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What’s the Difference Between Marijuana CBD and Hemp CBD?

CBD products and cannabis leaves

Cannabidiol (CBD) is the same compound in marijuana or hemp — the only difference is the amount of THC each plant contains.

Hemp-derived CBD is cannabidiol derived from hemp plants that contain 0.3% THC or less, while marijuana-derived CBD is from cannabis plants that may have well above the 0.3% THC legal limit for hemp plants. Marijuana plants may be bred to produce either more THC or more CBD.

Both marijuana (aka cannabis or chemotype I cannabis) and hemp (aka chemotypes II, III, IV, or V hemp) are Cannabis sativa. Marijuana has been developed over time for cannabinoid production, including both tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). Hemp, meanwhile, has been grown over time to increase the amount of fiber, providing building materials and other industrial applications. Both contain cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids.

Whether the CBD comes from marijuana or hemp doesn’t make any difference in how they interact with the human body.

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What Is Marijuana CBD?

For many years, breeders focused on producing cannabis plants with higher levels of THC. Such cannabis varieties tend to have little-to-no CBD in them. Over the last two decades, cultivars (strains) with higher levels of CBD have developed as demand for cannabinoids increased. More medical patients sought a cannabis varietal with less of an intoxicating effect.

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How It Works

CBD does not bind to cannabinoid receptors 1 or 2 (CB1 or CB2), and CBD has a low affinity for both CB1 and CB2 receptors. CBD is a CB1 and CB2 receptor antagonist, meaning it blocks them. This can reduce anandamide reuptake, meaning more is available in the body.

CBD is also an allosteric modulator of mu- and delta-opioid receptors, an inverse agonist of 5-HT1A receptors, and an agonist of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor y (PPARy). In plain English, this means that CBD can help turn down the volume of pain signals sent by the brain by modulating opioid receptors, boosting mood by interacting with serotonin receptors, and reducing inflammation by interacting with PPARy.


Due to its pharmacology, CBD found in cannabis may be helpful for:

Potential Benefits

  • It is possible to get products very high in CBD.
  • A broad range of THC:CBD ratios are available.
  • Medical cannabis is a source of phytocannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids with anti-inflammatory effects (the entourage effect).
  • Lower doses of CBD may be needed when mixed with other cannabinoids.

Risks and Drawbacks

  • Not available in all US states.
  • Federally illegal and can have social, economic, and legal consequences.
  • Some people may need to avoid THC or only consume extremely low doses.

What Is Hemp CBD?

Hemp CBD is a product that utilizes CBD derived from Cannabis sativa cultivar that contains 0.3% THC or less, called “hemp.” Hemp is low in THC and higher in CBD, and Hemp also contains other cannabinoids like cannabigerol (CBG) and cannabinol (CBN). Both hemp and marijuana are Cannabis sativa, but each is a distinct cultivar with its unique cannabinoid content, chemical makeup, and uses.

How It Works

Hemp CBD works in the same way that CBD from marijuana does. However, as hemp CBD products tend to contain less THC, they are not as intoxicating. There are also pure CBD or CBD isolate products that do not include other cannabinoids, and these can have different effects than broad-spectrum or full-spectrum hemp products or CBD-rich cannabis products. Those with seizures may be prescribed Epidiolex, pure CBD extracted from pharmaceutical-grade cannabis and contains no THC.


There are no proven medical uses for hemp CBD, but there are reports that it can help improve mood and fight inflammation. CBD is useful for improving mood, reducing pain, and aiding sleep.

Potential Benefits

  • Hemp CBD is legal and widely available.
  • Hemp CBD is not intoxicating.

Risks and Drawbacks

  • Compared to medical cannabis, which is geared towards phytocannabinoid production, the amount of cannabinoids available in hemp can be low.
  • There are many quality and regulatory issues – some products are poorly made and may contain pollutants, pesticides, and other health and safety concerns.
  • Some people may require THC and other cannabinoids for the CBD to be effective.
  • Larger doses of CBD may be needed if other cannabinoids are absent, making hemp CBD expensive.
  • Hemp CBD is not typically suitable for seizures. Cannabis-derived CBD oil with no THC may be preferable.

Similarities and Differences Between Marijuana CBD and Hemp CBD

The main differences between marijuana CBD and hemp CBD are that:

  • CBD from hemp is legal at the federal level in the United States, thanks to the 2018 Farm Bill.
  • Hemp CBD products tend to contain less THC in them.

Pharmacologically, they are both the same.

How to Decide Which Is Best For You

When to Use Marijuana CBD

Those who require THC may also need to use a cannabis CBD product. You may need a medical marijuana certificate and card to access marijuana CBD, even if the product you wish to use has little-to-no THC in it.

When to Use Hemp CBD

Those who do not have access to a medical marijuana program or are in a state where cannabis is illegal may wish to try a high-quality hemp CBD product to see if it is effective for what ails them.

Download Free Guide to CBD

The Bottom Line

Although hemp CBD and marijuana CBD are not different chemically, they are other products. Hemp CBD may not contain the range and dose of cannabinoids and terpenes that marijuana CBD can have, limiting its therapeutic properties to some extent. However, hemp CBD may be useful for those in states where medical cannabis is not available.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Which is better, hemp or CBD?

This comparison is very much down to personal preference. Hemp contains a range of cannabinoids and terpenes that could help improve CBD’s efficacy via the entourage effect. CBD on its own may not have the same therapeutic properties but could be helpful for those extremely sensitive to THC.

Is marijuana hemp-derived?

Marijuana (more appropriately called "cannabis") and hemp are unique cultivars of Cannabis sativa. They are the same species but have been differentiated via selective breeding for years.

Are CBD and hemp the same?

Hemp contains CBD, but it is different from pure or isolated CBD as it has many other cannabinoids and terpenes that can affect it.

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