Understanding CBD and Hemp for Humans

cbd and hemp

Marijuana has been illegal in America since 1937, but there has been a deepening interest in it over recent years. Medical and recreational marijuana has even been legalized in some states, and people are often purporting the many benefits of something called “CBD.”  

This shift in American culture can be confusing for some. It has led to a lot of questions like:

  • Why do you now see CBD signs all over your neighborhood?

  • Is CBD the same as marijuana?

  • Why are so many people suddenly interested in it? 

This eBook will answer all these questions and more. We’ll take the time to uncover the answers to those burning questions like: Can CBD get you high? Is it legal? Why is everyone talking about it?

And perhaps the most important question: Does it actually help people?  

Here’s everything you’ve wanted to know about CBD but just weren’t sure who to ask.

Marijuana and CBD

Probably the first thing to understand about cannabidiol (CBD) is that it can be a derivative of marijuana, but it’s not the same as smoking pot or getting high. In fact, the large majority of CBD comes from hemp, a plant we will discuss in further detail later in this eBook. 

Marijuana is dried leaves, flowers, and stems that come from the Cannabis sativa or Cannabis indica plant. While CBD is a component of the marijuana plant, it also has higher levels of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the mind-altering chemical responsible for psychoactivity. 

What is Medical Marijuana?

You’ve probably heard about medical marijuana and you may even know someone who has or is applying for a medical marijuana card. So why is medical marijuana legal and why are there so many people using it? 

Medical marijuana is not the same as CBD, although some people argue that both can offer health benefits. Though medical marijuana contains CBD, it also includes THC. Medical marijuana is very similar to recreational marijuana and it has a hallucinogenic effect. 

In many cases, recreational and medical marijuana with high levels of THC have lower levels of CBD.

History of the Legalization of Medical Marijuana 

Over the years, many states decriminalized recreational marijuana. For instance, in 1973 Oregon decriminalized marijuana, which reduced the fine for having an ounce or less of cannabis to a $100 fine as opposed to a harsher consequence. 

In 1996, California was the first state to legalize medical marijuana. The law called the Compassionate Use Act of 1996 allowed seriously ill people to take marijuana if it was recommended by a physician who determined that they would benefit from it.

Illnesses specifically included on the list were:

  • Cancer
  • Anorexia 
  • AIDS
  • Chronic pain
  • Spasticity 
  • Glaucoma 
  • Arthritis
  • Migraine
  • Any other illness for which marijuana provides relief 

Today, the nation is very split over the legality of medical marijuana. 

States such as Texas, Idaho, Georgia, and North Carolina have not switched to allowing marijuana for medicinal purposes. Other states, such as Oklahoma, South Dakota, and West Virginia have within recent years changed the laws to allow for medical marijuana use. 

Some states have allowed the use of CBD, while not allowing marijuana with THC.

The Difference Between Hemp and Marijuana

Hemp and marijuana are from the same family and genus, Cannabaceae and Cannabis respectively. These plants can be indistinguishable from each other, though cultivators have used selective breeding to separate the varieties. 

When you compare the two, hemp tends to be thinner with thinner leaves and the majority of the leaves at the top of the plant. Marijuana tends to have wider leaves and appears more like a bush than hemp.  

Other important differences between hemp and marijuana include:

  1. Composition. Hemp and marijuana both produce CBD, but marijuana has a much higher level of THC. In order to be classified as hemp, it must have a THC level lower than 0.3%. Marijuana can have a THC content level of 30%.

  2. Different legality. Hemp was regulated as an illegal substance in 1970, but in 2018 it was made legal again through the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018. The act stated that hemp could be grown so long as it has a THC content lower than 0.3%.

