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What are the differences between cannabis, marijuana and hemp?

You don’t need to take a course when it comes to buying CBD, but there are a number of terms you’ll want to understand to make the product purchase that’s right for you and even legal in your state. Basically, you should understand what are cannabis, hemp and marijuana and how they factor into your purchase decision.  It’s actually pretty simple and we’ll try to untangle the terms so you can shop with confidence.


Cannabis is the link

Cannabis is a genus of flowering plant that has three primary species: Cannabis Sativa, Cannabis Indica, and Cannabis ruderalis.  The flowering plant is believed to have originated in the steppes of Central Asia or Tibet and has been cultivated by humans for thousands, if not tens of thousands of years.[1] Both hemp and marijuana are varieties of Cannabis sativa, but we’ll get back to them in just a bit. First a bit more about cannabis.


There are over 500 distinct compounds in cannabis, including cannabinoids, terpenoids, flavonoids and omega fatty acids. Flavonoids are a diverse group of plant chemicals thought to fight off free radicals. Terpenoids are aromatic plant compounds found in high concentrations in the cannabis plant. Cannabinoids are naturally-occurring chemicals that interact with natural receptors in the brain and body to affect mood, appetite, pain response, and immunity, among other effects. The cannabinoid tetrahydrocannabinol or THC is the primary psychoactive in cannabis. The other well-known cannabinoid in cannabis is CBD, which has pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory effects (See Confused About CBD and THC? Here’s What You Need to Know).





Breaking down hemp versus marijuana

Now that you know something about cannabis, let’s look at the difference between hemp and marijuana.  For some the distinction is simple – marijuana will get you high and hemp won’t. That’s true, but there’s more to know about the two in terms of chemical makeup, use and cultivation and legality. Both hemp and marijuana belong to the cannabis sativa species. However, in the United States, marijuana is classified as any cannabis sativa plant with over 0.3 percent THC. Hemp is defined as a Cannabis plant with 0.3 percent or less THC, so it won’t get you high.


From a historical perspective, hemp is considered one of the oldest known agricultural crops, used for making paper, textiles and cord products. Today, it’s used for making clothing, paper, fiberboard, environmentally friendly plastic alternatives and more. For years, the Federal Government did not distinguish hemp from other cannabis plants, all of which were illegal under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). The 2018 Farm Bill legalized the production of hemp as an agricultural commodity and removed it from the list of controlled substances. If a hemp plant has more than 0.3 percent THC, it is considered marijuana.


Marijuana continues to be classified as a schedule 1 substance under the CSA. Marijuana for medical or recreational purposes, depending on state laws, can be smoked, put in foods or even brewed in tea. Marijuana is legal for medicinal and recreational use in 11 states for adults over the age of 21 and legal for medicinal use in 33 states.


CBD from hemp or marijuana, which shall it be?

As you look across the landscape of CBD products, you’ll find hemp CBD versus marijuana CBD offerings.    Hemp-derived CBD coms from industrial hemp plants and marijuana-derived CBD is sourced from marijuana plants. The molecular structure of the plants is the same. Still the federal legal issues apply. The federal government classifies hemp-derived CBD as legal if it contains 0.3 percent THC or less while marijuana-derived CBD is illegal and classified as a controlled substance regardless of the amount of THC.


At the state-level, the legality of CBD products is a different issue, which can lead to confusion. States where medical marijuana is legal allow for the use of CBD extract in products. States that haven't legalized medical marijuana allow limited use of cannabis oils if they contain a low level of THC and a high-level CBD.[2]



Lab+Blends CBD

Lab+Blends products are all made with CBD from industrial hemp. Furthermore, since our topical products are isolates, which means all the other cannabis compounds and impurities have been removed, you don’t every have to worry about trace amount of CBD, which can be found in full-spectrum CBD products. (See: What you need to know about the cannabinoid spectrum range).


Shop Lab+Blends Hemp-Derived, THC-Free CBD Products



[1] Nicole Richter, “Where Does Cannabis Originate From? [Facts and Myths],” Way of Leaf, 19, March 2020.
[2] Nagele-Piazza, Lisa, “The ABCs of THC: What Employers Need to Know about Marijuana Laws,” SHRM, January 30, 2019.