There is an ongoing dispute among medical marijuana and CBD proponents. The argument is about CBD products sourced from hemp. One side of the industry claims that hemp derived CBD oil contains insufficient amounts of any cannabinoid to be therapeutic. The other side argues otherwise, asserting that hemp CBD oil is chock full of essential cannabinoids. But who is right in this discussion? What is the CBD content of hemp and is one source better than another for producing quality CBD oil?
Learning the Language: Hemp vs. Marijuana
If you are new to the CBD industry, a quick lesson on terminology is in order before we get started. Some of the language is confusing and is often used interchangeably within the industry. For clarity's sake we will rely on three different definitions going forward:
Cannabis: Cannabis Sativa L. is the species of plant that both hemp and THC heavy marijuana strains come from. Both strains are produced commercially around the world. However, there are major differences in their appearances, uses, regulation, and cannabinoid content.
Marijuana: This term is usually used to refer to medical and recreational marijuana which contains high concentrations of THC. The THC content is typically potent enough that when ingested, people experience a “high.” Although there are strains of marijuana like Charlotte's Web that do not contain measurable amounts of THC, for this article when we use the term marijuana we are referring to cannabis plants with psychoactive compounds.
Most strains of marijuana now grow to only five to six feet tall. They are also encouraged to bush out to develop a fuller canopy. Therefore, these plants usually require much more agricultural space than traditional industrial hemp plants.
Hemp: Although usually associated with an industrial product, the term hemp will be used going forward to classify cannabis that has a low THC content. Under federal law, hemp is legal to grow, with the appropriate license, provided it contains less than 0.3 percent THC. As the legal status of hemp begins to open up, farmers are branching out from industrial strains of hemp to search out strains which have high cannabinoid contents (CBD, CBN, etc.).
When grown for its fibers or seeds (which have low cannabinoid content), hemp can grow to upwards of 15 feet tall. When a crop is planted for machine harvesting, it is usually spaced much more closely than marijuana plants. Typically planted hemp only has five to six inches between each stalk.
What is the CBD Content of Hemp?
When it comes right down to the question: “what is the CBD content of hemp?” it honestly comes down to what strain it is sourced from. Some industrial hemp contains very little CBD because it wasn’t bred for it. In fact, most industrial hemp was bred for its fibrous stalks and rich seed content.
Because there was historically a restriction on the resin content of hemp grown in the United States, farmers targeted plants almost entirely void of resin. But as federal laws progress, the resin has become less of an issue. Therefore, farmers can start to harvest hemp with higher resin content, which is where most of the therapeutic benefit comes from.
Many farmers in the United States, as well as European farmers who sell to America, have recognized the change in preference. Now, resinous plants are no-longer illegal provided they still have low THC content and that the farmer follows the correct licensing processes. Farmers around the world who market their hemp products to the United States can plant hemp which is genuinely potent in CBD, terpenes and other medicinal cannabinoids.
What matters in the quest for CBD rich oil is if the original plant is rich in CBD. Whether that plant is medicinal marijuana bred for its focus on CBD or a high-resin hemp plant with no measurable THC content the final product will reflect the CBD content of the source.
Watch Out for CBD Hemp Scams
Unfortunately, due to the popularity of CBD oil, the market is flooded with many scam hemp products. And while some might not set out to rip off consumers, they are poorly marketed and can lead to confusion. Unwary consumers could be duped into purchasing a hemp product without any CBD content at all.
First and foremost, always ensure the CBD content has been tested by a third party. Reliable lab results will confirm that there is, in fact, CBD in the product. It will also show if there is any measurable THC (which would make it illegal in many states across America). If you cannot find any reference to laboratory test results on the company's website, it says a lot about the quality and source of their product.
Hemp CBD oil should be made from the whole plant: stalks, leaves, and more. Whole-plant CBD oil takes advantage of all the cannabinoids, terpenes and other therapeutic compounds which have been found to work better together than in isolation.
More information on how to source quality CBD oil is available in this handy article.
The Final Word
The final answer to our question about the CBD content of hemp is a bit complicated. However, if sourced from a high-quality producer, it's safe to say that CBD hemp oil can contain just as much CBD as oil sourced from a marijuana plant. Now that the restrictions have been lifted for resinous cannabis plants (as long as their THC remains low enough) the doors are wide open for commercial producers to create CBD oil with high potency.