  3. Additional uses. Hemp can be used for a variety of other things besides medicinal or recreational benefits like:
  • Hemp seeds for food
  • Cooking oil
  • Textiles
  • Paper
  • Skincare
  • Soap
  • Building materials
  • Fuel like biodiesel and bioethanol 
  • Hemp plastic
  1. Different cultivation. The growing environment for hemp and marijuana is very different.
  • Hemp is usually grown close together on the outside, multi-acre lots. It can grow well in a variety of climates and is grown in a way to maximize the size and yield of the plant. It has a growing cycle of about 108-120 days
  • Marijuana must be grown in a controlled environment. It needs the proper warmth, humidity, and lighting to thrive and produce the intended composition. It’s important to produce female plants that have budding flowers. The average growth cycle for marijuana is 60-90 days.
  • Hemp and marijuana can’t be grown together as the cross-pollination will change the composition of the plants, ruining both crops.
    CBD legality. CBD can be derived from both hemp and marijuana, but federally it is still considered illegal to obtain it from marijuana. Even if the THC content is 0.0%, according to federal law, it is not legal to use marijuana to obtain CBD.

Is CBD Legal in the US?

The legality of CBD isn’t exactly easy to answer. The answer is something more similar to “sometimes” and “under the right circumstances” and “in the correct location.”

Although the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018 approved the growing of hemp, CBD oil is not legal for distribution in every state, and it’s federally allowed in a very limited capacity. 

In short, CBD, hemp, and marijuana continue to be controversial subjects both for individuals and for lawmakers.

What Does the FDA Say About It? 

The Food and Drug Administration is the federal entity that is responsible for:

“…protecting the public health by ensuring the safety, efficacy, and security of human and veterinary drugs, biological products, and medical devices; and by ensuring the safety of our nation’s food supply, cosmetics, and products that emit radiation.”

The FDA is aware that many people are interested in the additional health benefits of CBD, but they’re also charged with ensuring that it is safe for the general public. 

According to the FDA, the only product they have approved is a prescription drug called Epidiolex meant to treat seizures linked to Gastaut syndrome, Dravet syndrome, or tuberous sclerosis complex. These three diseases are rare forms of epilepsy that begin in childhood.

Hemp-Derived CBD is Better Than Marijuana-Derived CBD From a Legal Perspective 

Though the FDA has taken a relative stance against the distribution of CBD for non-seizure medication, CBD derived from hemp has a better legal ground to stand on. Since growing hemp was legalized in 2018 it was removed as a Schedule 1 Substance, thereby dropping it from the control of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

State versus Federal Laws about CBD

Though historically the federal government has taken a harder stance against marijuana, hemp, and their byproducts, states have independently made laws in opposition of the federal laws. 

Technically, even though states like Colorado, California, and Montana have changed their laws to legalize recreational marijuana, it’s still illegal on the federal level. 

So how are states changing their laws when the U.S. government still says it’s illegal? 

This is a complex subject, but in short, the U.S. government does not typically oversee state drug crimes like possession. Drug crimes are typically overseen by state law enforcement with little involvement from the federal government. 

In 2013, as states began to change their laws to allow recreational and/or medicinal marijuana, hemp, and CBD, President Obama issued a policy that eased the enforcement of federal marijuana laws, deferring instead to states and their new laws. 

However, in early 2018, President Trump rescinded the policy. According to spokeswoman Sarah Sanders, “The president believes in enforcing federal law — that’s his top priority — regardless of what the topic is, whether it’s marijuana or immigration.”

Even so, according to Stacey Barrett, an attorney, and writer for Criminal Defense Lawyer this gesture was “largely symbolic.” 

She explains that “Federal prosecutions targeting the state-legal marijuana industry require a lot of resources, with no guarantee of success.” Also, “Law enforcement officers make the vast majority of arrests for marijuana offenses under state, not federal law.”

While simple possession charges probably won’t cross federal law enforcement, there are some areas that could potentially fall under bigger scrutiny from the U.S. government. This would largely be in growing and selling CBD products on a large scale or across state borders, where the federal government may take a stronger stance.

The state versus federal law disparity has put cannabis products, including CBD, in a sort of legal gray area. 

CBD and Different State Laws

State laws regarding CBD are very diverse among the 50 states. Some states take a hard stance against CBD and CBD products, while others have fairly lax laws concerning it.

Every state has taken a different stance on CBD. For instance, in Alabama, it’s legal to use hemp-sourced CBD, but there are regulations on growing and distributing it. Farmers interested in growing hemp have to get a license from the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries. Likewise, CBD processors have to operate under a license. 

