value in blocking pain, reducing inflammation and battling migraines.
Where to find it: Musician Travis Barker’s new venture, Barker Wellness, offers a CBC-heavy Recovery Tincture.

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THCv

A cartoon cannabis bud holding a fork and declining to eat.
THCv has gained fame as a minor cannabinoid that may help suppress the appetite.
(Micah Fluellen / Los Angeles Times)

On researchers’ radar since 1970, tetrahydrocannabivarin’s uplifting, energetic high has earned the compound a reputation as the sports car of weed.
Superpower: While proponents cite therapeutic applications such as battling anxiety, epileptic seizures and Parkinson’s disease, what’s made this minor cannabinoid a darling of the cannabis business is its reputation as an appetite suppressant. Munchies be gone!
Where to find it: Kikoko’s Boost mints.

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THCa

A cartoon cannabis bud vomiting into a paper bag.
TCHa, which is found in raw cannabis, is being studied for its potential properties as an anti-emetic.
(Micah Fluellen / Los Angeles Times)

Non-psychoactive tetrahydrocannabinolic acid is present in raw cannabis and turns into more familiar THC when smoked.
Superpower: THCa is being studied as an anti-inflammatory agent, an anti-emetic, a neuroprotectant (that could help battle diseases like Parkinson’s) and a cancer fighter.
Where to find it: Papa & Barkley‘s Living Tincture.

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Delta-8-THC

A cartoon cannabis bud wearing sunglasses and giving the thumbs up.
Delta-8-THC, is the trendy cannabinoid of the moment because it gets you high — and it’s legal under federal law.
(Micah Fluellen / Los Angeles Times)

Delta-8-tetrahydrocannabinol, or delta-8-THC for short, is the trendy cannabinoid of the moment. That’s because, while it results in a psychoactive high similar to what you’d get from THC, or delta-9-THC (though not as intense or long-lasting), it can be extracted from hemp — a fact that makes it federally legal (like fellow cannabinoid CBD) under the 2018 Farm Bill passed by Congress.
Superpower: It gets you high — and at least for now, it’s legal under federal law.
Where to find it: The most popular delivery system is currently edibles. L.A.'s Goodekind offers delta-8 gummies as well as vape cartridges.

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