Due to the many potential health benefits of cannabidiol or CBD, the public's interest in this compound has increased over the last few years. Reports from studies, as well as anecdotes, show that CBD helps with a variety of physical and mental issues, including pain, inflammation, poor sleep quality, anxiety, and addiction (For more details on the benefits of CBD, read What Are the Benefits of Taking CBD?). Although studies regarding this are still underway, available evidence suggests that CBD interacts with the body’s signaling network called endocannabinoid system to help maintain health, stability, and well-being.
Alongside its growing popularity is the availability of different CBD products. However, there are different confusions surrounding these available products, such as the difference between CBD that comes from hemp and marijuana. A survey of more than 1,000 American adults published by Invisibly’s Realtime Research showed that a large portion of the public thinks that hemp and marijuana are the same.
Anatomy and characteristics of hemp and marijuana plants
Both hemp and marijuana are members of the cannabis genus, where hemp belongs to the Cannabis sativa species only while marijuana belongs to either Cannabis sativa or Cannabis indica species.
Hemp plants are grown primarily for their seeds, fibers, and flowers. Unlike marijuana, they appear skinnier and have sparse foliage. Because they grow sturdy and tall as up to 4 meters, they are usually grown outdoors.
With that being said, marijuana plants have thick, lush foliage and flowers that are generally grown and consumed for their euphoric, relaxing, and psychoactive effects.
Hemp CBD vs marijuana CBD
Although they belong to the same species, the differences between hemp-derived and marijuana-derived CBD lie in their cannabinoid content, profiles, effects, uses, purity, and legality.
The majority of CBD products in the market are full-spectrum extracts, which means that they contain not only CBD but also a range of other compounds naturally found in cannabis plants like tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). The ratio between the amount of this compound and CBD is what primarily differentiates hemp CBD and marijuana CBD.
Hemp-derived CBD usually contains high concentrations of CBD and about less than 0.3% of THC, based on the legal limit. Marijuana-derived CBD, on the other hand, comes with a rather significant amount of THC, ranging from 5% to 30% per dry weight. Due to this high THC content, it is classified as a Schedule 1 substance as per the Controlled Substances Act of 1970.
As previously mentioned, hemp and marijuana CBD products have varying levels of THC. This means that, in terms of effects on users, these two also vary.
Hemp-derived CBD products do not produce intoxicating effects or do not cause users to get “high”. Instead, they help users to feel relaxed, feel free of physical discomfort, and experience positive changes in their general well-being due to CBD’s interaction with the body’s endocannabinoid system.
On the other hand, marijuana-derived CBD products may get a user high because of their higher THC content. However, the psychoactive effects are not intense because CBD has counteractive effects to THC’s intoxicating properties.
Marijuana plants are primarily grown for their psychoactive potential and medicinal purposes. Some of their medicinal uses include therapeutic benefits for people with nausea, epilepsy, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, and opioid-dependency disoder.
Hemp plants, on the other hand, were originally used for their fiber and seeds to produce fabric and oil. They are also used as food, dietary supplements, and body care products. As a superfood, the seeds of hemp contain significant ratios of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids as well as protein, vitamins, and trace minerals.
Hemp is known as a bioaccumulator, which means that it can absorb pesticides, heavy metals, and other toxins from its surroundings. With that, marijuana-derived CBDs often come purer.
When buying CBD products, it is only important for users to consider trusted brands that have supporting laboratory analyses of their products. This ensures that hemp-derived CBD products have been grown in safe and clean conditions.
Another biggest difference between hemp- and marijuana-derived CBDs is their legality.
With the introduction of the 2018 Farm Bill, hemp has been removed from the Controlled Substances Act. This bill allows commercial growing and manufacturing of hemp to turn into CBD products and sell to the public. Transportation of these products across state borders is also considered legal.
Marijuana, on the other hand, remains federally illegal in the United States even if 15 states have legalized its recreational or medicinal use. This means that the cultivation, possession, sale, and transportation of marijuana are prohibited at the federal level. The US federal government further claims that the use of this substance can have a strong potential for abuse. Fortunately, federal agencies have provided guidelines for prosecutors to exempt medical marijuana patients and non-medical users who possess little amounts for personal use.
Which one is better: hemp CBD or marijuana CBD?
Regardless of the source, CBD brings the same benefits to the body. However, when it comes to CBD oil, terpenes and other phytochemicals must be taken into account to maximize its benefits. These compounds work synergistically to produce stronger effects—a phenomenon also called as entourage effect. Some researchers claim that equal ratios of CBD and THC in a product is the most effective, but even a 20:1 ratio of CBD to THC can have significantly strong therapeutic potential.
The question of whether a user should get a hemp or marijuana CBD depends on the purpose and the legal status of marijuana in the state. For those who want to also get the benefits of THC, marijuana-derived CBD products are ideal. If legality is an issue, full-spectrum hemp-derived CBD products that contain trace amounts of THC are the way to go.