Alabama has no restrictions on the way CBD can be used, but in California where recreational marijuana is legal, it’s currently illegal to infuse CBD into food and beverages. 

Most states allow CBD to some extent, but there are three that haven’t legalized it at all.  These states are: 

  • Idaho
  • South Dakota
  • Nebraska 

The laws are quickly changing, and your state’s laws will be specific, so if you’re interested in using, growing, or selling CBD, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with your state’s laws. 

Frequently Asked Questions About CBD

CBD comes with a lot of questions, so in this section, we’ll cover some of the most frequently asked questions and uncover some misconceptions or confusion surrounding this trending substance.

Question #1: How Much CBD Should You Take and How Often?

There is no real right answer to this question. There are some potential side effects of taking CBD, which will be explored further in this article, but one thing to know is there are still quite a lot of unknowns when it comes to CBD and the actual dosage or frequency of use is highly dependent on the individual. 

Some things to consider when taking CBD are:

  • Age
  • Weight
  • What you’re attempting to treat with CBD
  • Your body chemistry
  • How you react to CBD
  • The concentration of the dose

You can speak to your doctor about the appropriate amount to take. For those taking Epidiolex for seizures, your doctor should be able to provide you with specifics of this medication. Though your doctor may not recommend CBD for other medicinal purposes, it would still be helpful to get insight from a medical professional.

Question #2: Will You Flunk a Drug Test If You Use CBD?

Though it’s very uncommon, it is possible to fail a drug test when consuming CBD. Drug tests test for THC, not CBD. If there are traces of THC in the CBD, it might trigger a routine drug test. 

CBD that has been cross-contaminated or products that have not been closely regulated may contain higher trace amounts of THC, making you more susceptible to failing a drug test.

Question #3: Can You Get High From CBD?

Pure CBD void of THC, or possessing small amounts of THC (like full-spectrum CBD oil) will not give the normal “high” you would have from marijuana. However, CBD may alter your mood, make you feel calmer, give you a pleasant feeling, or make you sleepy. 

Without THC, you won’t experience the euphoria or the mind-altering perceptions of emotional experiences, time, or space. 

Question #4: Can You Take Too Much CBD?

Too much CBD is not likely to be lethal, but it may cause other side effects like diarrhea, fatigue, and vomiting. 

There’s still much research needed to identify potential side effects of taking CBD on a regular basis or in very high doses.

Question #5: How Long Does CBD Stay in the Body?

CBD tends to stay in the body for around 2-5 days. How long it stays in your body depends on a number of factors, including:

  • How much you use
  • How often you use it
  • Body weight
  • Body chemistry
  • Food intake
  • Method of use (tinctures, edibles, creams, lotions)

Question #6 Is CBD Safe For Kids?

Currently, the only FDA-approved form of CBD for kids is the medication Epidiolex. Some people believe that CBD can help children with things like autism, anxiety, ADHD, and sleeping issues. 

One study entitled Oral Cannabidiol Use in Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder to Treat Related Symptoms and Comorbidities used parents to self-report how their children responded to CBD. There were positive indications in this study, but it does not definitively show that CBD is effective or safe. 

The study concluded, “Parents’ reports suggest that cannabidiol may improve ASD comorbidity symptoms; however, the long-term effects should be evaluated in large-scale studies.”

Hopefully over the next few years more formal studies will show if there are positive effects of using CBD for kids and if there are long-term potential side effects as well.

Question #7: Is CBD Okay for Pets?

There are not enough formal studies or research to conclude if CBD is safe for animals. Though anecdotally people have reported positive effects from CBD for their pets, it’s not enough information to officially declare it safe for all animals. 

When formal studies are produced, they will also have to be researched for individual species of animals. What works for a dog may not be as safe for a cat or a bird. 

Question #8: What is the Difference Between CBD and Hemp Oil?

Hemp oil and CBD oil are both derived from a hemp plant, but they do not have the same chemical makeup or benefits. 

Hemp oil has little to no CBD content and is made from hemp seeds. CBD is made from the leaves, flowers, and stalks of the hemp plant. 

