Hemp vs. Marijuana-Derived CBD

The past few years have seen a rise in the popularity of CBD, or cannabinol. Cannabinol is one of 113 known chemical compounds in the plant genus cannabis.

Because of propaganda campaigns that started in the 1930s by the United States government, all forms of cannabis were made illegal.

The United States Congress went so far as to classify marijuana and cannabis as a Schedule I drug, which means:

  • The drug has a high potential for abuse.
  • The drug has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.
  • There is a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug under medical supervision.

The problem with this designation is that cannabis had been used for thousands of years as a medical treatment. In addition, hemp is one of the most versatile plants on the planet and is used from everything to medicine and food to building supplies.

Changes in the laws in the US and internationally started in 1995 when California legalized marijuana for medical use. This didn’t change the federal law, but since local authorities were the ones who enforced these laws, for the most part, it chiseled away at the federal framework.

Today, 33 states have approved some form of medical marijuana law and 10 states, 2 territories and the District of Columbia have legalized recreational marijuana and 15 other states plus the US Virgin Islands have decriminalized it, making it no more than a civil fine for possession under a certain amount.

In 2018, the US federal government passed the 2018 Farm Bill that allows for the commercial growing, use, and transport of hemp. The requirement is that the hemp must contain less than 0.3% THC.

Because of the patchwork of laws across the country, this has led to markets for CBD derived from hemp and CBD derived from marijuana. It also has led to consumer confusion and in some cases legal issues for these consumers.

The Difference Between Hemp and Marijuana

For decades hemp and marijuana were treated with the same disdain under the law. Both came from the same genus of the plant called cannabis, but the species is different. That would be similar to saying that Neanderthal man and humans are the same. While both have similarities and share a genetic makeup, they’re markedly different.

The scientific classification for all cannabis plants is the same until the species. Below you can see a comparison of the different types of cannabis plants:

Plant Cannabis Sativa Cannabis Indica Cannabis Ruderalis
Commonly Known As Hemp Marijuana Russian Hemp
Other Names Sativa Indica Ruderalis
Scientific Classification
Kingdom Plantae Plantae Plantae
Phylum Magnoliophyta Magnoliophyta Magnoliophyta
Class Magnoliopsida Magnoliopsida Magnoliopsida
Order Rosales Rosales Rosales
Family Cannabaceae Cannabaceae Cannabaceae
Genus Cannabis Cannabis Cannabis
Species C. Sativa C. Indica C. Ruderalis
Average Plant Height Up to 20 feet 3 to 6 feet 2 feet
Area of Origin Eastern Asia India Russia, Mongolia
Uses Medicine, Food, Clothing, Rope, Construction Materials, Plastics, Bio Fuel Medicine, Recreational use,  Hashish Medical, Crossbreeding plant for both Sativa and Indica


Sativa is the most versatile of the group. For thousands of years, hemp has been an important crop in many societies. Commonly known as hemp, the most common use for hemp was rope, as the fibers of the plant are extremely strong. It also used as a building material. The woody fibers of hemp when combine with limestone produces a natural, light concrete that insulates against outside weather conditions.

In addition, it has been used as a medicine, food (such as hemp seed and hemp milk), and in recent years it has been used to create a new type of biodegradable plastic and as a fuel.

As for the chemical makeup, Sativa is usually high in CBD content and low in THC content. In the US, commercially produced hemp by law must have a THC content of less than 0.3% THC.

Indica is the species commonly used for marijuana and hashish. It also has been used as a medicine for thousands of years. The chemical makeup of Indica differs from Sativa (and Ruderalis) in that the THC content can be comprised of up to 35% THC. The CBD levels can vary widely depending on the strain of the Sativa used.

Ruderalis has been used in holistic medicine and food in Russia and Mongolia for millennia. Ruderalis is a much hearty plant than its other cannabis cousins. This is due to the wildly varying weather conditions in the area. The plant also developed into an auto-flowering species as opposed to a photosensitive species like its cousins. The flowers tend to appear at the end of the life cycle of the plant and allows for faster harvesting than Indica or Sativa, which is why in the past few decades, Ruderalis has been crossbred with both to achieve the auto-flowering trait while still maintaining the properties of the Indica or Sativa respectively.

Ruderalis has the highest CBD content of the 3 species, in some cases reaching up to 40% CDB. The THC content in Ruderalis is so low it is negligible, usually under .01%.

The short stature of the Ruderalis plant makes it less versatile than Sativa, as the plant rarely grows more than 2 feet high, which is why it is primarily used for medicine and food.

THC, CBD, and Cannabinoids

Up until the 1940s, the existence of THC and CBD was unknown. Over between 1940 and 1965 both were discovered.

