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The growth in the popularity of CBD goes hand in hand with the availability of a vast range of CBD products. However, a number of consumers are often confused if the CBD within these products come from cannabis or hemp. 

In short, CBD is derived from different types of the same plant – Cannabis Sativa. Much of the confusion around CBD derived from hemp and cannabis is related to the name, makeup, and classification of the plant.

To put it simply, hemp plants contain a higher level of CBD, while cannabis plants come with more tetrahydrocannabinol or THC. This is the compound often associated with the ‘high’ obtained from marijuana use.

To be classified as federally legal, hemp-based CBD products need to contain less than 0.3% THC, however, it can still be considered illegal in certain states. More on this at the end of this article.

In contrast, CBD products derived from cannabis are illegal under federal law but legal in some states. It is best that consumers check the appropriate state laws if traveling between state boundaries. 


What is the Reason Behind CBD’s Popularity?

Promising health benefits is the main cause of CBD’s popularity and the increasing availability of CBD products. Consumers are turning to CBD to help with a range of mental and physical problems from addiction and depression to acute pain and insomnia.

While scientific studies confirming the positive effects of CBD are still ongoing, some available evidence shows that CBD interacts with the body’s endocannabinoid system and influences its natural signaling process.

You can read more about the potential health benefits of CBD here. 

CBD is not psychoactive and is just one of more than 500 phytochemicals naturally occurring in the Cannabis sativa plant. On the other hand, THC or delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol is one of the other compounds present in the plant and is associated with the ‘high’ experienced from marijuana use.


Hemp Explained

Hemp is a kind of Cannabis sativa plant that has been cultivated by humans for centuries. It is used to make everyday products like clothes, rope, sailes and more. The third President of the United States, Thomas Jefferson was himself a hemp grower and industrial hemp has a long and productive history in the country.

The Farm Bill passed in 2018 lays out that those Cannabis sativa plants that have less than the mandated 0.3% of THC can be considered as hemp or industrial hemp. The bill allows hemp producers to grow the crop under strict regulations in all but a few states in the US. 

While hemp plants do contain THC, the levels are lower or equal to 0.3%. That said, certain processed hemp-based products such as gummies, tablets or capsules, and oils can still cause a bit of a ‘high’.

In most cases, CBD manufacturers make use of the flowers and the leaves of the hemp plant to produce various CBD products.


Cannabis Explained

Cannabis plants generally come in three categories – C. indica, C. ruderalis, and C. sativa. There is also a range of hybrid varieties but they are all derived from these three base strains. Needless to say, these three strains of cannabis plants contain a much higher level of THC than hemp plants. At the same time, these plants also contain a lower amount of CBD and the gap between the hemp and Cannabis variety of the plants has become more pronounced with time.

A study published in 2016 examined the changing potency of cannabis plants. Analysis from the study concluded that the potency of the plants rose from an average of 4% in 1995 to 12% almost two decades later. At the same time, the levels of CBD in the plants fell from .28% in 2001 to less than 15% by 2014.


CBD from Hemp and Cannabis Compared

Both hemp and cannabis plants contain CBD, THC among more than 500 other compounds. The difference between the two plants lies in the volume of CBD and THC they contain. The hemp plant contains a higher level of CBD while Cannabis has more THC.

It is important to note that the health benefits of CBD remain the same irrespective of the plant it comes from. Additionally, the side effects associated with CBD like tiredness and an upset stomach remain unchanged. This is down to the fact that the chemical makeup of CBD is not dependent on the plant it comes from. 

The difference between the two is in the amount of CBD that can be extracted from each plant. As hemp plants have a higher level of CBD, it is the plant of choice for manufacturers of CBD products. It is also a choice with the least amount of legal complications. 

Another important difference between CBD derived from cannabis vs. that derived from hemp is the legal status. The Farm Bill passed in 2018 made CBD products (that meet specific standards) legal across a majority of US states.

The Bill does not give legal status to CBD products made from plants that have a higher level of THC. It specifies that CBD products need to have less than 0.3% THC. 

According to the US Drug Enforcement Administration categories all CBD products that have more than 0.3% THC to be a Schedule I drug



CBD products that are derived from Hemp and contain less than the prescribed .3 percent of THC are legal per federal law. However, certain state laws may still deem it illegal.

CBD products that are derived from Marijuana are illegal per federal law but remain legal under the laws of certain states. 

It is advisable to check the appropriate state laws in case of travel. It is important to note that over-the-counter CBD products are not approved by the FDA. 

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