Cannabis leaf. Copyright Sally O

What’s the difference between Cannabis and Hemp-derived​ CBD?

CBD has been getting ALL the media attention recently, and with good reason (CBD has been used for centuries to successfully provide pain relief and to aid skin conditions), but in my plentiful research around CBD one thing is for SURE – not all CBD is created equal.

CBD can be extracted from two different Cannabis sativa plants that part of the same family. Hemp and Cannabis. So what’s the difference and how does it affect the CBD we consume?


Hemp plants are low-resin pants, meaning they do not produce the sticky substance usually present in the cannabis that is often smoked. The hemp plant contains CBD but naturally very low amounts of THC (less than 0.3%).

Industrial hemp is grown to make fibre, paper, clothes and food. From an environmental standpoint, hemp typically produces less CBD during the extraction process than its cannabis counterpart, meaning more plants are required to produce CBD products.

NB: Hemp-derived CBD and Hemp Oil are NOT the same thing. That’s a whole other blog post.

View this post on Instagram

They’re back! Find ‘Hi’ 5X #happysunday

A post shared by The Highly (@thehighly) on Aug 18, 2019 at 5:39am PDT

READ MORE: Your Questions About CBD Answered.


A sticky resin is formed in the buds and flowers of the female cannabis plant which contains both THC (recap: the stuff that gets you high) and potent CBD. This means that the plant has a wider range of intoxicating and medicinal uses.

Cannabis is more CBD-rich than it’s hemp counterpart, which means legalising cannabis for CBD extraction would be easier on the ecosystem and produce less waste. Shoutout to Canada and some states of America for legalising it!

Is there a therapeutic difference?

On a molecular level CBD is CBD, regardless of source. Most CBD oils on the market are labelled ‘full-spectrum extracts’. This means they contain CBD along with a range of other cannabinoids and terpenes found in the Cannabis Sativa plant. You won’t get high off of CBD products from either source as neither should contain more than 0.3% of THC.

View this post on Instagram

Props to our friends @edens.lair for continuing to dispel myths and replace them with evidence-based facts 👏🌿👩‍🔬🔥 “Sativa and Indica are the widely accepted terms used to classify strains by the way they might make you feel. Indica – physical body high, sleepy, relaxed. Sativa – energetic, outgoing, productive. ___ ⠀⠀ But, those words were coined based off of their physical characteristics. The terms were not meant to describe their suggested medicinal properties. A majority of cannabis plants today are hybrids, exhibiting both indica and sativa qualities, making the indica vs sativa methodology unreliable. ___ ⠀⠀ The only way to tell how a strain will make you feel for sure is through complex testing to determine the chemotype, or chemical makeup. This information tells us which compounds are within an a particular flower. There can be chemotype variations between each batch of flower because of environmental conditions. The growing conditions can change the chemical make up resulting in compound differences. This means the chemotype of each batch of flower would need to be tested to determine how it will make you feel once consumed”🔬

A post shared by Sativa Science Club (@sativa_science_club) on Jul 16, 2018 at 9:58am PDT

It’s the other things that come with your CBD oil that make hemp-based CBD oil quite different from one that’s cannabis-based. Hemp are ‘bio-accumulator’ plants that effectively draw toxins out of the soil (they were used to decontaminate Chernobyl-affected land!). This means that hemp-derived CBD products may contain a higher amount of naturally-occurring toxins. Knowing the growing conditions, quality of the soil, overall environment, and extraction methods is imperative to ensure you’re not ingesting additional crap.

The hemp plant itself is not used for its medicinal benefits, whereas the cannabis plant has been used for centuries in that way. Armed with that knowledge, I know which CBD products I will be investing in for general wellbeing.

Is any of it legal?

The 2019 Farm Bill in the US made it legal to sell and consume industrial hemp-derived CBD products grown in the US and overseas. However, this does NOT cover CBD derived from the cannabis plant grown for consumption – even if the THC is removed. CBD derived from high-THC plants is a very grey area, even in the states where the substance itself is legal.

CONFUSED? Same. It’s a mind-field in Australia right now.

Want more? Here’s my recommended canna-reading list:

Cannabis for Chronic Pain: A Proven Prescription for Using Marijuana to Relieve Your Pain and Heal Your Life

CBD: A Patient’s Guide to Medicinal Cannabis–Healing without the High

Cannabis And Cbd For Health And Wellness

Write a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.