A stand at the 2019 Southern Hemp Expo, in Tennessee. Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images
Our recent study found that Americans perceive hemp and CBD to be more like over-the-counter medication and THC to be more like a prescription drug. Still, the average person in the U.S. does not view hemp, CBD, THC or even marijuana in the same light as illicit substances like meth and cocaine – even though both are classified by the DEA as having a lower potential for abuse than marijuana.
Hemp, marijuana and CBD are all related, but they differ in significant ways. Here’s what you need to know about their legality, effects and potential health benefits.
The current federal prohibition of marijuana, in other words, does not align with the public’s view – though state-based legalization shows that society is moving on without the blessing of politicians on Capitol Hill. U.S. recreational marijuana retail sales may reach US$8.7 billion in 2021, up from $6.7 billion in 2016.
The defining difference between hemp and marijuana is their psychoactive component: tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. Hemp has 0.3% or less THC, meaning hemp-derived products don’t contain enough THC to create the “high” traditionally associated with marijuana.
Brandon McFadden receives funding from U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Trey Malone receives funding from the U.S. Department if Agriculture, the Charles Koch Foundation, and the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.
Marijuana, on the other hand, tends to contain a more diverse terpene profile than hemp. Products derived from weed plants also tend to contain both CBD and THC in levels higher than 0.3%.
“The CBD molecule and its associated pharmacology are the same, whether it was extracted from hemp or from marijuana. CBD is CBD, regardless of where it was originally derived from,” explained Jeremy Riggle, Ph.D, chief scientist at Mary’s Medicinals, a medical cannabis company known for its Transdermal Cannabis Patch.
The cannabis species naturally produces hundreds of active compounds. CBD is a chemical compound produced in abundance that has become one of the most commonly sought after cannabinoids. This is largely due to the potential medical and wellness benefits of CBD.
According to some wellness professionals and trustworthy health information sourced from a number of peer-reviewed studies, the entourage effect could help increase the clinical efficacy of CBD. One meta-analysis paper, published in September 2018, demonstrated that epileptic patients responded better to CBD-rich cannabis extracts that were complemented with various cannabinoids and phytonutrients.
CBD comes from one of two types of cannabis plant: hemp or marijuana.
The easiest answer is that the CBD doesn’t act alone. Its “behavior” is often enhanced and/or altered by the presence of other cannabinoids (known as the whole plant or entourage effect). The presence of terpenes can also play a large role. Since the levels of various cannabinoids (such as THC) can differ between marijuana and hemp, many feel that marijuana-derived CBD oil offers a better experience that allows CBD to “perform at its full potential.”
Another con to choosing hemp-derived CBD oil? Lack of regulatory oversight (resulting in lackluster products). While oils are strictly regulated in the marijuana industry – so patients and recreational users know exactly what they’re buying – the same standards are missing from hemp production. According to a recent investigation of 47 hemp-derived CBD products, almost half of the surveyed items didn’t come within 20% of the labeled dosage!
So we’re looking at the same plant, grown under different agricultural circumstances, that resulted in two different strains. They share many of the same chemical compounds (cannabinoids), but to varying degrees. One of the strains (hemp) tends to have less THC and more CBD. However, these cannabinoid levels aren’t set in stone; rather, they’re defined by lawmaking/governing bodies. The United States, for instance, has set the THC level of hemp to 0.3%.
All CBD oil is not the same
Your lungs will fail before your brain attains any high from smoking industrial hemp.
Unlike marijuana, hemp plants adapt to most climates and require minimal care. But the difference that really gets everyone talking? Concentration levels of psychoactive cannabinoid, tetrahydrocannabinol (also known as THC). THC is the primary compound responsible for marijuana’s psychoactive effects and is found in much higher levels in marijuana than hemp. While consuming marijuana can often leave a user feeling “high,” as the Ministry of Hemp notes:
Hemp also contains some cannabinoids and terpenes, but not the range nor concentration of compounds present in cannabis. Hemp-derived CBD can be made into a full-spectrum extract that offers natural terpenes alongside minor cannabinoids. Broad-spectrum CBD is also available and contains minor cannabinoids and terpenes, but without the THC content. However, full-spectrum and broad-spectrum hemp-derived CBD products may not have the potency of CBD derived from cannabis because trace amounts of THC appear to be less effective in treating certain symptoms.
Cannabis refers to a genus of plants which has three species: indica, sativa, and ruderalis. Hemp is not a different species of the cannabis plant. The above classifications have been devised to differentiate intoxicating cannabis from non-intoxicating cannabis. Hemp is a sativa species, while cannabis can be sativa, indica, or ruderalis.