What is CBD?
CBD, short for cannabidiol, is one of the many plant-produced cannabinoid compounds and found within the cannabis plant. You can source CBD from many different types of cannabis. So what’s the difference in sources and does it affect the CBD quality?
What are the differences between hemp and marijuana?
Cannabis is grown in two primary varieties or strains; hemp and marijuana. Often, the three terms are used interchangeably. However, the two types of cannabis are very distinct, and the significant difference between the two varieties lies within how much THC is within each.
Think of other plant products that humans consume. Apples, lettuce, corn, and others all have different varieties. Many of those differences are due to humans breeding the plants for particular properties over time, and others are because of the distinct local climate that the plant adapted to. Cannabis is no different. Humans have bred cannabis to be both higher and lower in THC for the psychotropic effects, and different strains of cannabis are better suited for growing in various climates.
In the cannabis industry, we typically use the term hemp to refer to cannabis that is grown for industrial purposes like fibers, insulation, bio-fuel and more. In industrial applications, there is no use for the THC. Because of the current laws, high-THC levels can be a liability so industrial growers have adapted their cannabis to be very low in THC and low other compounds like terpenes that might cause authorities to take notice.
As of 2018 in the United States, there is now a federally-legal definition for hemp: industrial hemp contains less than 0.3% THC by dry weight. Low THC levels mean that hemp has no psychotropic effects. This is different from marijuana which often ranges from 3% to as high as 35% THC depending on the strain.
Another difference between hemp and marijuana is the application of the cannabis plant. Marijuana is grown for the buds and flowers, where almost all of the cannabinoids exist and especially the THC. Hemp products are often derived from the stems or seeds of the cannabis plant, and so the plant is grown with a focus on producing those parts. Hemp is heartier and can be grown in more harsh or dynamic climates than marijuana and still produce the desired outputs.
These two varieties also appear very different when growing. Hemp is typically grown a bit taller than marijuana (15 ft. vs. 5 ft.) for its industrial uses like sturdy fibrous stalks, and the stalks can grow more closely together. Marijuana is grown to optimize the flowers which can require more space between plants to improve airflow and prevent molds from accumulating on the plant.
What are the differences when it comes to CBD?
Without the past legal concerns or regulation of CBD, hemp plants can contain as high as 25% CBD by dry weight. The THC was bred out of the hemp plant. Hemp also often has low terpene levels which are noted by the unique smells produced by cannabis. Terpenes are essential because these compounds modify and often amplify the benefits of cannabinoids by enabling the body to absorb better and utilize the cannabinoids.
There are also other beneficial cannabinoids that don’t produce the high that can be found in cannabis. The levels of CBG, CBDV, CBC, CBN can vary significantly in hemp because the plant has been grown without any concern to these compounds.
Marijuana, or THC-rich cannabis, often has very high levels of terpenes because of the intentions of the growers. In modern times the marijuana is low in CBD which is different from our grandparents’ cannabis which had moderate levels of both CBD and THC.
You have likely heard of the entourage effect or the idea that these compounds all work better in the presence of each other. Due to the legal regulations of the last 100 years, it is now difficult to find strains of cannabis grown specifically for the balance between the beneficial compounds. Proponents of cannabis as a medicine say it is best to source CBD from marijuana with regard to the entourage effect, but this is not always practical.
In our experience at Cannadips, it is tough to source cannabis that can provide the full spectrum of compounds. We also want to make our CBD available to everyone which means sourcing it from low-THC hemp. Some boutique farmers have quality cannabis with a diverse cannabinoid profile to meet our needs, but they are not large enough to meet the demand for industrial-scale production.
Hemp with a diverse cannabinoid profile and high terpene content proves even more difficult to source. However, times are changing. We have deep relationships with our farmers and as this industry is growing the hemp is evolving to have high terpene levels and more cannabinoids like CBG, CBC and others, making it overall a better product.