Cannabis Oil and Hemp Oil Are Not The Same; The Shocking Differences In Safety

The distinction between cannabis, hemp, and marijuana and what is or isn’t legal often confuses newcomers to the world of cannabis. Let’s get some things clear from the start:

Is Hemp Oil the same as Cannabis Oil?

Hemp oil containing cannabidiol (CBD) is often sold as a dietary supplement, and is most commonly packaged in small bottles and applied with a dropper. These supplements can contain no more than 0.3% THC, or otherwise, they are considered cannabis products. Oils that contain more than 0.3% THC can only be found in states with a legal medical cannabis program and functioning dispensaries. CBD derived from psychoactive cannabis plants is still illegal federally.

Products containing hemp-derived CBD are legal throughout the U.S. and consumers can purchase them online, whereas CBD derived from cannabis (or, as the government prefers to call it, “marijuana”) is illegal.

Download Free Guide to CBD

Many people who consider using cannabis as medication often think that they can use hemp oil instead, but hemp oil and cannabis oil are not the same. Hemp oil contains almost no THC, which those who are wary of getting high consider a bonus.

With hemp-based products, there’s no psychoactivity, no running from the law, and it’s more readily available. Why bother with all the trouble surrounding cannabis? Well, for all the trouble that cannabis can bring, hemp-based products come with a host of troubles in their own right. This article explores what consumers ought to consider before exploring and purchasing hemp oil products.

Mislabelled Cannabis Products

Many hemp products in the U.S. are notorious for not actually containing the amount of CBD claimed on the label. The FDA has issued warning letters to several companies regarding this. In 2017, a Penn Medicine researcher tested 84 hemp products and found only 26 were accurately labeled. Some even had far more THC than they claimed, sometimes enough to cause intoxication. This should concern consumers, as many people have jobs that prohibit the consumption of THC, and even a tiny amount over the 0.2% legal limit may potentially cause someone to fail a drug test.

Cannabis Oil and Hemp Oil
From Pixabay

Hemp Products Containing Heavy Metals

Many hemp products are crafted from poorly grown industrial hemp that has been sprayed with pesticides and other chemicals. Hemp plants are often used for a process called phytoremediation, meaning they are used to remove contaminants in the soil. Hemp plants naturally absorb whatever is in the ground, meaning that these things will end up in the final product if the soil is full of heavy metals and pollutants.

Inefficient Cannabis Extraction Methods

Some methods used to extract CBD from hemp usually end up with plenty of plant wax and fat rather than cannabinoids. Ingesting these byproducts is not ideal and may cause health problems. Some of the higher quality products use supercritical CO2 extraction methods to ensure cleanliness, but again, this is not ideal.

Organic ethanol solvents produce the cleanest extracts, as alcohol dissolves both oil- and water-soluble chemicals found in the plant. However, companies that utilize alcohol extraction methods are few and far between.

Extraction Methods
Picture by Steven Schwartz. From Flickr. CC by 2.0.

Improper Testing of Cannabis Products

Many hemp-based products are improperly tested for pathogens, heavy metals, pesticides, cannabinoid-terpenoid profiles, etc., and even those that are may receive wildly different results from different labs.

Now, we must clarify there are good hemp-based CBD products out there. But in a marketplace where testing for safety and efficacy is more of a choice than a requirement, discovering the highest quality ones is a mammoth task.

The UK and several European countries employ more stringent regulations on hemp-derived CBD, including minimum CBD requirements, testing for pathogens and pollutants, and regulating it like a medicine or healthcare product. Unfortunately for American consumers, importing CBD products from Europe is illegal.

However, even in Europe, safety and accuracy are still concerns. Many products are improperly labelled, and some even contain polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which are carcinogenic. Some companies, such as Provacan (a UK company), Charlotte’s Web, Elixinol, Cibdol and Love Hemp, produce good CBD products. Other more reliable companies include Medix and Green Road, Eben Britton’s Be Trū Wellness, and Chris Martin’s Hempful Farms. Yet, even products with the best reputations have received FDA warnings.

Making mass-produced products consistently from a complex plant is very difficult, and even the best get it wrong. In some instances, even good companies may produce batches that test differently from their labels. However, accuracy is key when it comes to medical products, so these are serious concerns regarding treatment.