In regard to health benefits, hemp oil is rich in omegas and is often used in cooking. Its main appeal is its nutritional benefits. CBD, on the other hand, is thought to help with anxiety, depression, and pain relief (to name a few).

Question #9 What is the Difference Between Full Spectrum, Broad Spectrum, and CBD Isolate?

Not all CBD is manufactured in the same way. If you’ve started researching CBD, you may have heard unfamiliar terms that made you question CBD even more.

The terms “full spectrum” “broad spectrum” and “CBD isolate” refer to different ways that CBD is made:

  1. Full spectrum CBD contains multiple cannabis extracts. The extracts include essential oils, terpenes, flavonoids, additional cannabinoids, and low levels of THC (less than 0.3%). Of the types of CBD, this one is most likely to cause you to fail a drug test since it will have trace amounts of THC in it
  • Full spectrum CBD has the “entourage effect” because it includes all the compounds of the hemp plant. Some believe that this has the greatest health benefits since you’re getting all the original compounds of the plant. Additional cannabinoids in full spectrum CBD are:

    • Cannabinol (CBN) 
    • Cannabigerol (CBG) 
    • Cannabidivarin (CBDV)
    • Cannabidiol acid (CBDA) 
    • Cannabichromene (CBC)

Broad spectrum CBD is similar to full spectrum CBD in the sense that it includes all the parts of the plant. The main difference between the two is with broad spectrum CBD you won’t have any THC

Broad spectrum CBD still offers the “entourage effect” but without any THC.

CBD Isolate is pure CBD without additional cannabinoids, THC, or terpenes. This is the most concentrated form of CBD oil and it requires a great deal more effort to extract than the other two varieties. This is the least likely version to cause you to fail a drug test.

Question #10: What Are Different Ways to Consume or Use CBD?

CBD can be consumed in many different ways.

Some of the most popular ways are:

  1. CBD tincture. A tincture is a medicine contained in alcohol. A CBD tincture is produced by steeping cannabis in high-proof alcohol and then applying low heat. A tincture is highly concentrated and meant to take in small doses.

    • Most people use a medicine dropper to administer a small controlled dose under the tongue (also called sublingually).

A CBD tincture can also be added to food and beverages.

  • CBD oil capsules. Capsules are easy to take and simple to dose.

  • Vaping. This method is one of the fastest acting and comes in a variety of flavors. CBD vape liquid can be added to your vaping device and taken on the go.

  • Topicals. CBD topicals are made for aches and pains, especially those experienced by athletes.  It’s not recommended to put on sores or cuts but is often used to help sore muscles or inflammation.

  • CBD transdermal patches. This method is similar to a nicotine patch. Throughout the day as your body heat reacts with the patch, it releases CBD into your system.
  • CBD bath bombs. Bath bombs are a highly popular way of relaxing in the tub, and for an even more relaxing time, you can get CBD bath bombs.

  • CBD gummies. CBD gummies are a sweet way to get your daily dose.
  • CBD edibles. In addition to gummies, CBD can be made into other forms of edibles like dried fruit, chocolates, and sauce. Edibles tend to take longer to take effect and may require a larger dose.

  • Beverages are another way to consume CBD. CBD can be found in wine, coffee, soda, water, kombucha, and other alcohols. 

What Are the Benefits of CBD?

The health benefits of CBD are still being discovered, but there are many hopeful possibilities. As a consumer, it’s important to weigh the evidence available about the effectiveness of CBD. Some of the claims that you might see about CBD are far-fetched and one should be discerning when thinking about how CBD might work. 

CBD is not a cure-all and will not help with every problem. Anyone claiming that it will cure diseases should be held under great scrutiny since there’s still much research left to be done with CBD

With that disclaimer, in this section, we will explore some of the potential benefits of using CBD. Many people have anecdotally shared their positive outcomes with CBD and are great proponents of the substance. There have also been some beginning studies that suggest that CBD could be beneficial for many different issues.  

