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CBD Extracts: Hemp versus Cannabis

Updated: Mar 29, 2021

There has been continuous and largely unresolved debate about cannabidiol or CBD as it is commonly referred, and its potential for medical application. It seems every product under the sun claims to contain CBD and there are thousands of products to choose from. With cannabis remaining illegal under federal law, much of the necessary research around CBD remains unknown, however CBD isn’t only produced from cannabis. Before diving right in, a little background information will help clarify and distinguish CBD products from hemp versus CBD products from cannabis.

What is CBD?

Cannabidiol is one of over 200 active cannabinoids contained within cannabis that is also found in hemp. Cannabinoids have been found to create a range of effects, with CBD having one of the greatest potentials for medicinal, therapeutic, and even psychological well-being.

While the Cannabinoid THC is known for its psychoactive effects, CBD has long been considered a non-psychoactive cannabinoid. CBD’s interaction with the Endocannabinoid System has been shown to promote general well-being and therefore is considered non-psychoactive, but not necessarily free of mind- or mood-altering effect. Due to CBD’s interaction with the endocannabinoid system, a gradual and overall improvement in outlook, well-being, or state of mind can be achieved without the intoxicating effects of THC.

What is CBD For?

With CBD’s popularity and hemp’s newly legalized status, CBD research is continually finding new application for the second most abundant cannabinoid in cannabis. It has been shown that CBD works as an anti-inflammatory, analgesic, anti-anxiety, and seizure suppressant.

Continued medicinal research is finding new applications and learning additional ways CBD can be beneficial or used medicinally at a staggering rate. Due to the recent legalization of hemp derived CBD, testing and research can now be conducted with many uses still being discovered and others needing the scrutiny of scientific testing and peer review.

Where Does CBD Come From?

While CBD is most often associated with cannabis, Cannabidiol can also be extracted from cannabis’ relative, the hemp plant. Since recreational use cannabis was legalized in numerous states, extraction techniques are better than ever, which allows for the effective extraction of CBD using chemical solvents, from either cannabis or hemp plants.

How is CBD Extracted?

The cannabinoid CBD may be extracted from either cannabis or hemp plants. Once a crude extract is completed either using butane, propane, or CO2, distillation provides another level of filtration and allows for cannabinoids to be isolated. Since CBD can be isolated and purified to contain no THC, what’s the difference between CBD extracted from hemp versus cannabis? The answer is nothing.

The organic chemical compound CBD is a molecule that once extracted, can be isolated from either cannabis or hemp plants. There is no difference pharmacologically speaking, between CBD collected from cannabis versus CBD collected from hemp, when looking at the CBD molecule alone. However, most CBD products are not an isolate or distillate, but rather, they contain trace to small amounts of additional cannabinoids, including THC.

Many of these cannabinoid compounds we still know very little about, however the early science indicates potential for the medical application of numerous cannabinoids. Scientifically speaking, CBD is CBD, but with today’s over the counter CBD market, there are some stark differences in the legalities and additional cannabinoids often found in CBD products extracted from Cannabis. Hemp derived CBD products contain less than 0.03 percent.

CBD Legalities

Thanks to The Farm Bill of 2018, hemp is legal again across the United States and a surge in medical evidence is rising. With CBD sales projected to reach $89 Billion globally by 2026, the question often remains: Is there is a difference between CBD extracted from hemp and CBD extracted from cannabis? Having discussed the similarity of the CBD molecule itself, let’s look closer at the two sources of CBD.

History of Prohibition

At the turn of the 17th century, America’s Founding Fathers grew hemp. George Washington was a starch proponent for Hemp as a cash crop. It was abundant and used in everything from textiles to consumer goods. Despite flourishing as an agricultural crop, the Marijuana Tax act of 1937 made cannabis and hemp illegal, destroying the prospering hemp market, while preventing medicinal cannabis research for well over 75 years. Thanks to relaxed cannabis laws, The Farm Bill of 2018 legalized the commercial production and manufacture of hemp once again, with CBD extractions fueling the hemp market.

What is Hemp?

What was once a common plant, hemp has caused a lot of confusion over the years with its relation to cannabis. Despite looking similar and being from the same species as cannabis sativa, hemp contains almost no THC. Without the psychoactive cannabinoid THC, hemp produces little to no Euphoric effect. Industrial hemp contains less than 0.03% THC, which remains the legal limit and cut-off point in deciding legality.

