The confusion surrounding hemp CBD vs. cannabis CBD relates to the plant’s classification, name, and makeup.
Basically, hemp plants generally contain more CBD, and cannabis plants contain more tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a compound that causes the ‘high’ that people associate with cannabis use.
Keep reading to learn more about the differences between hemp CBD and cannabis CBD.
It’s a common misconception that hemp and marijuana are two different species of plant.
In fact, they’re not distinct speciesTrusted Source at all. They’re just two different names for cannabis, a type of flowering plant in the Cannabaceae family.
While science doesn’t differentiate between “hemp” and “marijuana,” the law does.
Legally, the key difference between the two is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content.
THC is one of many cannabinoids, or chemicals found in the cannabis plant. It’s the one that’s primarily responsible for the “high” associated with cannabis.
What is hemp?
The term “hemp” is used to mean cannabis that contains 0.3 percent or less THC content by dry weight.
Why 0.3 percent? This definition was first proposed in 1979, in a book called “The Species Problem in Cannabis: Science & Semantics.”
In the book, author Ernest Small addresses the fact that it’s difficult to distinguish hemp and cannabis because there’s no actual taxonomical difference between the two.
Small proposed the 0.3 percent rule as a possible solution, but he himself acknowledged that it’s an arbitrary number.
This number was used in the legal definition of hemp, as specified in the Agricultural Act of 2018 and other laws in the United States.
Because the THC level in hemp is so low, it’s unlikely to get you high.
What is marijuana?
Usually, when people say “marijuana,” they’re talking about cannabis that can get you high. The term is used interchangeably with “weed” and a number of other terms.
Legally, “marijuana” refers to cannabis that has more than 0.3 percent THC by dry weight. THC content can vary among cannabis plants. Some strains are bred to be higher in THC than others.
Cannabis plants have been designated as Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, or a hybrid. Each of these has its own purported characteristics and effects, although science has yet to verify this.
Cannabidiol (CBD) is a cannabinoid that’s become increasingly popular since hemp was federally legalized. Many people use CBD products because CBD is said to have numerous health benefits.
CBD is found in some amount in all cannabis plants. That means it can be derived from either hemp or marijuana.
However, CBD products are only federally legal if they’re derived from hemp and contain less than 0.3 percent THC.
What is marijuana?
Marijuana is the intoxicating cousin of hemp. Depending on the taxonomic methods you prefer, marijuana may well be comprised largely of Cannabis sativa plants as well. And while marijuana and hemp might share a species, they are legally and chemically distinct in a significant way.
The high levels of THC found in marijuana plants cause intoxication when consumed. Federally, marijuana remains illegal; THC is a Schedule I substance under the CSA. However, many states have now rejected the prohibition on marijuana and have active programs for cultivating and dispensing marijuana for medical and/or adult use.
Marijuana is sold in a variety of ways. One of the most common products is simply the dried and cured flower of the marijuana plant. However, like hemp, marijuana is often subject to extraction to create concentrated extracts that can be sold on their own or used as an ingredient in edibles, topicals, and other products.
The difference between hemp and marijuana
Today, “cannabis” and “marijuana” are often used interchangeably in the industry, which can cause confusion. Because the word “cannabis” technically refers to the entire genus of flowering plants that includes both hemp and marijuana, it is not wholly accurate to exclude hemp when using the term. Historically, the word “marijuana” has been used to distinguish between cannabis that is hemp and cannabis that isn’t based on the percentage of THC each plant contains.
While that distinction may, in some ways, seem arbitrary, it has become a clear enough standard that new varieties of cannabis plants are bred with this threshold in mind. While it might seem strange that cannabis plants, which contain many cannabinoids alongside many more chemical compounds, would be divided by THC content, that has become the standard for the legal cannabis and hemp CBD industries. Thus, the terms hemp and marijuana serve to distinguish between varieties of plants belonging to the same species that find themselves on very different sides of the law.
The Confusion Presented by Hemp vs Marijuana
Based on the context used to describe Hemp and Marijuana, the defining characteristic between the two is based on a single factor — the amount of THC in the plant — or rather whether it will get the user high.
While the intoxicating properties of each plant is an important factor to consider, categorizing Cannabis as either hemp or marijuana based on a single characteristic presents a skewed portrayal of Cannabis which prevents users from fully understanding its diversity.
As portrayed in the chart above:
Categorizing Cannabis as either Hemp or Marijuana is akin to classifying all fruits in the citrus genus as either sweet or sour, without acknowledging the diverse characteristics of each fruit.
In addition, hemp and marijuana can often appear indistinguishable from one another.
This has already led to numerous issues of law enforcement officers making arrests and seizing hemp that is 100% legal because it looks exactly like “marijuana.”
The classification of hemp or marijuana absent of a true understanding of Cannabis presents a clear issue of function.
The obvious solution is for these words to have never existed; however, now that these terms have become deeply ingrained in our society, this problem will be difficult to reverse.
The only realistic solution is to re-educate our society over time.
In the meantime, it’s probably best to stay informed about what hemp and marijuana mean and how they are used in our society and legal system to know your rights and avoid any complications when using hemp or CBD.
THC vs CBD
What are the chemicals that make hemp and marijuana different?
Tetrahydrocannabinol, also called THC, is the chemical responsible for marijuana’s psychological effects. An average batch of marijuana contains anywhere from 5-20% THC content. Some premium marijuana can have up to 25-30% THC.
In order to remain legal, hemp must remain below the maximum THC level of 0.3%, essentially making it impossible to feel any psychoactive effect or get a “high.”
CBD has analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and anti-anxiety properties without any psychoactive effects. Thus, it has recently gained popularity as a medical supplement and is now the leading application of hemp in the . Some researchers believe that all the natural compounds in hemp work together, something called the “entourage effect.” This means the tiny amounts of THC could enhance the action of CBD, but you still won’t “feel high.”
Buyer beware: Not all CBD is created equal, and there are even fraudulent products on the market. The CBD market is currently unregulated, meaning consumers need to be careful! We recommend being very cautious and researching all products before purchasing CBD oil. Our website is full of useful resources like the best CBD oil guide to help you make the right purchase.