hemp cbd vs. cannabis cbd

The difference between hemp CBD oil and cannabis CBD oil can be a little contentious.

by Sian Ferguson · March 04, 2019

hemp cbd vs. cannabis cbd

If you’ve been reading into getting CBD oil, you might notice that some oils are labelled ‘hemp’ CBD oil while others are labeled ‘cannabis’ CBD oil. You might wonder what the difference is.

In short, hemp CBD oil comes from hemp while cannabis CBD oil comes from cannabis. Simple, huh? Not really.

The difference between hemp CBD oil and cannabis CBD oil can be a little contentious because the difference between hemp and cannabis is contentious. The binary of cannabis and hemp, much like the binary of sativa and indica, is pretty unclear.

Hemp and cannabis both come from the same genus of Cannabis plants. Both hemp and cannabis contain cannabinoids. These cannabinoids are the ‘active ingredients’ in the plants. They interact with your endocannabinoid system to produce different effects on your body.

While there are over 60 cannabinoids out there, the two that are the most prevalent are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). THC gets you high, while CBD does not.

US law defines hemp as the parts of the Cannabis Sativa plant containing no psychoactive properties. In general, sativa is said to have low amounts of THC while indica is meant to have higher amounts of THC. But the line between sativa and indica is very shady, because the plants have been interbred over the years.

Another tricky part? Many governments and institutions define hemp as containing 0.3 percent THC or less. Any more THC and it is likely to get you high, making it cannabis. The problem with this is that 0.3 percent is an arbitrary number. Even the person who came up with the definition, Ernest Small, notes that it’s arbitrary. In his book, ‘The Species Problem in Cannabis: Science & Semantics,’ he said that cannabis and hemp shouldn’t be seen as totally different plants, but a spectrum of variations of one plant.

The most important difference between hemp CBD oil and cannabis CBD oil is that hemp CBD oil is legal in most places while cannabis CBD oil is not. Since the 1970s, the Controlled Substances Act classified hemp as a schedule I drug, making it a controlled substance. Some farms in certain states were allowed to grow hemp for research purposes, but they weren’t technically allowed to sell it. Nevertheless, some growers did. Despite this, the Drug Enforcement Agency didn’t actually prosecute anyone for selling hemp. In December 2018, a new law made hemp fully legal to grow and sell in the US.

Cannabis, however, is not legal all over the US yet. This makes hemp CBD oil a little more easy to access than cannabis CBD oil.

The more you dig into the laws surrounding cannabis, hemp, and CBD, the more you realize that it’s based on arbitrary and scientifically contentious ideas.

Laws aside, the difference between hemp CBD oil and cannabis CBD oil could lie in something called the ‘entourage effect’. This is the idea that CBD works better when other cannabinoids are present. For this reason, full-spectrum CBD oil, which contains tiny amounts of other cannabinoids, is often favored over CBD isolate, which contains CBD and CBD alone.

The measurement of cannabinoids will vary from brand to brand, and it will also vary depending on whether it’s derived from hemp or cannabis. In this case, look at the individual packages for information. You might find that one brand of cannabis CBD oil contains the same measurements of cannabinoids as a particular bottle of hemp CBD oil. However, since cannabis contains higher amounts of THC, you’ll probably find higher concentrations of THC in full-spectrum cannabis CBD oil.

When it comes down to it, the difference between cannabis and hemp is primarily the law. When choosing between hemp CBD oil and cannabis CBD oil, you’ll want to consider the law in your particular country or state. You’ll also want to consider the issue of access. Even in some countries where cannabis is legal, hemp CBD oil might be easier to find.

In upcoming years, more research will be conducted on cannabis, and we’ll begin to understand it better. Hopefully, this will encourage governments to stop making laws based on outdated science and arbitrary classifications.


Sian is a writer, journalist and editor who covers cannabis, health, and social justice. Her work can be found on HealthlineTeen VogueEveryday FeminismHealthyWayand HelloGiggles. Visit her website or follow her on Twitter.