Marijuana in recent years has become a lot more acceptable in many parts of the US today. In the vast majority of the states, possession of a small amount has been decriminalized, and medical marijuana is allowed for certain health conditions. In fact, in some states, it is legal to use recreational marijuana openly, with cafes dedicated to serving marijuana on the menu.
Sometimes you can hear people talk about marijuana and use hemp as a synonym for it. From a certain point of view, this makes a bit of sense. Marijuana and hemp are both in the cannabis sativa genus and species group.
Yet technically hemp is different from marijuana in terms of legality. Marijuana is still illegal under federal law, even while states have different rules for allowing its use. In contrast, hemp is absolutely legal under federal law. There’s even a bill called the 2018 Farm Bill that specifically states that all products that come from hemp are legal.
So, what’s going on? Are hemp and marijuana the same or different? If they’re different, what are the differences?
It’s true that both hemp and marijuana belong to the cannabis sativa group. But the main difference between the 2 is that marijuana can make you fee “high”. That’s actually the main point of buying marijuana for many years. Hemp, in marked contrast, does not. You can smoke hemp as much as you want and you won’t get that high feeling from it.
The intoxicated feeling is due to a chemical compound called THC. That’s easier to say and remember, as it is short for tetrahydrocannabinol. This THC is the main psychoactive compound in marijuana.
What makes hemp different is that its THC content cannot exceed 0.3%. If the THC content of the cannabis sativa is higher than this, then it is no longer hemp. It’s marijuana, even if the THC content is just 0.4%. That low level of THC won’t make you high either, but these are the rules.
Marijuana in comparison has very high levels of THC. This isn’t surprising, because through the decades the growers have been breeding their cannabis for this specific trait. There have been cases of marijuana plants with 30% THC. That’s one hundred times the THC present in hemp.
Hemp is Legal (Marijuana, Not So Much)
One of the more annoying things about marijuana use is that the law is quite muddled. There hasn’t even been a definitive case regarding the contrasting rules set by law. Federal law considers marijuana as a controlled substance like cocaine and heroin. Some states allow for medical marijuana, but only for certain specific health conditions. A handful of states let you use marijuana recreationally, while a few states also don’t even allow for medical marijuana at all.
However, it can still be argued that federal law trumps state law, so in theory, you can still be arrested by a federal law enforcement agency for using marijuana when state law allows this practice. Supposedly, these federal law enforcement agencies have been instructed to refrain arresting users and growers of marijuana in these states, but that can change at any time.
Hemp, on the other hand, is absolutely legal. There’s no confusion about this. The 2014 Farm Bill defined cannabis plants with just 0.3% THC as hemp and not marijuana. The 2018 Farm Bill (technically known as the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018) specifically declared that growing hemp and all hemp products are absolutely legal in all 50 states.
This means if you want to make sure that you’re not breaking the law, you’ll want products such as CBD oil extracted from hemp. These things are legal wherever you may be. You can buy these things over the counter or online if you don’t have a convenient hemp store near you.
There are 2 basic reasons to use CBD oil. You either want to get high or you want to treat a medical condition. The usual guideline is that you use cannabis oil (CBD oil from marijuana) if you wish to get high. Some say that you can stick with CBD oil from hemp if you want to treat a condition while you remain sober. However, others maintain that cannabis oil with high THC content may be more effective in some cases and for some people.
Differences in Appearance
The marijuana plants also differ in appearance compared to hemp. In general, marijuana plants are bushier and shorter. This is because of selective breeding taking into account the fact that the THC is found mainly in the cannabis flower. A bushier plant offers more “weed” for sale.
On the other hand, the hemp plant is skinnier and taller. This is because the growers breed for more fiber, and that is mostly found in the stalks of the plant.
Sativa and Indica
For decades, cannabis plants have been divided into 2 main varieties: sativa and indica. Technically there aren’t any plants that are pure sativa or indica. But you can have plants that are either sativa- or indica-dominant. You also have hybrids, which means a mix of the 2 varieties.
The common belief held by many users over the years is that the sativa type gives you more energy when you feel high. On the other hand, the indica strain is more “mellow” and it acts like a sedative. This means the sativa is probably more suitable if you’re using cannabis prior to working out or playing sports. If you prefer to just lie on your couch and watch TV for hours, you’ll probably better off with the indica.
The differentiation between sativa and indica and their supposed effects aren’t really supported by actual scientific studies. Instead, the chemical makeup of the particular cannabis plant is more indicative of its effects. You’ll want to take a look at its chemical profile. You need to look at the cannabinoids, which are the main chemical compounds in cannabis. In particular, you’ll want to look at the levels of THC and CBD.
