When people hear the words “hemp oil,” they may mistakenly believe that it’s just another word or euphemism for marijuana. But the marijuana plant, hemp, and cannabis are all technically different things, even though they are closely related. And, as the CBD industry continues to grow, it’s important that consumers know the difference between marijuana, CBD, and hemp. Currently, there are no uniform regulations in place yet for the CBD industry. Also, the laws can be murky, and they differ significantly from one state to the next. Furthermore, the federal government has its own set of laws for CBD oils, hemp, and medical marijuana.
Hemp is part of the cannabis family. It is mainly used for industrial purposes because hemp fibers are incredibly durable and ideal for making different types of textiles and fabrics. Hemp seeds are also used to make health foods and animal feeds. Marketers may label CBD oil and hemp oil interchangeably, but they come from different plants and are used for different things. Before readers can fully understand and appreciate the differences between hemp and CBD oil, it’s important to know how they are related in the cannabis family.
Both marijuana and hemp are part of the cannabis family, which is further broken down into both indica and sativa strains. These strains look different, grow in different climates, and have different flowering seasons. Marijuana indica or sativa strains are the plants that people use to get high. The chemical compound in the marijuana plant that induces euphoria and other side-effects is called THC. In contrast, the hemp plant has a totally different chemical makeup to marijuana. Strains of the hemp plant either contain zero THC compounds or very few THC compounds. Smoking a hemp plant, as opposed to a marijuana plant, won’t get someone high.
Before modern-day paper pulp and paper manufacturing processes were invented, people primarily used processed hemp for paper. Hemp is even more suitable as a paper product because of its unique chemical makeup and durability. Some of the first documents in history were recorded on hemp paper. Hemp was also used to make ropes, clothing, and sails for boats and ships. In the early colonial period, some states made it a law that farmers had to grow a certain amount of hemp each year.
After the Mexican Civil War, many refugees fled from Mexico to the southern border states in the U.S. and brought the marijuana plant with them. During the 1930s, mistrust and political strife were at high levels, and the marijuana and the hemp plant were all banned from cultivation and consumption, until recently.
In 2018, the federal Farm Bill was passed and it reclassified hemp as an industrial product, essentially making it legal again for cultivation and use. However, marijuana is still considered a schedule 1 substance according to the DEA. Since the passage of the new Farm Bill, it is legal for people in the U.S. to ship CBD and hemp oil across state lines, as long as the products contain .3% or less THC.
Is hemp oil anything like CBD?
It’s important to understand that the cannabis plant, whether it is a marijuana or a hemp strain, contains more than 100 cannabinoid compounds. Each plant has a different genetic code and a different genetic expression of these cannabinoids. THC is only one of these cannabinoids, and certain strains of the cannabis plants will possess varying levels of THC or none at all.
Licensed cannabis growers in the U.S. will breed cannabis plants to get various genetic expressions of these cannabinoids. Certain cannabinoids are used to alleviate different health issues, and in states where medical marijuana is legal, growers may produce a strain of marijuana plant that contains large amounts of THC cannabinoids.
Because there is a much larger legal market for CBD oils that do not contain THC, licensed growers breed hemp strains that are free of the compound, or contain very low amounts of THC. Hemp oils are primarily sourced from these strains. CBD oils, on the other hand, can come from marijuana plants and may contain trace amounts of THC. For some ailments, small levels of THC can be beneficial for users.
Hemp oil is full of beneficial fatty acids and is often used as a skin moisturizer, or placed in shampoos and lotions. The compounds in hemp are useful for improving collagen and skin elasticity. Hemp oil and CBD oil are also beneficial for soothing irritated skin and alleviating conditions like psoriasis.
Is hemp oil legal?
Unfortunately, the laws regarding hemp and CBD oil can be confusing. The laws vary from state to state, and the federal government doesn’t offer much clarity on the issue, either. For one thing, the Farm Bill makes it legal to ship CBD and hemp oil containing .3% of THC or less across state lines. But, the DEA still classifies marijuana as a schedule 1 drug, so CBD oils that contain higher amounts of THC are illegal to ship across state lines according to the federal government, even if a person lives in a state where medical marijuana is legal.
A few states make it illegal to possess, sell, and use any part of the cannabis plant whatsoever, meaning hemp oil by default is unlawful, regardless of what the Farm Bill says. These states are Idaho, Nebraska and South Dakota.
Consumers who live in a state where hemp oil is legal, can purchase high-quality hemp oil online from a reputable company. States where hemp and medical marijuana have been legal for some time often have the highest quality plants. As always, it’s important for consumers to do their research before purchasing.