You may have noticed jars or baggies of CBD flower lining the shelves of your local tobacconist or headshop— it looks just like marijuana. But how can that be? Isn’t marijuana only available in dispensaries (or illegal, depending on where you live.) Is CBD just a marketing term for weed, or are there tangible differences between CBD hemp vs. marijuana? 

In this post, we’ll help you become a better shopper and talk about the differences between CBD hemp flower vs. marijuana, including:

  • The legal definitions of each
  • Some of the differences between their respective dominant cannabinoids
  • Availability and legality 
  • And, we’ll answer some of the internet’s most common questions on the topic 

CBD Hemp Vs. Marijuana: What’s The Difference?

Above are two different cannabis plants. One is a picture of Afghan Kush, a recreational THC marijuana cultivar grown by our sister company, Sunset Lake Cannabis, and the other is one of our Lifter hemp plants. Can you tell which is which? If not, don’t worry, that’s the point. Both hemp and marijuana come from cannabis plants (though with different genetics.) One set of genetics expresses higher concentrations of CBD while the other expresses higher concentrations of THC.

Technically speaking, CBD hemp flower contains less than 0.3% delta-9 THC calculated on a dry weight basis. Marijuana is any cannabis flower that tests over that 0.3% delta-9 THC threshold.

(The answer is Lifter on the left, Afghan Kush on the right.)

What Is CBD?

CBD is short for cannabidiol and a non-psychoactive cannabinoid produced by cannabis plants. That means that you won’t feel high or intoxicated after consuming CBD. The FDA has yet to publish any studies about CBD and humans, but they have approved one CBD-derived drug called Epidiolex to manage rare forms of seizures.

What Is THC?

THC, short for tetrahydrocannabinol, is the cannabinoid produced by cannabis responsible for intoxication and psychoactive effects. Because of its ability to get users “high,” delta-9 THC, specifically, is considered a Schedule I substance by the Drug Enforcement Administration (D.E.A.) 

The Schedule I classification means that the substance has no medicinal or therapeutic value, an assertion that we’ll look into further later. 

THC vs. CBD

The real differences between hemp vs. marijuana are the expressed cannabinoids expressed in each, CBD vs. THC, and their effects on the user. 

Unlike CBD, THC can: 

  • Induce a euphoric-like high in its users
  • Trigger feelings of anxiety or paranoia 
  • Heighten a user’s awareness
  • Make users experience time dilation
  • Make you fail a workplace drug test

Read more: Will CBD Make You Fail a Drug Test?

The Legality Of CBD Hemp vs. Marijuana

Congress and the FDA have yet to codify the line between hemp vs. marijuana. According to the 2018 Farm Bill hemp is considered to be any cannabis that contains less than 0.3% delta-9 THC based on dry weight. Dried cannabis flower and products that contain more than 0.3% delta-9 THC are considered to be marijuana products. 

While that seems like a pretty cut-and-dry line, it is not. The way Congress passed the law back in 2018 left the door open for products and flower containing higher concentrations of THC derivatives and THC’s acidic form (THCa, which converts to delta-9 when you smoke it).

CBD hemp that tests under the 0.3% delta-9 THC limit is considered an agricultural commodity by the federal government and legal throughout the United States and territories. That’s assuming that the vendor has the certificates of analysis to verify that their product is hemp and not marijuana.

Read more: How To Read Your Certificate of Analysis

CBD Hemp vs. Marijuana For…

Pain

While there is no definitive answer as to whether CBD hemp vs. marijuana is better for pain— marijuana testing has been stifled due to the FDA’s scheduling of the plant. 

Many users report using CBD hemp to help manage their

  • Inflammation
  • IBS (Inflammatory bowel disease)
  • Migraines 
  • Arthritis

Anxiety

Both CBD hemp and marijuana have been used to treat anxiety

Some studies have demonstrated CBD hemp’s efficiency in reducing anxiety behaviors linked to: 

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) 1
  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) 2,3
  • Personality disorder (PD) 2

Marijuana users report mixed findings when using THC to manage their anxiety. That may be because extreme doses of THC have been linked to feelings of anxiety and paranoia.