Lab Medical Research
From Pixabay

Compared to the rest of Europe, the UK is arguably better with regards to regulating hemp products. The Cannabis Trade Association UK (CTAUK) works in conjunction with the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and Food Standards Agency (FSA) to ensure adherence to its high-quality standards.

Ideally, the U.S. ought to follow a similar path in regulating hemp-derived CBD products, as there are far too many products out there at the moment in the U.S. that are essentially snake oil. There is little worse than giving a person false hope. Sadly coming across and ingesting products that do not work may actually turn a person off from applying for a medical marijuana card and trying a cannabis-based product that may help.

However, even Charlotte’s Web, to whom CTAUK issued a “gold standard”, received warnning letters from the FDA in 2017. Whether CTAUK have it right is up in the air, and therefore consumers should  still exercise due diligence with hemp-derived CBD products, even ones made in Europe.

What Is Weed Oil? Why Is Cannabis-Derived CBD best?

Weed or cannabis oil that you can find in a dispensary is different from hemp oil. More confusingly, there are various things called “cannabis oil,” including concentrates. The products most similar to CBD hemp oil are tinctures, which is cannabis-infused with edible oil, usually coconut or olive oil. These canna oils (tinctures) are usually full-spectrum and come in various ratios of THC:CBD. Common ratios include:

  • 3:1 THC: CBD
  • 2:1 THC: CBD
  • 1:1 THC: CBD
  • 1:2 THC: CBD
  • 1:3 THC: CBD
  • high CBD ratios such as 1:18, 1:20 and 1:30.

Ratios where the CBD is equal to or greater than the amount of THC have little psychoactive effect (although they may have some).

One of the fundamental reasons why CBD derived from cannabis plants is best is because extractors work with the flower rather than stalks. Flowers contain more trichomes, which is where many of the cannabis plant’s cannabinoids reside. Trichomes are also allowed to mature fully, making the cannabis plant a better, more readily available source of cannabinoids, CBD included.

A product that uses the whole of the cannabis plant is also more likely to contain a full spectrum of cannabinoids and terpenes, giving the term “entourage effect” more meaning. For some conditions, THC is needed as much as CBD, if not more so. Taking away THC may mean the product is less effective, if effective at all. Yes, there are full spectrum”hemp-based products, which means they are extracting all cannabinoids from the hemp plant. Still, taking THC out means that it may not be suitable for everyone, and the efficacy may be diminished somewhat.

Despite the fact that cannabis-based products are a better source of cannabinoids, the same mis-labeling issue that applies to the hemp industry applies to the legalized cannabis. Label accuracy in edible medical cannabis products leaves a lot to be desired. One highly serious case linked badly-grown, contaminated cannabis’  involvement in the death of a man with cancer. For medical cannabis patients, many of whom are immunocompromised, this is of huge concern.

Whether it’s hemp or cannabis, the U.S. needs to regulate both properly. Independent authorities and a consistent, nationwide set of standards are sorely needed. Otherwise, we’re at the mercy of those who are more interested in profit than making a quality product.

How to Tell if Hemp Oil Has Gone Bad

Well-made tinctures will stay in stable condition for 12-24 months if stored in a cool, dry place, away from direct sunlight, and sealed in its original bottle. You can tell whether an oil has degraded if it is foggy or cloudy and murky. If the oil smells bad and rancid, then it may have come in contact with bacteria and should be discarded.

Get Free Guide To Cannabis Expiration

Written by
Dipak Hemraj
Dipak Hemraj

Dipak Hemraj is a published author, grower, product maker, and Leafwell’s resident cannabis expert. From botany & horticulture to culture & economics, he wishes to help educate the public on why cannabis is medicine (or a “pharmacy in a plant”) and how it can be used to treat a plethora of health problems. Dipak wants to unlock the power of the plant, and see if there are specific cannabinoid-terpene-flavonoid profiles suitable for different conditions.

See A Leafwell Physician Today

Get approved for medical marijuana online from a licensed physician. Only pay if you are approved.

Get Started
Leafwell medical marijuana card

Not Sure If Cannabis Can Help You?

Let us know what you are looking to use medical cannabis for, and we will point you in the right direction.

Contact our support