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What's The Difference Between Hemp Flower and Cannabis?

If you’ve been operating under the assumption that hemp and cannabis are two different species of plant, you’re not alone. Hemp and cannabis are two different names for the same flowering plant that belongs to the Cannabaceae family. 

In the past, farmers grew what they called “industrial hemp” to use as a material for making other products. Farmers referred to cannabis when they talked about growing plants for human medicinal or recreational consumption. While quality varied, the plant was the same—marijuana and hemp both come from cannabis. 

The United States government, however, does make a legal distinction between hemp and marijuana/cannabis. That difference is Delta 9 THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, content. D9THC is just one of over 100 cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. It is the main one that people usually associate with a “high” feeling, and it’s what’s responsible for marijuana’s place as a Schedule 1 drug in the United States. 

But hemp products, or CBD products, like those we sell at Cali Vali, are federally legal. So what’s the difference? And how do you know which products you can trust? 

What is Cannabis? 

Cannabis is a flowering plant in the Cannabaceae family. There are three main species of cannabis: Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, and Cannabis ruderalis. People sometimes talk about the different effects of “sativa” and “indica” strains of cannabis. Those species can be found in all cannabis plants, whether they’re branded as CBD, hemp, or marijuana. 

Humans have found uses for the cannabis plant for thousands of years. Some even believe it was the first crop human beings intentionally cultivated! Historically, people grew cannabis to use for making textiles, paper, animal feed, plastics, foods (think hemp milk or hemp oil), and other products. Since Hemp Cannabis is an extremely strong and versatile fiber, people have found loads of uses for it. 

What “Hemp” means these days

Since 2018, when the United States passed its Farm Bill, cannabis products with 0.3% or less of D9THC have been legal for use in the USA. Those products are referred to as “hemp” products, and they’re what we work with at Cali Vali. 

Why 0.3%? It’s actually pretty arbitrary, but it dates back to the 1980s. In 1979, an agricultural scientist named Ernest Small wrote a book called The Species Problem in Cannabis: Science and Semantics. That book is the first place where the 0.3% rule appeared. 

Small wrote that it’s basically impossible to distinguish between hemp products that contain enough THC to produce a “high” and what we now call “hemp” products. But hemp with less than 0.3% THC is unlikely to make a person feel intoxicating effects, so it’s what the United States government decided to use when deciding what should be legal, and what isn’t. 

When people talk about CBD flower and hemp products, they’re usually referring to products that come from the cannabis plant but contain less than 0.3% THC. 

When people talk about marijuana or weed, however, they’re usually referring to strains of cannabis that have more than 0.3% D9THC by dry weight. Some strains are higher in THC than others, but most “weed” or “marijuana” has enough THC to make people feel high. These products are legal in some states, but illegal at the federal level. They are not what we sell at Cali Vali. 

Okay, So What’s the Difference Between CBD and Cannabis? 

CBD is short for cannabidiol, another cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant. (Remember, there are hundreds of cannabinoids in cannabis, and THC and CBD are just two of them.) CBD is found in all cannabis or hemp plants. So it’s found in both hemp products that are federally legal under the 2018 Farm Bill and in medical and recreational marijuana products. 

To be legal in the United States, CBD products must contain less than 0.3% THC. They can be called “hemp” or CBD products. 

Cannabidiol (aka CBD) isn’t just found in the cannabis plant, though. Synthetic CBD is a product that is made by humans from a combination of chemicals that can be used to produce cannabidiol. These man-made products are usually made with fluoride or bromide and marketed as alternatives to hemp CBD. The FDA has found synthetic cannabinoid products to be very dangerous. That’s just one reason why we at Cali Vali sell natural, minimally-processed hemp from farms we’ve visited and flowers we trim by hand. No synthetics here. 

Just to make the distinction clear to customers, lots of CBD companies (like us!) refer to their products as hemp products. But remember, CBD comes from cannabis. It is a cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant. So, just to review, our CBD products are derived from hemp, and hemp is the same as cannabis, but our products naturally contain less than 0.3% THC, which makes them legal and different from marijuana. Whew!

The Bottom Line

As cannabis prohibition comes to a close in the United States, our vocabulary needs some time to develop. At Cali Vali, we care about making our processes and language transparent so our customers can feel confident about what they consume. We’re so proud to make hemp products that are safe, natural, and legal in all 50 states. Whether you call it hemp, cannabis, or CBD, we’re here to help you find exactly what you’re looking for!