C.B.D. from Hemp

When extracting CBD from Hemp, there’s some distinct differences in the laws. CBD remains illegal when derived from cannabis under the federal law, whereas any form of hemp and hemp derived CBD is legal since 2018. Hemp and hemp extracted CBD can be produced, manufactured, and sold nation-wide without fear of legal repercussions. The Controlled Substance Act, C.S.A., excludes CBD harvested from hemp, while it continues to list cannabis derived CBD as a controlled substance. Hemp CBD is legal both on the state and Federal level across the country, causing a surge in America’s hemp producers.

Despite its legal status Hemp CBD remains loosely regulated in the United States. This is reason to educate yourself before deciding on a CBD product. Look for testing and see if your hemp CBD product has undergone any third party testing. It is possible for hemp CBD to gain USDA approval as organic, to help ensure safe consumption. Do your research before purchasing hemp CBD and look for trusted brands, testing, and certifications to ensure safety.

CBD from Cannabis

While hemp contains extremely low THC levels, cannabis can range drastically in its CBD and THC content. Thanks to recreational cannabis and expanded scientific testing, the parameters surrounding legal hemp CBD say it must remain below 0.03% THC content. In states that have legalized recreational or medicinal cannabis use, products are sold varying extensively in cannabinoid content. With THC contents reaching over 30% in some cannabis varieties, CBD products extracted from cannabis are likely to contain high amounts of CBD and THC, causing psychoactive effects that are extremely apparent.

While CBD extracted from cannabis can be isolated, it usually isn’t. Most cannabis derived CBD products will have their THC to CBD ratios as 1:1, 2:1, 5:1, and up to 20:1 CBD to THC ratios. While these numbers determine the ratio or amount of CBD to the amount of THC, they do not reflect what the total amount of either number is. For that you must look again and find the total milligrams of THC content to understand the ratio between the two numbers. A 20:1 CBD to THC content will cause little to no psychoactive response. A 1:1 product will be psychoactive and have increased medicinal potency.

Cannabis CBD Legality

While cannabis derived CBD appears to be more medicinally beneficial, it remains illegal on the federal level. With cannabis still classified as a schedule one drug, it is claimed to have no medicinal benefit, making research hard to come by. Many states are changing their cannabis laws, but it’s important to remember that even pure CBD is still federally illegal when extracted from cannabis.

Ten states have legalized cannabis use and many more have passed medicinal cannabis laws, making cannabis derived CBD legal on state levels only.

The Entourage Effect

With cannabis derived CBD causing stimulation, euphoria, and other psychoactive effects, recent discoveries of the Entourage Effect show why Cannabis derived CBD is often more medicinally beneficial than hemp derived CBD. Having isolated THC only to realize it lacks effect, the Entourage Effect discovered how CBD works in unison with THC, cannabinoids, and terpenes to produce and determine effects.

Many of the cannabinoids that contribute to the Entourage Effect are lacking in Hemp derived CBD and can only be found in CBD products extracted from cannabis. While the CBD molecule remains identical from cannabis to hemp, it is the full-spectrum profile of cannabinoids and terpenes causing the Entourage Effect.

Non-Psychoactive CBD

If you’re looking for non-psychoactive health benefits, CBD extracted from hemp is the go-to. Another benefit of hemp derived CBD is that organic, FDA approval is possible. assuring you it’s safe for consumption. Solvent extraction from hemp doesn’t have to be concerned with high THC levels, instead collecting full spectrums of CBD.

What’s More Effective?

CBD has been shown to be more effective in treating ailments when taken in combination with THC rather than ingesting CBD alone. Those who need CBD for serious illness, ailments, or injuries, cannabis derived CBD is going to be more beneficial than hemp derived CBD, but this has little to do with actual CBD content. It has much more to do with the range of cannabinoids and even terpenes that are present and work in combination (entourage effect) with CBD to produce medicinally beneficial results.


The legalization of hemp will bring research to the cannabis field and CBD, with discoveries appearing around every corner. The future is bright for CBD extracted from Hemp and Cannabis, with each plant helping to further the cause of the other.

Written for and published by CannaWrite


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