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What is the difference between hemp and cannabis and why does it matter when taking CBD oil?

Updated: Sep 29, 2022

You may have heard the words cannabis and hemp be used interchangeably, which makes things pretty confusing, especially when you’re trying to find a CBD oil that might help you. So today, I’ll teach you the difference between cannabis and hemp and why it makes such a difference when choosing products.

In today’s blog, you’ll learn
  • What is hemp?

  • What can we use hemp for?

  • How is hemp different than cannabis?

  • What are the dangers of choosing CBD products from the wrong source?

cannabis vs hemp, what’s the difference between cannabis and hemp, how to choose cbd

Think of cannabis as apples

To start things off, I wanted to point out that cannabis classification is ever-evolving. I’m taking a super nerdy cannabis course right now, and I CAN NOT get over all the different ways people think this plant should be classified and named.

However, knowing the difference between cannabis and hemp matters a LOT when choosing products.

But, it’s a bit complicated because hemp IS cannabis, but they generally have vastly different use cases. So how can we simplify this? I like to think of cannabis like apples.

Apples, like cannabis, are a plant that comes in varieties such as Gala, Macintosh, Honey Crisp, etc. Each apple has its unique taste, appearance, and use. For example, you wouldn’t use Red Delicious apples to make applesauce because they’re too grainy. But, at the end of the day, they are all the same plant (apples).

The same rings true for cannabis. There are different types of cannabis which each have unique properties and are used for different things, but they are ALL the same plant.

What we need to focus on is what we’re using it for. And, if we’re using the cannabis plant for medicine, we really need to pay attention to the source.

What is hemp?

cannabis vs hemp, what’s the difference between cannabis and hemp, how to choose cbd

As I said before, hemp is cannabis, but we use the word hemp to differentiate a type of cannabis that contains less than 0.3% THC Seriously. That’s the difference. If you test your cannabis plant and it has more than 0.3% of THC, you have what most people call cannabis or marijuana, and if it has 0.3% or less THC, then it can be legally called hemp.

Most of the hemp grown in North America and around the world is used for industrial purposes and the actual plants don’t produce much medicine at all. However, hemp is still cannabis.

Let’s take a quick side tangent on the 0.3% THC rule. This was defined as an acceptable level of THC in a 1970s study conducted by a researcher in Canada. He used the number arbitrarily for an individual experiment, and now it’s the accepted standard for the legal limit in most of the world. (In the EU, the legal limit is 0.2%!) So yes, one Canuk is the reason that we have a max THC level here. Crazy eh? Okay, now back to the show.

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What can we use hemp for?

Although hemp has low medicine content, it has many, MANY uses beyond medicinal applications. Here are a few reasons hemp has its rightful place in my heart:

Let’s start with eating it! Have you heard how amazing the hemp seeds (or hemp hearts) are? To start with, they’re considered to be a complete source of protein and are rich in Omega-3s. Hemp seeds can be ground into flour for baking, or you can get hemp seed oil.

As a textile, hemp can act as rope, paper, fabric, clothing, shoes, and so on. Hemp oil can even be used as a fuel and recent developments have brought us biodegradable hemp plastics.

Last, but certainly not least, hemp can be used for building materials such as hemp “wood,” bricks, insulation, and even “hempcrete,” which is a sustainable alternative to concrete. Thanks, hemp!

How is hemp different than cannabis?

cannabis vs hemp, what’s the difference between cannabis and hemp, how to choose cbd

When most people think of cannabis, they are most likely thinking of “marijuana” or the type of cannabis that has higher levels of THC and can make you feel intoxicated or high in large doses.

This type of cannabis is not grown for textiles or building materials. Instead, “marijuana” is grown for the THC, CBD, and more that are produced in the resin of the female flowers (though the whole plant, right down to the roots, has beneficial compounds.)

Note: Although “marijuana” is the common name, this word is often associated with the beginning of the extremely racist and greedy American prohibition, so I choose to say cannabis.

The dangers of choosing CBD from the wrong source

The biggest significance when choosing between hemp and cannabis is when you’re shopping for something that will actually work.

(A note to my Canadian sisters and brothers: We don’t really have to worry so much about this here. If you’re purchasing from a legal cannabis retailer in Canada, your CBD oil is tested. In the USA, their regulations around selling CBD are significantly different because hemp is now considered legal country-wide, and loads of crappy producers are in the market.)

Although there are excellent, ethical companies making high-resin, high-quality CBD products, there are a LOT of shady players out there. Many products on the market take hemp plants grown for industrial purposes and then extract the teeny tiny amount of CBD on the plant to sell to you. Since this is such a low resin plant, you need a LOT of it to get a little bit of oil. And that’s a problem.

One of the most amazing things about the cannabis plant is that it can help to clean our soil. It’s called a “bioaccumulator” which means the plant can “suck up” all the good and bad stuff in the soil (think pesticides and heavy metals).

That’s great for when farmers are trying to regenerate their land or when we’re cleaning up around the Chernobyl disaster. But you do NOT want your CBD source to come from plants grown in those conditions, especially when you consider how many plants it would take to create your bottle of 500 mg of CBD.

It means you would have a concentrated amount of whatever the plant was grown IN and whatever the grower put ON that crop. Additionally, cannabis produces mold, mildew, and mycotoxins, which are all concentrated in the products if the grower/producer is focused more on money than your well-being.

Of course, if you grow and make your own CBD oil or purchase from a lab-tested company focused on making quality products, you don’t have to worry about that. My clients have had really good success with Dr. Sulak’s Healer line of products, and you can save 20% off your first purchase with the code: revealcannabis.

cannabis vs hemp, what’s the difference between cannabis and hemp, how to choose cbd

Let’s recap!

What’s the difference between hemp and cannabis? Nothing … and everything!

  • Like apples, the actual plant is the same, but each different type or variety of cannabis plant can be used for different things.

  • Generally, hemp is used for industrial purposes and doesn’t grow very many resin-filled flowers.

  • Cannabis or “marijuana” is used for medicinal and recreational purposes.

  • The reason we have the two different words is a legal reason. Plants that test at more than 0.3% THC are considered cannabis or “marijuana,” and anything that tests 0.3% THC or less can be called hemp.

  • When shopping for CBD products, the SOURCE of your medicine really matters.

What questions do you have about cannabis? Post them below. I answer them all!

With love,


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