Hemp CBD is a form of cannabidiol (CBD) that has been sourced from hemp plants rather than marijuana.
CBD is a non-psychoactive compound that shows promise in treating many conditions, ranging from anxiety and depression to epilepsy and chronic pain.
These health benefits have led to increased demand for CBD, and the market for CBD products is rapidly expanding.
CBD derived from hemp is easy to find and purchase across the United States. On the other hand, marijuana CBD products are only available in states with legal medical or recreational cannabis.
For this reason, hemp CBD is more accessible to a wider portion of the population. It is also an appealing option for people looking for a cannabis treatment without any intoxicating effects.
Is Hemp CBD Legal?
Hemp and marijuana are two types of the cannabis plant. The difference is that hemp has less than 0.3% THC, while marijuana contains higher levels of THC.
The legality of hemp in the United States is complicated. According to the U.S. government, all cannabis plants are illegal — however it has specified only certain parts of the plant to be included in this prohibition, such as the leaves and flowers.
Hemp is commercially harvested for its fibrous stalks and seeds, rather than its flowers. These allowed portions of the plant are what legal hemp CBD products are made from.
Hemp food products, like hemp seed oil and hemp protein powder, have been legal in the United States since the Hemp Industries Association v. DEA court ruling in 2004.
“Through our developmental process, we found a way to fit our products into this hemp food category,” explains Stuart Titus, CEO and president of the San Diego-based company Medical Marijuana, Inc.
Medical Marijuana, Inc. is the parent company of HempMeds, which sells and ships hemp CBD oil to all 50 U.S. states and almost 50 countries across the globe.
How is Hemp CBD Made?
CBD is extracted from the raw hemp plant with a solvent that splits the cannabinoid from the plant material.
The solvent is then evaporated, leaving the CBD oil behind. The most common method producers use is supercritical fluid extraction, a high-tech extraction technique that utilizes a CO2 liquid solvent.
This method is preferred because it is non-toxic and safe. Homemade hemp CBD is sometimes produced with other, less-effective solvents like ethanol, olive oil or petroleum.
Taking CBD from hemp is more difficult than sourcing it from marijuana. Most cannabis-derived CBD is from CBD-rich strains, which requires less processing.
“It’s very easy to extract cannabinoids from the flowering tops of the plants, but that part of the plant is considered scheduled [by the DEA],” explains Titus, with HempMeds.
“If you do this from hemp, and do it properly and legally, you utilize the non-scheduled parts of the plants. If you’re not doing it in this way, you’re in some way skirting the law.”
In order to operate legally in the federal government’s eye, HempMeds uses the stalks and seeds from hemp that has below the legal limit of THC.
“It’s an additional process, an additional step,” he says. “You have to grind, squeeze and juice, if you will, the stalk and it’s a little bit more expensive and time consuming, but nevertheless [necessary] to follow the letter of the law.”
It is not federally legal to grow hemp in the United States (with exceptions for research purposes), but it is legal to import products made from hemp.
Hemp is grown widely in Canada, Europe and elsewhere. HempMeds grows a high-CBD industrial hemp strain in Europe, processes it into a CBD-rich hemp oil there, and imports that to the United States, where the product is finalized.
Is Hemp CBD the Same As Marijuana CBD?
CBD is the same whether it is sourced from hemp or from marijuana.
“CBD, the actual molecule, is the same from both plants,” says Martin A. Lee, director of the educational nonprofit Project CBD and author of Smoke Signals. “Where it gets different is the plant itself.”
CBD, like other cannabinoids, is found in the plant’s resin. Resin is concentrated in the flowering tops and leaves of the plant, and is less present in the stalks and seeds.
Marijuana has a lot of resin from which medicinal material can be extracted. Hemp has less resin, and therefore a lot more of the plant is required to produce the same amount of CBD.
“The hemp plant is a marvelous plant you can use for many things, but it isn’t the ideal plant to make a medicine out of because it doesn’t have a lot of the medicinal material,” Lee explains.
When made into an extract, a balanced strain of cannabis will also include a host of other beneficial compounds, like THC, terpenes, flavonoids, polyphenols and minor cannabinoids.
Taken together, these have what is known as the “entourage effect” — working synergistically for a greater therapeutic effect. Lee cautions that pure CBD products, such as hemp CBD isolates, are lacking in this benefit.
Another potential difference between hemp- and marijuana-based CBD is that, depending on its formulation, the latter may contain enough THC to have intoxicating effects and impact drug test results.
What Are The Drawbacks of Hemp CBD?
While extracting CBD from marijuana is easier and more productive, legal marijuana is not an option in many states.
Hemp CBD fills this niche, but because of its legal grey areas, it is not regulated and tested to the same degree as other supplements or health products.
“When you extract from the low-resin [hemp] plant, you need a lot of plant matter to get a little bit of CBD,” Lee says. “The more plant matter you extract from, the more potential problems you have with the product.”
Hemp, like all cannabis plants, is a bioaccumulator. This means it draws toxins and heavy metals from the soil. The more plant matter needed for an extraction, the more accumulated toxins will be present.
This is why Titus says HempMeds’ products are made from non-GMO hemp grown without chemical fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides. To further assure customers of their safety, they are manufactured using a non-toxic CO2 solvent and are lab tested three times.
Until better labeling and regulation is available, Lee says it’s up to consumers to research companies and products to ensure quality and safety:
“People need to be conscious consumers. There are some good choices … but there is a lot [of hemp CBD] that’s not a very good product, and it’s hard for people to know what’s what.”
Hemp CBD is a type of cannabis extract that is rich in cannabidiol. The term ‘hemp’ refers to the fact that these products are made using industrial-grade hemp instead of marijuana.
Despite marijuana’s complicated legal status, demand for products containing CBD has grown in recent years.
Hemp CBD is more difficult to produce than CBD derived from marijuana. However, it is a good option for those seeking to buy CBD in states without medical or recreational marijuana laws.