Both THC and CBD are known as cannabinoids. They’re actually only 2 of 113 known cannabinoids. The science of cannabinoid research is relatively new. In fact, only about half of the known cannabinoids have been explored in research. These cannabinoids are:

  • Cannabidiol (CBD)
  • Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)
  • 10-Ethoxy-9-hydroxy-delta-6a-tetrahydrocannabinol
  • 10-Oxo-delta-6a-tetrahydrocannabinol (OTHC)
  • 2-Arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG)
  • 2-Arachidonyl glyceryl ether (noladin ether)
  • 8,9-Dihydroxy-delta-6a-tetrahydrocannabinol
  • Arachidonoylethanolamine (Anandamide or AEA)
  • Cannabichromanon (CBCF)
  • Cannabichromene (CBC)
  • Cannabichromenic acid (CBCA)
  • Cannabichromevarin (CBCV)
  • Cannabichromevarinic acid (CBCVA)
  • Cannabicyclol (CBL)
  • Cannabicyclolic acid (CBLA)
  • Cannabicyclovarin (CBLV)
  • Cannabidiol monomethylether (CBDM)
  • Cannabidiolic acid (CBDA)
  • Cannabidiorcol (CBD-C1)
  • Cannabidivarin (CBDV)
  • Cannabidivarinic acid (CBDVA)
  • Cannabielsoic acid B (CBEA-B)
  • Cannabielsoin (CBE)
  • Cannabielsoin acid A (CBEA-A)
  • Cannabifuran (CBF)
  • Cannabigerol (CBG)
  • Cannabigerol monomethylether (CBGM)
  • Cannabigerolic acid (CBGA)
  • Cannabigerolic acid monomethylether (CBGAM)
  • Cannabigerovarin (CBGV)
  • Cannabigerovarinic acid (CBGVA)
  • Cannabiglendol
  • Cannabinodiol (CBND)
  • Cannabinodivarin (CBVD)
  • Cannabinol (CBN)
  • Cannabinol methylether (CBNM)
  • Cannabinol-C2 (CBN-C2)
  • Cannabinol-C4 (CBN-C4)
  • Cannabinolic acid (CBNA)
  • Cannabiorcool (CBN-C1)
  • Cannabiripsol (CBR)
  • Cannabitriol (CBT)
  • Cannabitriolvarin (CBTV)
  • Cannabivarin (CBV)
  • Cannbicitran (CBT)
  • Dehydrocannabifuran (DCBF)
  • Delta-8-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ8-THC)
  • Delta-8-tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (Δ8-THCA)
  • Delta-9-cis-tetrahydrocannabinol (cis-THC)
  • Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol-C4 (THC-C4)
  • Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinolic acid A (THCA-A)
  • Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinolic acid B (THCA-B)
  • Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinolic acid-C4 (THCA-C4)
  • Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabiorcol (THC-C1)
  • Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabiorcolic acid (THCA-C1)
  • Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV)
  • Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabivarinic acid (THCVA)
  • Lysophosphatidylinositol (LPI)
  • N-Arachidonoyl dopamine (NADA)
  • Tryhydroxy-delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (triOH-THC)
  • Virodhamine (OAE)
  • 3,4,5,6-Tetrahydro-7-hydroxy-alpha-alpha-2-trimethyl-9-n-propyl-2,6-methano-2H-1-benzoxocin-5-methanol, (OH-iso-HHCV)

All cannabinoids are psychoactive. That simply means that they have an effect on the way the brain functions. Out of all the researched cannabinoids, only one class of cannabinoids have intoxicating effects, that class is the cannabinoids that contain THC.

Chemically, CBD and THC are almost identical. Both have 21 carbon atoms, 30 hydrogen atoms, and 2 oxygen atoms. The difference is in the arrangement of one of the atoms. Because of this one difference, both THC and CBD behave differently when introduced to the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS). Among these differences are the euphoric and intoxicating feeling that THC provides that CBD doesn’t.

The legality of CBD and THC in the United States

The legality of both CBD and THC products in the United States is at the very least confusing. Over the past 2 decades, states have enacted laws regarding the medical and recreational use of cannabis. However, only one major change has been made at the federal level.

From 1970 until 2018, all cannabis plants remained a Schedule I drug by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). That changed somewhat in 2018. The 2018 Farm Bill legalized the commercial growing, transport, and use of hemp. The government went so far as to classify hemp as containing less than 0.3% THC content. This was the first time since the 1940s that laws didn’t classify marijuana and hemp under the same category.

This change was welcome but hasn’t changed the status of marijuana under federal law. Marijuana is still considered a Schedule I drug.

At the time that the federal government was beginning its crusade against the “evils” of cannabis in the 1930s, the head of U.S. Treasury Department’s Federal Bureau of Narcotics Harry Anslinger campaigned first to have states band cannabis. Between 1936 and 1937, all the states in the Union had removed cannabis as an over-the-counter drug and severely restricted its use.