The THC cannabinoid does have certain therapeutic effects, but it can make you feel intoxicated and high. Unsurprisingly, some people don’t want to take cannabis plants that can cause these effects. Parents are especially wary of having their children use these products.
On the other hand, cannabidiol or CBD is the cannabinoid with therapeutic effects that do not cause any sort of intoxication. This is why plenty of people want CBD oil and other cannabis products with high CBD and low THC. Many prefer the THC to be virtually non-existent, which means plenty of people go with the hemp option.
CBD Oil and Cannabis Oil
If you want to go with the non-existent THC option, you may want to limit your search to products labeled as CBD oil. This is the usual term for CBD oil that comes from hemp. While technically the CBD oil can indeed come from marijuana (plants with higher than 0.3% THC), the term “CBD oil” is reserved for CBD oil from hemp. Sometimes, however, it is also called “hemp oil” or “CBD hemp oil” just to make it really clear that this is a hemp product.
However, within that grouping, you still have several types to choose from. There’s full-spectrum CBD oil, also known as full-spectrum hemp oil or FSHO. These products contain other phytonutrients including THC, though by definition it doesn’t go past 0.3% THC.
Another group is the broad-spectrum hemp oil, which also contains all the other phytonutrients found in hemp. However, the hemp oil has been processed in such a way that there’s virtually no THC left.
Finally, you have CBD isolates. This means it only contains CBD. It doesn’t have any THC or even any of the other phytonutrients.
If you don’t go with CBD oil and pick cannabis oil instead, you then will have to deal with high levels of the other cannabinoids. In particular, you need to take a look at the THC levels. Some strains have low THC levels, but these can still be much higher than 0.3% THC. Then you have strains that contain low CBD and high THC. Other strains contain both high levels for CBD and THC.
Is CBD Hemp Oil the Obvious Choice for Everyone?
On the face of it, CBD oil from hemp is a very logical option. At the very least, it’s absolutely legal. You can show any cop (including the FBI) the label saying it’s a hemp plant product and you’re in the clear even if you’re in a state where marijuana is absolutely illegal under state law.
In addition, the THC content is virtually non-existent. This means there’s absolutely no way you can feel high when you take CBD oil from hemp. You can use this and enjoy the therapeutic effects, while you can still drive and work at your job. You won’t feel scared about having a child use this if it has been prescribed by a doctor for your kid.
Because of these reasons, CBD oil from hemp can be found and bought with no hassle. The sellers aren’t worried about legalities and neither are the users.
However, it may not be the best choice for everyone. Obviously, CBD oil isn’t suitable for those looking to get high. Those people (who should be in the states where recreational marijuana use is allowed) are better off with cannabis oil from marijuana. The much higher THC levels in cannabis oil will offer intoxicating effects.
Still, even those who simply wish to get better by using the CBD oil may not get the results they’re hoping for when they pick the CBD oil from hemp. An increasing amount of evidence suggests that cannabis oil may offer better results.
One issue here is that comparatively speaking, you generally have higher CBD levels in cannabis oil than in hemp. CBD is a cannabinoid, and marijuana is known to contain high levels of cannabinoids including CBD. In comparison, the CBD from hemp is less.
Another factor to consider is that CBD alone may not be as effective as CBD that works with THC. Some studies suggest that the best therapeutic results come from marijuana cannabis oil with high levels of both CBD and THC. Marijuana also generally has more cannabinoids other than CBD and THC compared to hemp, and these other cannabinoids can also provide some therapeutic benefits.
The intoxicating effects of THC are worrisome, but you may want to accept it as a worthwhile side effect if the CBD oil you get is much more effective. If you’re using the CBD oil for pain relief, then feeling high is a small price to pay for taking away the pain. This is especially true if the pain is severe. The low THC and your sobriety don’t really help when the low CBD levels don’t help with the pain relief either.
In the end, it’s up to you to determine whether the intoxication is worth the higher effectiveness of the cannabis oil. If you’re an adult, then it may not be as clear-cut an issue as you might think at first.
The future of CBD oil isn’t really clear, and that’s a shame. Part of the reason for this is the ongoing confusion regarding the legality of marijuana and CBD oil products. It’s not hard to imagine an uninformed cop harassing users and sellers of cannabis oil where medical marijuana is legal, or even questioning users of CBD hemp oil.
It’s also true that the research on cannabis efficacy is just at the beginning stages, so there are too many unanswered questions regarding how it works and how safe it really is. It doesn’t help that different states have different laws, and that federal law forbids the use of marijuana.
In the meantime, you should talk to your doctor first if you’re planning to use cannabis or CBD oil for a medical condition. Check the rules in your state regarding the use of medical marijuana, just to be on the safe side.