A jar of Sunset Lake CBD salve next to ski goggles. The text says "Can CBD Help With Muscle Recovery?"
Related: Can CBD Help With Muscle Recovery?

Recovery

As long as professional sports have been around, athletes have been testing positive for marijuana use. Is it just recreational, or does cannabis have physical recovery benefits? 

Both CBD and THC use have been observed for their sleep benefits. It turns out that CBD also has some anti-inflammatory properties.4 Better sleep and anti-inflammation is a powerful one-two combination for muscle recovery.

Availability

Because of THC’s legal status, shipping marijuana across state lines is still illegal. 

However, CBD hemp’s status as an agricultural commodity means that it can be bought online and shipped via the USPS to any state and delivered to your door. For more on purchasing CBD hemp, check out Sunset Lake CBD’s store page.

Frequently Asked Questions About CBD Hemp vs. Marijuana 

Is CBD From Hemp The Same As CBD From Weed?

Chemically speaking there is no difference between CBD derived from hemp and CBD derived from marijuana plants. Legally, there is. Compliant CBD products (meaning that they can be shipped across state lines) must be made with CBD from hemp plants. No exceptions. 

Is Hemp Better Than CBD?

This is a tough question to answer. CBD molecule comes from hemp, but it’s just one of many cannabinoids. For more on the other cannabinoids produced by hemp plants and how they all work together with CBD, see our blog post on the entourage effect here. 

The other interpretation of this question is are hemp products better than CBD products. If that sentence is a bit confusing, don’t worry, you’re not the only one. There is indeed a difference though. Hemp products can be thought of as containing hempseed oil— a cold-pressed culinary oil rich in omega fatty acids. CBD products can incorporate hempseed oil in them, but their defining feature is that they contain the active cannabinoid cannabidiol. 

Buyer beware: some companies mark up their hempseed products while masquerading them as CBD products. Don’t be fooled.

Read more: CBD Oil vs. Hemp Oil: 3 Big Differences

Can Hemp Make You High?

CBD hemp, by definition, has very minimal levels of THC, the cannabinoid responsible for intoxication. While it’s possible you could consume enough CBD products to get intoxicated on the trace amounts of THC, it’s likely you’ll just fall asleep first. 

Is CBD Hemp Indica Or Sativa?

CBD hemp plants just like cannabis plants in general can be either Sativa, Indica, or auto-flowering (Ruderalis). Most commercial genetics will be a hybrid of both Sativa and Indica.  

Does Hemp Show Up On A Drug Test?

CBD Hemp products can show up on a drug test. For more information about CBD and drug tests, please see our post about the topic here. 

And, if you’re looking for information about CBD that won’t show up on drug tests, please see our blogs about Pure CBD and Broad-Spectrum CBD.

Sources: 

  1. Elms, Lucas et al. “Cannabidiol in the Treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: A Case Series.” Journal of alternative and complementary medicine (New York, N.Y.) vol. 25,4 (2019): 392-397. doi:10.1089/acm.2018.0437
  2. Blessing, Esther M et al. “Cannabidiol as a Potential Treatment for Anxiety Disorders.” Neurotherapeutics : the journal of the American Society for Experimental NeuroTherapeutics vol. 12,4 (2015): 825-36. doi:10.1007/s13311-015-0387-1
  3. Wright, Madison et al. “Use of Cannabidiol for the Treatment of Anxiety: A Short Synthesis of Pre-Clinical and Clinical Evidence.” Cannabis and cannabinoid research vol. 5,3 191-196. 2 Sep. 2020, doi:10.1089/can.2019.0052
  4. Frane, Nicholas et al. “Cannabidiol as a treatment for arthritis and joint pain: an exploratory cross-sectional study.” Journal of cannabis research vol. 4,1 47. 24 Aug. 2022, doi:10.1186/s42238-022-00154-9
  5. “Farm Bill.” USDA, United State Department of Agriculture, 2018, <www.usda.gov/farmbill.>