Purchasing CBD in the United States can be a little bit confusing, and maybe even intimidating, for the first buyer. The legality of CBD oil is often in question and it’s not always clear what a product contains or what type of plant materials that product was made from. Understanding the difference between hemp extract CBD oil and oils made from medical marijuana will help you navigate the sometimes murky waters of the CBD industry.
What is Hemp?
Hemp is any variety of cannabis that contains very low amounts of THC. The dividing line between hemp and marijuana is 0.3% of THC contained in the dried plant material, a distinction inspired by the research of botanist Dr. Ernest Small. Federal law officially classifies cannabis as hemp only when it contains less than 0.3% of THC by dry weight.
With these very low levels of THC, hemp is non-intoxicating and the plant fibers have traditionally been used for clothing, paper, and building materials. The seeds are often pressed to create oils used in food and skin care products, but the hemp seed oil doesn’t contain any of the cannabinoids found in the rest of the plant. As CBD is becoming more widely recognized for its benefits and as the laws in North America have changed around the legality of hemp, it is now being used to create CBD extracts that contain little to no THC.
There are many varieties of cannabis, typically referred to as strains for marijuana and cultivars for hemp. Hemp plants tend to be much taller and skinnier than marijuana plants, growing up to 20 feet high and producing thinner leaves. Hemp grown for industrial purposes can be grown quite close together, about 4 inches apart, which prevents too much branching and flowering. Both male and female plants can be grown for industrial uses but the males are typically removed when hemp is bred for CBD extraction.
What is Marijuana?
Marijuana is any cannabis plant with over 0.3% of THC by dry weight. It is often cultivated to have much higher levels of THC than hemp, anywhere between 5%-35%. THC is the psychoactive cannabinoid that makes marijuana so valuable as an intoxicant as well as a pain reliever and sleep aid. While the THC in marijuana is the compound that will get you high, it does also possess its own medicinal effects.
Marijuana plants are often much shorter and fatter than hemp plants and they feature broader leaves. They are grown between 6 to 10 feet apart to allow for a generous amount of space for their ample leaf and flower growth. Male plants are only used for breeding and are always removed from a crop to prevent pollination of the female plants. Pollinated females will use their energy on seed production rather than flower growth which is undesirable for both the grower and consumer.
Hemp Extract CBD Oil
Knowing the difference between hemp and marijuana makes it much easier to understand the difference between hemp extract CBD oil and cannabis oils made from medical marijuana. CBD oil made from hemp extract will contain almost no THC because it has been extracted from plant material that contains less than 0.3% THC in its dried form. The plant materials will still contain other cannabinoids and terpenes which can work together, providing their own unique therapeutic benefits, creating what is known as the “entourage effect”.
There are some very significant reasons why one would choose a hemp extract CBD oil over an oil made from marijuana plants. A big one, for many people, is that the hemp extract CBD oil will not get you high. You can use this oil to help with a variety of ailments but it will not intoxicate you, impair your judgement, or slow down your reaction time. People who are looking purely for the medicinal benefits of CBD with no psychoactive side effects will choose this oil.
Another very important reason that hemp extract CBD oil is so popular in the US has to do with the legality of hemp products. Thanks to recent changes to the Farm Bill, hemp and hemp products are now legal in all 50 states. Not only is it legal to buy and possess hemp extract CBD oil, but because of the extremely low amount of THC in these products, it’s unlikely that any THC would show up on a drug test. Taking a CBD oil for anxiety and worrying if it will get you busted just isn’t worth it for most people.
Medical Marijuana CBD Oil
CBD oils made from medical marijuana can be a little trickier in the United States. Recreational marijuana is only legal is a handful of states while the majority of other states have legalized medical marijuana only. Some states limit the THC content in medical marijuana and others have prohibited marijuana for any use, medicinal and recreational alike. In many states, a prescription is required for any marijuana product which includes CBD oils made from marijuana plant materials.
CBD oils made from medical marijuana is not without its benefits, of course. These oils contain various levels of THC, which will be clearly indicated on the product. Products with equal or higher amounts of THC will not be as intoxicating as high THC products because CBD can block the THC from binding with your CB1 receptors and counteract the psychoactive effects it creates. Some ailments, such as epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, chronic pain, and cancer treatments can benefit from the products that contain both CBD and THC and many doctors will recommend these products to their patients.
The distinction between hemp and marijuana lies primarily in the amount of THC a plant contains. This 0.3% threshold determines if a plant is legal or illegal and if it’s considered hemp or marijuana. Hemp extract CBD oil contains such a low amount of THC that users of this product don’t need to worry about intoxication while still being able to benefit from the therapeutic properties that CBD provides.