Hemp versus Marijuana: CBD vs THC

Considering the important distinctions between CBD and THC and their preferred origin, it is only fitting to detail the difference between these cannabis types.

  • Hemp cultivation dates back to ~3000 BC with central Asian origins.
  • Hemp fiber is acknowledged for being both durable and strong – with very high tensile strength.
  • Hemp uses as an industrial fiber include: clothing, paper, roper, twine, string, and yarn.
  • Hemp roots and seeds produce oil that can be used for production of paints, varnishes, soaps, fuel, and consumable products with nutritional value.
  • Of course, hemp oils and isolates have pronounced medicinal value – some which are reasonably well-defined and some that are still emerging.
  • Hemp extracts and concentrates are typically plant-derived oils which are enriched for CBD and other cannabinoids, as well as terpenes, flavonoids and other cannabis compounds.
  • The combination of chemicals adds to the aromatic and flavor qualities of the extracts, and may have synergistic effects on the body through the ‘entourage effect’ concept.
  • CBD is produced in much higher concentrations in hemp compared with THC and other cannabinoids, making it a preferred background for CBD isolation.
  • Emerging medicinal relevance of CBD combined with efficient extraction and isolation methods mean hemp may be the ideal source for CBD isolates and plant-based (FDA-approved) therapeutics.

Unlike hemp, which can have THC concentrations below 0.3% or lower, marijuana and more specifically Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica, may possess upwards of 20% THC or more.

  • THC has pronounced effects on the brain including psychoactive and memory influences.
  • THC has medicinal qualities and both synthetic and natural preparations have been FDA-approved for certain medical conditions.
  • Dronbinal (Marinol) and Nabilone (Cesamet) are synthetic analogs that were fast-tracked by the FDA for treatment of chronic wasting in AIDS patients.
  • Sativex (Nabiximols) is the world’s first plant-derived cannabinoid treatment for spasticity in multiple sclerosis patients.
  • THC and other cannabinoids are predominantly harvested from the flower and leaves of the plant.
  • The plant itself is short and bushy, with an abundance of flowering buds and leaves as opposed to hemp, which grows in tall stalks with abundant seeds.

The differences extend far beyond the relative concentrations of CBD versus THC and the medical differences between these plants. The distinct structure of the plants, and the locations of cannabinoid concentrations, necessitate specific methods for the cultivation, harvesting, raw material processing, milling, extraction, purification, and testing.

The more recent interest in CBD as a potential therapeutic has expanded the footprint of not only the cannabis growing and processing areas of the industry, but the legal and political aspects as well.