The Difference Between CBD From Hemp and Marijuana

The Difference Between CBD From Hemp and Marijuana

By: Joy Hughes

A lot of people wonder if there’s a difference between CBD from hemp vs. from marijuana. There’s a lot of confusing info out there. So, in this article, we make things clearer by exploring the biological, legal, and commercial differences (and similarities) between the two.

What they have in common

First let's discuss what hemp and marijuana have in common. Cannabis is a genus of flowering plants in the family Cannabaceae. There are a number of different varieties within cannabis –– Cannabis indica, Cannabis sativa, Cannabis ruderalis, just to name a few (1). Marijuana and hemp are just two varieties of the cannabis genus.

Cannabidiol (CBD) and Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are found in both marijuana and hemp. The amount of THC — the psychoactive substance that creates a ‘high’ — is what really makes the difference between these two types of cannabis plants. Marijuana has far more THC, whereas hemp only has trace amounts (not enough to get someone high).

For federal legal purposes, a cannabis plant is considered “hemp” if it has 0.3% THC or lower, and is considered “marijuana” if the THC is higher (2).

The truth is, cannabis plants have been bred to focus on the different cannabinoids they produce. To start, cannabis growers focused on THC. After learning how THC and CBD interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system, the focus then shifted toward CBD because of its therapeutic properties. Growers began breeding certain cannabis plants to be high-CBD varieties that met the legal definition of hemp: High in CBD, and no greater than 0.3% in THC. So, the legal classification of hemp and marijuana are different from the biological classification, which focuses on the actual family, genus, and species of the plant (2).

CBD from hemp vs. CBD from marijuana

CBD still falls in a legal grey area, whether or not it is 0.3% or lower in THC. According to the Controlled Substance Act (CSA) and the federal government, anything more than 0.1% of THC is considered a Schedule I drug — regardless if it’s from hemp or marijuana.

So, is there an actual difference in CBD from hemp vs. CBD from marijuana? The answer is CBD is CBD, regardless of where it comes from, because cannabis growers are able to breed CBD-high, THC-low varieties.

What’s important is the quality of CBD you’re getting. The quality is determined by the resin that’s found in the flowers of the hemp and marijuana plants. Both plants produce flowers, and within those flowers we find the medicinal properties Terpenes, Cannabinoids (such as CBD), and Flavonoids. These properties abound in high-resin plants (3).

Which one should you choose?

When deciding where you’d like your CBD to come from, CBD from hemp is the safer option, legally speaking. It has lower THC (0.3%) and typically won’t cause law enforcement to interfere, according to the DEA. (Flying or crossing borders with CBD could still be legally risky, so check federal and local laws before doing so.)

If you live in a state or country where marijuana is legal, you may choose a CBD product that’s derived from marijuana. Again, CBD is CBD technically, regardless of whether it comes from hemp or marijuana. But the quality can vary greatly from product to product. CBD from hemp is much more common, and is legal in more places, so most people choose it.

How to select a quality CBD

When you’re shopping for CBD, make sure it’s from a high-resin plant. To do so, look for a product that’s made from “medicinal hemp” rather than “industrial hemp”. (This info is usually available on the brand’s website.)

Industrial hemp focuses on the stalks and seeds which are used primarily for clothes, food, and other materials. These stalks and seeds do contain CBD, however the CBD percentage isn’t as high. (It takes a lot of hemp stalks and seeds to produce a CBD product, and it lacks the other medicinal components that high-resin plants produce.) Medicinal hemp focuses more on the flower production in order to get more resin, which usually leads to a higher quality product (3). Ask the manufacturer about their source for CBD so you can ensure you’re getting the best product for your money.



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