Hemp vs. Marijuana: A CBD Debate

You might be hearing about the revolutionary benefits of a little compound called CBD. CBD stands for cannabidiol, a compound unique to cannabis. Unlike THC, another unique cannabis compound, CBD does not cause users to feel high — but it does seem to encourage relaxation and provide pain relief. Researchers believe that CBD does have medicinal advantages thanks to its interaction with the human endocannabinoid system, and studies have shown CBD to be a remarkable and indispensable treatment for certain forms of epilepsy.

Yet, before you buy just any CBD product from your local drugstore, you should know that not all CBD is created equal. Perhaps the biggest consideration to make when investing in CBD is whether it is sourced from hemp or marijuana — and here’s what that means.

CBD From Hemp

Hemp is a variety of cannabis that grows without a high THC content. In the past, hemp was a popular cash crop thanks to its valuable fibers, which made up a significant amount of clothing and other textiles until the 20th century. When marijuana was made illegal in the early 1900s, hemp was also outlawed despite its uselessness as a psychoactive drug. However, in 2018, the Federal Government reintroduced regulations for farming hemp, allowing farmers to cultivate cannabis as long as they are licensed and their crop does not test higher than .3 percent THC.

Though hemp isn’t psychoactive and doesn’t contain significant amounts of THC, it can and does contain amounts of CBD. Thus, many modern farmers opt to grow hemp not for its nutritious seeds or its fiber but for harvesting CBD. Because more states permit the cultivation of hemp than the cultivation of psychoactive marijuana, hemp CBD tends to be easier to make and thus more likely to appear in stores around the country.

However, hemp tends to contain less of the substance in which CBD is found — the resin that seeps from cannabis flowers. Thus, more cannabis is required to make high-CBD-content products, or else CBD products derived from hemp are more likely to have less CBD inside them. Before you buy a product that purports to be hemp CBD, you should research the practices of the manufacturer and farmer to ensure you can trust that you are getting high-quality and quantitative CBD.

CBD From Marijuana

Technically, marijuana refers to the dried, resinous flower buds of the cannabis plant, which tend to contain high amounts of the psychoactive compound THC. However, marijuana has come to refer in general to cannabis grown for the experience of getting high, which might be for either recreational or medicinal purposes. Most states in the U.S. have medical marijuana programs and 11 states boast recreational programs (at last count, though that might change in November), and in all of these states, farming marijuana is permitted under certain circumstances. However, cross-state cannabis commerce is rare; for the most part, marijuana grown in Maryland is sold only in Maryland, for example.

Extracting cannabinoids to produce highly concentrated substances for more intense psychoactive experiences has long been a pastime amongst the cannabis community. Most often, extracts and concentrates contain a combination of cannabinoids, but as CBD has grown in popularity, high-CBD formulations have emerged. However, it is important to understand that marijuana-derived CBD comes in a few different varieties:

  • Full-spectrum CBD. This CBD product removes plant fibers and fats but retains all compounds that could have effects, to include THC and terpenes. Though THC content is likely to be low, it is not zero, and in sufficient quantities, this CBD product could cause you to fail a THC drug test.
  • Broad-spectrum CBD. This CBD product differs slightly in that it retains terpenes but removes all THC. This is in an attempt to salvage the “entourage effect,” or the belief that CBD works better in concert with other cannabis compounds.
  • CBD isolate. This CBD product removes everything but CBD in its pure form. You can buy CBD isolate in crystal or powder form, which is a bit more difficult to use. Because of the intense manufacturing required to create it, CBD isolate tends to be much more expensive.

CBD for You

Whether it comes from hemp or marijuana, CBD remains exactly the same. Its chemical structure is no different; only the processes for growing it, manufacturing it and selling it are changed by its source. Still, if you want to take advantage of the healing properties of CBD, you should understand the differences and consider the pros and cons of each product to gain the most benefit in your life.

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