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4 Ways That Cannabis CBD Oil is Different From Hemp CBD Oil

Posted: December 16, 2019

When I was tasked with writing this article about the difference between cannabis-derived and hemp-derived CBD oil, the initial research I did actually made me more confused than ever. After I figured out that hemp seed oil and hemp-derived CBD oil are not the same thing, I ultimately found the information I needed. In this article, I will explain the main differences; it boils down to resin content, safety, regulations and effectiveness.

While the molecular structure of CBD is identical in cannabis-derived and hemp-derived CBD oil, there are several important differences.

Resin Concentration

The main difference between cannabis and hemp CBD oil is the resin content.

Hemp-derived CBD oil is low in resin content

Industrial hemp is grown from a particular stock seed. It can occupy to up to 100 plants per square meter. They tend to be skinny and bamboo-like plants and are harvested by machines.

Hemp plants only contain 3-5% CBD which means that a lot more plant material is required to produce a comparable amount of cannabis CBD oil. However, some cultivators have found a way to craft hemp cultivars with much higher concentrations of CBD; between 12-20%. They still keep the THC content at 0.3% or less. These varieties include: Cobbler, Berry Blossom and Cherry Charlotte.

Cannabis-derived CBD oil is extracted from the resinous-rich trichomes on the buds and to a lesser extent on the leaves. The trichomes contain the cannabinoids and terpenes. They are the sticky, oily glands that secrete the resin, also protect cannabis plants from excessive heat and ultraviolet rays, deter predators and trap pests. This is accomplished by way of their antifungal, antibacterial and insecticidal properties.

Safety Considerations

Hemp is a bioaccumulator which means that it sucks up whatever is in the soil in which it is grown. Unfortunately, that includes toxins, heavy metals and pollutants which can make there way into hemp-derived CBD oil.

Cannabis plants used to make CBD oil are typically grown from asexually reproduced clones. They occupy 1-2 bushy plants per square meter. The flowers are hand-harvested, dried, trimmed and cured. Every stage of their growth from seed to sale is controlled, monitored and tested.

Regulated cannabis-derived CBD oil that is produced by licensed cultivators contains 18-20% CBD along with a small amount of THC which triggers the “Entourage Effect.”

Here is how the US government assesses the difference by way of the Controlled Substance Act of 1970 (CSA):

Any cannabis sativa plant that contains resin or any preparation made from the resin is illegal. Those parts of the plant, mature stalks and sterilized seeds, are exempt from the legal definition of cannabis. Cannabis is considered hemp and not cannabis as long as no part of the plants, including leaves and flowers, exceeds 0.3% on a dry weight basis.

Here’s a really interesting tidbit of information. That 0.3% that the government came up with as the benchmark is an arbitrary, impractical holdover from the Reefer Madness furor. It lacks any scientific basis. In fact, it stems from a 1976 taxonomy report by Canadian plant researches, Ernest Small and Arthur Cronquist. Their intention was never to come up with such a demarcation.

Regulations and Testing

Because hemp is not regulated, there is no way to know if you are getting a safe, clean, high quality product. It is best to stay away from untested products that you ingest or use topically as they are likely to contain toxins and contaminants.

Because there are no regulations and testing requirements in the US for CBD oil made from hemp, buyer beware. These products can be purchased in stores and online in all 50 states.

  1. Lack of labeling standards means that there is no way to know if what the label says reflects what the product contains
  2. Lack of regulations means that there is no information about where the hemp is grown
  3. Lack of regulations means there is no information about the extraction method

Cannabis-derived CBD oil, can only be purchased in dispensaries in states with legal medical and recreational cannabis programs. The products are highly regulated and 3rd party tested so that consumers know exactly what is contained in their products. That means they are safe and free of toxins and heavy metals.

Extraction Methods

There are many different extraction methods used to remove the CBD oil from the flowers, stalks and leaves for both hemp and cannabis. Some are healthier and safer than others.

  • CO2 Extraction and Steam Distillation are healthier and safer
  • Olive Oil, MCT Oil, Avocado Oil and Coconut Oil can be safely used in your home
  • Ethanol Extraction
  • Hydrocarbon Extraction includes solvents such as butane, hexane, propane, ether and naphtha. They are highly flammable and can be harmful to consumers if the solvents aren’t fully removed during the extraction process.


Cannabis-derived CBD oil contains terpenes and other cannabinoids, such as CBC, CBG, CBN and THC, in addition to CBD.

Dr. Chanda Macias, CEO of Women Grow, and National Holistic, a medical cannabis dispensary in Washington, DC, points out that cannabis plants contain a more varied terpene content than hemp. They also contain higher levels of THC which triggers the “Entourage Effect.” The end result translates into more therapeutic benefits, for certain medical conditions.

Full-spectrum hemp-derived CBD products do not have the same potency or effectiveness as cannabis-derived CBD because they lack enough THC to trigger the “Entourage Effect.”

According to cultivators, the most medicinal CBD rich cannabis plants contain 20% (by dry weight) and about 1% THC, which exceeds the legal limit. Cultivators have adapted their cultivars to contain less than 0.3% THC.

Although cannabis-derived CBD oil contains a higher resin and terpene content, full-spectrum hemp-derived CBD oils may be just as effective in treating certain medical conditions. Try experimenting with both to find the best products for your needs.

Sources:, How Are Cannabis CBD Oil and Hemp CBD Oil Different, Sept 20, 2018, CBD Oil – Cannabis vs Hemp, What’s The Difference Between CBD Derived From Hemp ad Cannabis, Emma Stone, CBD Oil: An Introduction, Zoe Sigman

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