Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of hundreds of chemicals found in the cannabis family of plants. Plants in the cannabis family have been divided into two categories: hemp, sometimes called industrial hemp, and marijuana, often just called cannabis. While hemp and marijuana plants are part of the same family and share many commonalities, they differ when it comes to cultivation and use.

Hemp is used to make paper, clothing, and food, like protein powder and milk. It’s also the main source of CBD used to make CBD oil and other CBD products. Marijuana is primarily grown for medical and recreational purposes and can also be used to make CBD oil.

The single greatest difference between hemp and marijuana is a legal one. It boils down to the amount of THC in the plant. Hemp has less than 0.3 percent THC; marijuana, by default, has more than 0.3 percent THC.

CBD (cannabidiol) and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) are two of the many chemical compounds, or cannabinoids, produced by the cannabis plant.

Why 0.3 percent? Way back when, a Canadian named Ernest Small arbitrarily decided to define hemp as having less than 0.3 percent THC, and it’s stuck around since. In fact, it’s become an internationally accepted standard.

Of the CBD oil products available on the market today, the vast majority of them are made with hemp. The ones that are made with marijuana are typically available through medical marijuana dispensaries.

So, long story short, CBD is present in all cannabis plants, both marijuana and hemp. However, most CBD products are made from hemp-derived CBD.

Hemp Marijuana
  • Lower THC (<0.3%)
  • Cultivated for a wide variety of uses, including textiles, plastics, food products, and biofuels.
  • Higher THC (>0.3%, usually 5–30%)
  • Cultivated for medical and recreational use.

CBD from Hemp vs. CBD from Marijuana

You may be wondering, is there a difference between the CBD that comes from hemp and the CBD comes from marijuana? The answer is that CBD itself is CBD, whether it comes from hemp or from marijuana. In other words, the CBD from hemp has the same molecular structure as CBD from marijuana. Your body’s not going to know the difference between the two.

However, there is a difference between the CBD oil (or other products) derived from hemp and the CBD oil derived from marijuana. The hemp-derived oil has less THC in it (below 0.3 percent), and the marijuana-derived CBD oil (sometimes called cannabis-derived oil) has more THC in it.

Depending on the medical condition being treated, the presence of THC can be an advantage or a disadvantage. The general perception out there is that the totality of the medical benefits are derived soley from CBD, but, in fact, that’s not the case. While it’s true that some medical conditions do benefit more from CBD, there are other conditions that benefit more from THC. And then there are medical conditions that benefit from both THC and CBD. See Part 4 for more about which chemical compound most benefits specific medical conditions.

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