This was followed by a federal law called the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937, which required anyone who “imports, manufactures, produces, compounds, sells, deals in, dispenses, prescribes, administers, or gives away marihuana” to purchase a tax stamp at the fee of $1 to do so. The idea behind it was that the government was going to severely limit who could buy a stamp to the point of almost non-existence. The repercussions for not having a stamp were prison time and fines up to $2,000 (almost $36,000 adjusted for inflation).

The law was found unconstitutional in 1969 when LSD advocate Timothy Leary sued the federal government when he was arrested crossing the border from Mexico into the US because he had to declare he had marijuana, which was also a violation of Texas law. By declaring this, he was forced to incriminate himself regarding the Texas law. The Supreme Court ruled the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 unconstitutional based on the 5th Amendment claims of Leary. This led to the US creating the comprehensive Substance Control Act that created the current schedule or class of drugs, with marijuana listed as a Class I substance.

Since 1995, there’s been a push at the state level to legalized marijuana for medical and personal use. Below is a chart of the states, territories, and jurisdictions and where they stand on both recreational use and medicinal marijuana:

State/Territory/Jurisdiction Recreational Use Medical Use
 Alabama Illegal illegal
 Alaska legal legal
 American Samoa illegal illegal
 Arizona Illegal legal
 Arkansas Illegal legal
 California legal Legal
 Colorado legal Legal
 Connecticut decriminalized Legal
 Delaware decriminalized Legal
 District of Columbia legal Legal
 Florida illegal Legal
 Georgia illegal; decriminalized in the cities of Atlanta, Clarkston, Forest Park, Savannah, South Fulton, Statesboro, and unincorporated Fulton County Illegal
 Guam legal Legal
 Hawaii illegal Legal
 Idaho illegal Illegal
 Illinois decriminalized Legal
 Indiana illegal Illegal
 Iowa illegal cannabis oil less than 3% THC is legal
 Kansas illegal Illegal
 Kentucky illegal Illegal
 Louisiana illegal Legal
 Maine legal Legal
 Maryland decriminalized Legal
 Massachusetts legal Legal
 Michigan legal Legal
 Minnesota decriminalized Legal
 Mississippi decriminalized Illegal
 Missouri decriminalized Legal
 Montana illegal Legal
 Nebraska decriminalized (first offense only) Illegal
 Nevada legal Legal
 New Hampshire decriminalized Legal
 New Jersey illegal Legal
 New Mexico decriminalized Legal
 New York decriminalized Legal
 North Carolina decriminalized Illegal
North Dakota decriminalized Legal
 Northern Mariana Islands legal Legal
 Ohio decriminalized Legal
 Oklahoma illegal Legal
 Oregon legal Legal
 Pennsylvania illegal Legal
 Puerto Rico illegal Legal
 Rhode Island decriminalized Legal
 South Carolina illegal Illegal
 South Dakota illegal Illegal
 Tennessee illegal Illegal
 Texas Illegal Illegal
 U.S. Virgin Islands decriminalized Legal
 Utah illegal Legal
 Vermont legal Legal
 Virginia illegal cannabis oil less than 5% THC is legal
 Washington legal Legal
 West Virginia illegal Legal
 Wisconsin illegal Illegal
 Wyoming illegal Illegal


CBD is a different story. CBD derived from Indica in legal in states where marijuana is legal, although it may require a prescription if the state only allows medical marijuana. In addition, Iowa and Virginia allow CBD derived from marijuana under certain conditions.

CBD that’s derived from hemp is as much as patchwork as cannabis laws. The problem is that while the federal government legalized hemp, many states still have laws on the books dating back the Anslinger’s crusade. Below is a list of the status of CBD in each state:

States and territories where CBD is illegal under state/territory law:

  • American Samoa
  • Idaho
  • Nebraska
  • South Dakota

States and territories where CBD is available but subject to a restriction, such as a prescription:

  • Alabama
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Hawaii
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Maryland
  • Minnesota
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Pennsylvania
  • Puerto Rico
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • S. Virgin Islands
  • Utah
  • Virginia
  • Washington
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming

States, territories, and jurisdictions where CBD is completely legal:

  • Alaska
  • California
  • Colorado
  • District of Columbia
  • Guam
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Nevada
  • Northern Mariana Islands
  • Oregon
  • Vermont


CBD and THC have amazing healing properties, but most people lean towards the CBD to avoid the feeling of being high while taking the product. This is important for many as some may have to take CBD multiple times a day, so if they used marijuana-derived CBD, they wouldn’t necessarily be able to function properly.

While hemp-based CBD can have side effects such as drowsiness, it’s no more of a feeling that one would get if they took cough medicine.

Marijuana-derived CBD can have up to 35% THC content which could intoxicate most people to the point of not being legally sober enough to drive or even be in public.

Hemp based CBD also had the benefit of being readily available in most jurisdictions, while marijuana based CBD is only legal in a handful, and is still illegal under federal law.