Updated on August 16, 2020.
Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
Cannabidiol (CBD) grew in popularity during the last few years until it became the health trend you see today. You can find CBD products on the shelves of natural health stores across the United States and buy them online. Some cafes even sell CBD lattes meant to promote wellness and give you energy. Now that CBD is such a hot topic, you may wonder — where does it come from? Is it the same as medical marijuana?
The CBD found in over-the-counter products comes from hemp, while producers derive the CBD sold at dispensaries from marijuana. Both hemp and marijuana count as Cannabis sativa plants. A few crucial differences separate marijuana from hemp, and this distinction separates hemp CBD from marijuana CBD. Learn the facts about hemp-based and marijuana-derived CBD so you can get the best treatment possible.
Laws for Marijuana-Based and Hemp-Derived CBD
In the United States, the federal and state governments have different policies regarding hemp and marijuana CBD. The 2018 Farm Bill makes the law clearer than when we had the 2014 Farm Bill, but the rules still need an explanation. Both the 2014 and 2018 bills rely on a specific definition of hemp.
According to federal law, a Cannabis sativa plant that contains less than 0.3 percent THC counts as hemp. When a plant has more than 0.3 percent, it becomes illegal. THC, which has the full name tetrahydrocannabinol, causes the “high” associated with marijuana. Most Cannabis sativa plants have at least trace amounts of the compound, and the 0.3 percent benchmark accounts for this fact. With the changes made by the 2018 bill, hemp-derived CBD that complies with the rest of the law doesn’t count as a controlled substance.
Meanwhile, marijuana, or Cannabis sativa that has more than 0.3 percent THC, has a Schedule I designation. The Drug Enforcement Administration considers Schedule I drugs as substances with low potential for medical benefits. While we know marijuana does relieve symptoms, we still have this law because of prohibition in the past. Any CBD that comes from a marijuana plant counts as a Schedule I substance.
So, if CBD has these regulations, how could stores sell it over-the-counter before the new Farm Bill? The DEA can prioritize which laws to enforce. Many authorities don’t bother to pursue CBD cases because they have other substances to focus on. However, some states have stricter CBD enforcement than the federal government. For example, a July 2018 ruling in Arizona put CBD’s status in the state in question. Before using hemp-derived CBD, remember to check your local and state laws.
On a side note, some types of marijuana-based CBD have a Schedule V designation. To give patients access to the FDA-approved CBD medicine Epidiolex, the DEA changed its schedule. This decision does not affect other types of CBD, but researchers may have increased opportunities to study Epidiolex, which could help us make a stronger case for all forms of marijuana to become legal.
Differences in Terpene and Cannabinoid Profiles
Marijuana and hemp CBD have “CBD” in their names, but they contain vastly different amounts of the cannabinoid. High-quality hemp CBD formulas have about 3.5 percent CBD. Meanwhile, marijuana-derived CBD products can have as much as a 20 percent concentration. The amount of CBD in hemp products has enough to supplement your health, but not enough to make a significant difference.
You also don’t get to benefit from the entourage effect when you use hemp CBD. In the entourage effect, CBD and THC work together to offer added relief for symptoms like chronic pain. Marijuana-based medications have higher levels of THC than hemp-based items. When combined with a large amount of CBD, THC can enhance the other cannabinoid’s effects without any psychoactive side effects.
Hemp-derived CBD also has fewer terpenes than marijuana CBD. These components contribute to the entourage effect, as well, to enhance your treatment. They work with cannabinoids and each other to relieve symptoms and improve your health.
Availability in Your Area
Unless you live in a state with recreational marijuana, you will have an easier time finding hemp-based CBD than marijuana-derived CBD. You have three possible sources for your CBD medicine:
Natural Health Stores: At natural health stores, you can buy hemp-derived CBD supplements. Thanks to CBD’s growing popularity, you can often find these products in small towns, as well as larger areas. Remember to check a product’s CBD concentration before buying it.
Online: Plenty of online stores are dedicated to selling CBD. These shops offer a wide selection, but they also require the most discretion during shopping. Look into product and store reviews to see what other customers have to say about their experiences before making your purchase.
Dispensaries: You can get marijuana-derived CBD from recreational and medical dispensaries. Adults 21 and older can shop at recreational dispensaries, but you need a patient card to go to a medical dispensary. Medical-grade CBD products typically a higher level of quality and concentration than over-the-counter CBD.
The availability of these sources in your region may vary. Research your state’s marijuana laws and look for natural health stores in your area.
Which One Is Better?
We recommend getting medical-grade CBD products derived from marijuana, but not all patients have access to them. Your state’s laws, your financial situation and dispensary availability in your area all influence whether you can get CBD medicine. Use our resources in the top menu to find doctors, dispensaries and relevant laws to determine your situation. A marijuana-trained doctor can help you discover even more resources if you need them.
More Resources on CBD From MarijuanaDoctors.com
Our team aims to serve as the top online source of medical marijuana knowledge. If you want to learn more about CBD medication, we welcome you to check out our resources. The MarijuanaDoctors.com guide to cannabidiol explains everything about CBD in easy-to-understand terms.