Industrial Hemp Derived CBD vs Medical Marijuana derived CBD:


The Definitive Buyer’s Guide to Cannabidiol

The buzz around CBD has launched it to the forefront of many treatment regimens as a promising product that can effectively treat or manage many symptoms, but what is the difference between hemp-derived and marijuana-derived CBD oils? 

There are only two sources for CBD oil and other CBD products: industrial hemp-derived CBD or medical marijuana-derived CBD. One is available widely online from sites like and the other is available at medical marijuana dispensaries across the U.S. in states where medical marijuana is legal.

We recognize the need for an article focused on providing the cannabidiol buyer with an objective, unbiased look at cannabidiol in today’s market.  If you find yourself asking whether hemp- or medical marijuana-derived CBD is better for you then this is a must read.

In this article, we will explore the pros and cons of both hemp- and medical marijuana-derived CBD and help you decide which one is right for you.

The Difference Between Hemp and Medical Marijuana

The differences between hemp and marijuana are not immediately obvious. According to the USDA:  

“Marijuana and industrial hemp are different varieties of the same plant species, Cannabis sativa L. Marijuana typically contains 3 to 15 percent THC on a dry-weight basis, while industrial hemp contains less than 1 percent (Blade, 1998; Vantreese, 1998). Most developed countries that permit hemp cultivation require use of varieties with less than 0.3 percent THC. However, the two varieties are indistinguishable by appearance. DeMeijer et al. (1992), in a study of 97 Cannabis strains, concluded that short of chemical analysis of the THC content, there was no way to distinguish between marijuana and hemp varieties”.

As you can see, hemp and marijuana are not that different from each other and only vary majorly in terms of THC content.

For more clarification, we reached out to the International Association for Cannabinoid Medicines for their definition of "medical marijuana" and were answered by Franjo Grotenhermen via email:

 “There is no definition of the term ‘medical marijuana’. I do not use this term. I usually use ‘medical cannabis’ to express in brief that in this case cannabis is used medicinally. Thus, ‘medical cannabis’ is a term to express that parts of the cannabis plant, usually flowers sometimes also leaves are used for medicinal purposes, an abbreviation of ‘cannabis used for medicinal purposes’.”

Transcribed from an email written by Franjo Grotenhermen of the International Association for Cannabinoid Medicines ( ).

I posed the same question to Mary's Medicinals of Colorado who specializes in high CBD medical marijuana and this was their response:

 “Medical Marijuana aka 'Cannabis' (the scientific plant name) refers to the use of the cannabis plant, either in whole plant form, or derivatives of the plant, to treat any number of conditions including broad spectrum pain, epilepsy, cancer, wasting, spasticity, glaucoma and many more.”

Transcribed from an email response from Mary’s Medicinals by Graham Sorkin.

This tells us that while the term "medical marijuana" is commonly used by the public, the term “medical cannabis” is more broadly understood in the scientific community to encompass any cannabis plant (marijuana or hemp) used for medicinal purposes. With this in mind, a clear answer to the differences between hemp- and marijuana-derived CBD seemed less clear. Turning to experts again, we asked Franjo Grotenhermen about the differences between the two:

“CBD is CBD. The human body does not care where the molecule comes from.”

Transcribed from an email written by Franjo Grotenhermen of the International Association for Cannabinoid Medicines (

The Rest of the Story

More than 70 different cannabinoids and over 500 other constituents of cannabis such as terpenoids and flavonoids have been identified in the cannabis plant. In fact, the U.S. government holds multiple patents on various cannabinoids, including patents that define the medicinal benefits for each of these cannabinoids. The two most well-known cannabinoids are cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Medical marijuana, unlike hemp, regularly has high levels of THC and CBD in its plants and concentrates which is an added benefit for some people. In fact, THC has been shown to have many benefits similar to CBD, and it is commonly thought that CBD and THC can have a synergistic effect when used in conjunction with one another. So, how much THC is needed for the synergistic effect? Hemp plants also have THC, but in much smaller concentrations, making it a good starting point with cannabis. Joanie Bell from Hemp Health Inc. had this to say on the topic of CBD and THC:

“I always tell people, start with Hemp CBD, you will usually find a therapeutic benefit. If you don’t then you may need to look at MMJ as you may need to add a higher level of THC. Some ailments need higher levels of THC. That is the time to look at the MMJ side. Hemp is … a good starting point for many.”

Given the information above, we can conclude that the CBD quality is the same whether you are using a hemp or marijuana plant, and the only real difference is the addition of THC from marijuana. So the question should not be which one is better, but what will be best for you and your lifestyle? In addition, legality within the state and country you live must be taken into consideration. 


To make this easier, we have included a quick reference guide showcasing the major points of both choices.  However, keep in mind that some things are not easily categorized. For example, low amounts of THC can be seen as a benefit or a drawback depending on your situation and needs.

Medical Marijuana-Derived CBD

-Can provide real relief via the benefits of CBD and THC

-Contains high levels of THC in conjunction with high levels of CBD for increased effectiveness in certain conditions

-Allows for very high cannabinoid content in a small application

-Can be found in many varieties and strains with varying flavors, percentages, and more

-May be hard to obtain or illegal depending on your location

-Carries the possibility of causing undesirable effects because of the higher THC and associated “high”

 Hemp-Derived CBD

-Can provide real relief via the benefits of cannabidiol

-Is legal in all 50 states

-Is easily obtained through websites online

-Has many options of flavor and consumption method via flavored oils, e-juices, and tinctures

-Does not contain enough THC to experience the associated effects


At this point, multiple states are already selling medical marijuana or are looking to jump on board; however, there are still other states that may never be open to the idea of medical marijuana. Either way, hemp-derived CBD is legal and obtainable in all 50 states making it much more accessible than THC.

Because every individual responds differently to CBD and THC, it is up to the consumer to decide what is best for themselves. Hopefully, the information presented here and on the rest of the website will help you make a more informed decision on the CBD products you purchase.

We wish to extend a warm thank you to all of our contributors.


The difference between the two is that Hemp derived CBD contains low levels of THC which are not enough to cause psychoactive effects but high enough for you to benefit from all the other cannabinoids. Marijuana derived CBD contains high concentrations of THC and some CBD.
It's a matter of personal opinion and lifestyle choices. Unfortunately, there is no single correct answer, as both products have their own advantages and disadvantages. But one of the benefits of hemp CBD is that it contains a small amount of THC (0,3%), which is suitable for most users.
Use our quick reference guide above to familiarize yourself with the pros and cons associated with each product option and then make an informed decision on which works best for you! We hope this information helps clear any confusion around hemp-derived CBD vs marijuana-derived CBD.
CBD is a chemical compound found in cannabis plants, including hemp and marijuana. It's one of many chemicals called cannabinoids, which react with the human body's own systems to create various effects. CBD can provide real relief via the benefits of CBD alone without the high feeling effect with THC.