The simple truth: CBD is a single component found in the hemp plant. But it is also a component found in Cannabis (marijuana), which has led to general confusion, misinformation, and inflexible legal regulations for generations. Understanding the difference between hemp, cannabis, and CBD not only helps to ensure safe-usage of CBD by the public but, with equal importance, allows research on the whole hemp plant and on CBD to proceed, unobstructed by the law. The importance of this cannot be understated.
Hemp has much more to offer than the CBD-derived from it. Hemp as a crop is primarily used for textiles such as paper, clothing, ropes, and industrial building materials. It is biodegradable, uses significantly less water to grow than cotton and, because it is technically classified as a weed, it grows without the use of pesticides. Further, hemp not only absorbs carbon dioxide but the crop itself returns vital nutrients to the soil — helping to contribute to the future growth of other crops as well.
Given our current climate crisis, it makes sense why researchers of both human and planet sciences are anxious to collect evidence the outlining the benefits and limitations of using the whole hemp plant to promote healthier humans and a more sustainable planet.
As mentioned above, both hemp and cannabis contain CBD — but both also contain THC, which is where things get a bit more confusing.
So, Let us deconstruct this a bit.
CBD — scientifically known as Cannabidiol — is one of more than hundreds of Cannabinoids found in the hemp and cannabis plants. And, just like the hemp plant, CBD is not psychoactive. Instead, it is a component that can be used in a variety of different ways — some known and others yet to be discovered. Recently, you have likely seen an explosion of CBD-infused products being used in everything from soaps, bath and body oils, shampoos, and topical lotions to cooking oils and baking flours, just to name a few.
Arguably, the other most commonly known Cannabinoid is THC (or, tetrahydrocannabinol, if you’re fancy). Unlike hemp and CBD, THC is a psychoactive component (yep, the stuff that creates a high when ingested) and thus, it is regulated by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), under the Controlled Substances Act. And for decades, hemp was too.
This changed in December 2018.
Written into the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018 (more widely known as the 2018 Farm Bill), was the Hemp Farming Act, which removed hemp and hemp-derived products from the list of controlled substances — under one condition: Essentially, it affords farmers the opportunity to grow hemp as long as the THC content in the plant remains at or below 0.3% of its dry weight content.
In actuality, there are additional conditions (i.e. legal regulations) to the cultivation and production of hemp-derived CBD products. For instance, they cannot currently be marketed as dietary supplements, or make claims to improve or cure physical ailments or diseases. Once such claims are made they fall back under the purview of the FDA, which, to date, has only approved one type of CBD medication used to treat two specific and rare forms of epilepsy.
Still, the deregulation has no-doubt created a buzz (a non-psychoactive buzz, if you will) and the general public and scientists alike have become hyper-curious about the vast number of ways hemp and CBD can be utilized to improve our environmental and personal health. Clearing up any confusion and misinformation serves as the catalyst for both safe-usage and continued research of usages overall.