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Cannabis CBD and Hemp CBD: What's the difference?

Cannabis CBD vs Hemp CBD

Cannabis and hemp are sometimes considered to be more or less the same thing.

They’re not.

While both plants are the same species, they have very different properties. The CBD oil derived from cannabis and hemp are different too.

There are pros and cons to the use of hemp and cannabis CBD. Finding out how to buy legal CBD oil has become quite easy with new Licensed Producers springing up all the time.

However, not all CBD oil is the same. There can be many differences between brands. The main difference is usually the percentage of CBD in the oil. This can range between 3% and 20%, which is quite a wide range.

While the percentage of CBD in the oil can vary, the CBD chemical in both cannabis and hemp is identical. Anyone examining a sample of 100% pure CBD would be unable to tell whether it originated from cannabis or hemp, or even if it had been made in a lab.

hemp growing outside in crop for industrial reasons


The history of hemp is one of industry, while the history of cannabis is mainly one of recreation. The first hemp crop planted in North America was actually in Canada. In 1606, Louis Herbert, a French botanist, planted a hemp crop in Port Royal, Acadia, which is present-day Nova Scotia.

Almost two hundred years later in 1801, through help from the British, hemp seed was distributed free of charge to farmers in Canada. Later, in the same century, hemp became the first subsidized crop in Canada. This just shows you how important hemp is as an industrial asset.

cannabis growing outside in nature tall and strong


There is a persuasive argument that the Christian biblical account of Moses preparing “holy anointing oil of myrrh, sweet cinnamon, kaneh bosm, and kassia,” described in Exodus 30:23, is actually a mixture that includes cannabis; the Hebrew words, “kaneh bosm” can be translated as “aromatic reed.” Their similarity to the Sythian word, “cannabis” is obvious, and cannabis could be described as a kind of aromatic reed. Either way, cannabis has been around and been used by humans for a very long time.

Chemically, the main difference between cannabis and hemp are the levels of THC. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the intoxicating component found mainly in cannabis. It is what gets people intoxicated, and what makes cannabis popular for recreational use.

Hemp can also contain THC, but not enough for anyone to notice, or for it to affect you. However, both cannabis and hemp contain cannabidiol or CBD. Cannabidiol is one of over 100 cannabinoids identified in cannabis/hemp plants. CBD became legal in Canada on October 17, 2018, for both medical and recreational use.

cannabis hmp oil being compared

Legal CBD oil: cannabis oil compared to hemp oil

The cannabis plant typically contains a significantly higher percentage of CBD than a hemp plant. Because a considerable amount of the hemp plant needs to be used to produce any quantity of CBD oil, this also increases the possibility of contaminants being introduced (more on this later).

CBD oil derived from cannabis plants is legal in Canada, provided they are produced by Licensed Producers who have been approved by Health Canada. This is for both medicinal and recreational use.

Only CBD oil derived from the cannabis plant is sold legally in Canada. It must also be sold exclusively by approved Licensed Producers. Anyone in Canada selling hemp oil containing CBD is selling it illegally.

However, that said, the effects of CBD oil, whether derived from hemp or cannabis, are largely the same, given that both contain the same CBD percentage. CBD oils derived from hemp lack certain terpenes, which are aromatic molecules found more abundantly in cannabis. Hemp CBD oils also lack secondary cannabinoids.

Hemp is also a natural bio accumulator. This means that the plant draws toxins from the soil. This can be useful in some cases, but it also means that there is an increased risk of introducing contaminants into hemp CBD oil. Cannabis CBD oil production does not have this potential problem.

Oil produced from the hemp plant does have at least one advantage over oil produced from the cannabis plant: hemp seeds contain a high concentration of Vitamin E. Vitamin E is known to inhibit viruses and bacteria, and it is also an excellent antioxidant.

The effectiveness of the CBD cannabinoid

The effects of CBD on the human body and animal bodies can be better understood when you know that we all have an endocannabinoid system (ECS).

The ECS is the cell receptors that surround the surface of a cell in your body. They are like tiny locks that, with the right key, can give the cell a specific instruction. Agonists are the right key, certain chemical molecules that can lock on to the cell receptors.

The main cannabinoid receptors are known as CB1 and CB2. CB1 receptors are found in great numbers in the central nervous system. CB2 receptors are found in the gastrointestinal tract, the peripheral nervous system, and on immune cells.

Endocannabinoids are important for keeping our bodily functions running smoothly on a daily basis. Disruption of the ECS can cause various adverse conditions and diseases. Because we have a natural endocannabinoid system, CBD oil is not really recognized by the body as something foreign and strange. In fact, CBD blends in well with what is already there.

THC is intoxicating, and CBD is not. However, CBD oil can be used to increase the intoxicating effects gained from taking cannabis rich in THC.

If CBD is consumed first, it allows the body to absorb more THC, thereby providing the potential for a greater high. Conversely, CBD can also be used to reduce an intense high.

cannabis close up shot of bud

There is a lot of confusion about the differences in legality when it comes to hemp and cannabis CBD oil. The important takeaway is the regulations of these plants. Cannabis is regulated throughout its entire growth, harvest and refinement into oil, while hemp regulations are of an industrial plant, not of a refined, curated plant and that is a big difference.

We hope this brief explanation can help with some of the confusing misinformation out there, and streamline your CBD searching.