Hemp oil and cannabis oil are not the same products. In fact, depending on laws in your state, the difference between the two could mean getting a legal or illegal product. Read on to find out the difference between hemp oil vs cannabis oil and which one is best for you.
Distinguishing Between The Two
In the plant world, there are two types of cannabis plants. There are hemp plants that are grown for producing hemp fiber and seed oil. Then, there are the marijuana plants. These plants are responsible for the THC-rich products, while the others are responsible for the CBD-rich goods.
The main difference between these two plants is resin content. Industrial hemp plants are low-resin, while marijuana plants are high-resin. The industrial hemp plants are grown from seed. They typically yield as many as one hundred skinny, tall, bamboo-like plants per square meter. Machines harvest and manufacture these plants into many different products like paper, cloth, and edible oils.
Marijuana plants typically grow from asexually produced clones with one or two plants per square meter. Farmers harvest the flowers by hand then dry, trim, cure, and consume them for their psychoactive properties and medicinal effects.
More On Resin
U.S. federal law defines marijuana in terms of resin content. In the 1970 Controlled Substances Act (CSA), the federal government described marijuana as:
The term “marihuana” means all parts of the plant Cannabis sativa L. [sic], whether growing or not; the seeds thereof; the resin extracted from any part of such plant; and every compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of such plant, its seeds or resin. Such term does not include the mature stalks of such plant, fiber produced from such stalks, oil or cake made from the seeds of such plant. Any other compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of such mature stalks (except the resin extracted therefrom), fiber, oil or cake, or the sterilized seed of such plant which is incapable of germination.
The federal government essentially copied this phrasing word for word from the 1937 Marijuana Tax Act. This is the legislation that made cannabis legal. The CSA maintains that parts of the plant, “stalk and seed,” are exempt from the legal definition of marijuana. However, the law did not include the flowers, leaves, and sticky resin in this exemption. The government prohibited these pieces wherever found on the plant.
The CSA stands firm on a singular point: any part of the cannabis plant containing resin or any preparation made from the resin, is illegal. This act permits fiber produced from hemp stalk and oil pressed from unfertilized hempseed, but not the resin.
Tiny trichomes contain the cannabis resin. The resin is mainly on the plant’s aromatic female flowers (buds) and smaller on the leaves. The sticky resin contains THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol). Along with hundreds of other secondary plant metabolites.
You should note that hemp seed oil is not the same as CBD-rich oil extracted from the plants. The oil from hemp seed is excellent for varnish, paint, soap, and protein-enriched food supplements. It contains no CBD, no THC, and no other plant cannabinoids.
Why 0.3 Percent THC?
The federal government understands that resin content is the crucial factor that differentiates marijuana from hemp. Today, the federal law states that industrial hemp has no more than 0.3 percent THC by dry weight. Any products containing such a small amount of THC will not have an intoxicating effect.
The 0.3 percent stems from a 1976 taxonomic report by Canadian plant scientists. They never intended for 0.3 percent THC to be the distinction between hemp and other forms of cannabis. But that’s what happened. According to federal law, cannabis is hemp, not marijuana. As long as no part of the plant (including leaves and flowers) exceeds a specific THC concentration.
This concentration is more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis. Anything above that threshold is federally illegal to grow. The initial passage of the Farm Bill in 2014 defined “industrial hemp” for the first time in U.S. history. This bill distinguished it legally from marijuana.
Despite some of its shortcomings, the Farm Bill is a giant step forward for cannabis. It is now legal for American farmers to cultivate hemp as a commercial crop on domestic soil. This development is long overdue, catalyzed by the enormous public demand for CBD.
The day it became law, the Farm Bill removed hemp, but not cannabis, from the list of controlled substances. The bill also removed hemp products, including hemp-derived CBD, from the reach of CSA. But, this did not remove it from the grasp of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA maintains that hemp-derived CBD is neither a legitimate food supplement nor a medication approved for off-label use.
CBD oil from a cannabis plant with over 0.3 percent THC is still a Schedule 1 substance under federal law. Given that the CBD molecule is the same it’s unclear how regulators will tell the difference. Between illegal cannabis-derived CBD oil and seemingly not-illegal, hemp-derived CBD oil, the molecule is the same.
What’s The Best Source of CBD?
The purest source of CBD oil is organically grown, high-resin, CBD-rich cannabis. This is because the more resin in the plant, the more CBD there is to extract. Low-resin industrial hemp grown for fiber or seed oil is not an ideal source of CBD for several reasons:
- Industrial hemp usually contains far less cannabidiol than high-resin CBD-rich cannabis. A large amount of industrial hemp is necessary to extract a tiny amount of CBD. This raises the risk of contaminants as hemp is a “bio-accumulator”— meaning the plant soaks toxins from the soil. That’s great for phyto-remedial purposes, but it’s not so great for making medicinal oil products. Oil extracted from hemp and cannabis will, unfortunately, concentrate the toxins and the good stuff.
- CBD oil is usually a co-product or byproduct of industrial hemp grown primarily for other purposes. Farmers can make more money if they sell their unused hemp to a company that wants to extract CBD. This practice is widespread and unregulated. The hemp biomass contains residues of pesticides and toxic solvents that remove the CBD.
- Heavily cultivated CBD paste or CBD-isolate from industrial hemp is poor starter material requiring dilution for creating CBD-rich oil products.
- Compared to high-resin cannabis, low-resin hemp is more vulnerable to mold and pests. The resin contains terpenes and cannabinoids that repel predators, attract good insects, and protect plants from disfigurement.
- Industrial hemp is less chemically unique than high resin cannabis. It is also lacking the robust mix of medicinal terpenes and secondary cannabinoids typically found in high resin cannabis. These compounds interact with CBD and THC to enhance their therapeutic properties.
The Future of Cannabis and Hemp in the U.S.
Before the 2018 Farm Bill, most CBD products in the United States came from hemp grown in China and Europe. Now that cultivating hemp is legal again in the U.S., it will be easier to obtain better quality CBD products. The hemp grown in Colorado, Kentucky, Oregon, Montana, Vermont, and other states is high quality.
The best source of cannabidiol is high-resin CBD-rich cannabis plants with 20 percent CBD by dry weight and 1% THC. Unfortunately, under the current legislation, that’s too much THC to qualify as hemp.
Cannabis is a hardy plant. It can thrive in many different environments. It responds well to farming and this has widened the genetic capabilities of the plant in remarkable ways.
Do you use hemp oil, hemp seed oil, or both?
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