Here are some of the potential benefits that people might receive from using CBD:

  1. Relief from epilepsy symptoms. Edipolex, the FDA-approved medication, can help people with rare epilepsy diseases. Research has shown that CBD can help reduce seizures, especially among children and teenagers. 
  2. Help with pain and inflammation. Several studies have shown promising data that CBD can help with chronic pain and inflammation. When combined with THC, it has also been found effective for treating multiple sclerosis and arthritis. 
  3. Reduces depression and anxiety. Many people take CBD for the calming effect. One test conducted in Brazil found that subjects who were given a 300mg dose of CBD were less anxious when giving a speech than those who had been given a placebo.
  4. People with depression often have low levels of serotonin, contributing to those dark and low feelings. Some studies have shown that CBD may affect the way that the brain’s chemical receptors respond to serotonin, which may help lessen the symptoms of depression.
  5. Help with sleep disorders. Some people use CBD to improve sleep or offer relief from sleeping disorders. One case series entitled Cannabidiol in Anxiety and Sleep: A Large Case Series concluded that CBD reduced anxiety and improved sleep in many of the study participants.
  6. CBD may help with acne. One study conducted by the Journal of Clinical Investigation concluded that CBD may have a positive effect on acne because it reduces the skin’s oil production and decreases inflammation.
  7. Support for cancer patients. There’s some research that suggests that CBD can help relieve some symptoms caused by cancer. One study showed that cancer patients treated with THC and CBD experienced a reduction in pain. Even greater success was found with people who took CBD with THC as opposed to those who took THC extract alone. CBD has also been shown to reduce symptoms related to chemotherapy like nausea and vomiting.
  8. Benefits for heart health. One small study conducted in the UK has shown that CBD oil led to a smaller blood pressure increase during testing, even with a single dose. CBD is thought to reduce stress and anxiety which can also reduce the risk of heart disease.
  9. May offer help for PTSD. In addition to helping with anxiety and depression, CBD may also lessen the symptoms of PTSD. A study entitled Use of Medicinal Cannabis and Synthetic Cannabinoids in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): A Systematic Review concluded, “Present data show that cannabis and synthetic cannabinoids, both acting on the endocannabinoids system, may have a potential therapeutic use for improving PTSD symptoms, e.g., reducing anxiety, modulating memory-related processes, and improving sleep.” The study also suggested that further research was needed to ensure the effectiveness of CBD for those with PTSD. 

Potential Side Effects of CBD 

There are also a number of potential side effects associated with CBD. Though many argue that CBD is very safe, there have been some reports of ill-effects when using CBD.

Side Effects Outlined by the FDA

On the FDA website, they have a list of concerns with CBD, largely stressing the lack of research needed to make well-informed conclusions. 

In a release entitled What You Need to Know (And What We’re Working to Find Out) About Products Containing Cannabis or Cannabis-derived Compounds, Including CBD they outlined several potential risks or concerns. 

Those concerns include: 

  • CBD may cause injury to the liver.

  • When taken with other drugs, CBD may have some potentially serious side effects.

  • CBD mixed with alcohol or drugs meant to treat anxiety, stress, or sleep disorders increases the risk of sedation and drowsiness which could lead to accident or injury.

  • Some studies have shown that male animals exposed to CBD have suffered from reproductive toxicity (damage to their fertility). It’s unknown at this time if the damage translates to humans. 

Some side effects the FDA says would end once CBD consumption has ended. These side effects include:

  • Drowsiness or sleepiness
  • Diarrhea or decreased appetite
  • Irritability or agitation

Another thing the FDA notes is a lack of knowledge about certain areas.

Those concerns would be:

    • How is someone affected when they take CBD for long periods of time?
    • How much CBD does someone have to take before risks are a concern?
    • How do different methods of consumption such as creams, vaping, or tincture, affect intake?
    • How does CBD affect a developing brain?
    • Does CBD react poorly to other herbs or plant materials?
    • Does CBD cause male reproductive toxicity?

The World Health Organization and CBD

The World Health Organization seems to take a more lenient stance on CBD and CBD consumption. In a 2018 report released by the World Health Organization, they claimed, there is unsanctioned medical use of CBD-based products with oils, supplements, gums, and high concentration extracts available online for the treatment of many ailments.

They go on to say that “CBD is generally well tolerated with a good safety profile.” In the same report, they also state that studies show that CBD does not lead to abuse or dependency in humans or in animals.

Additional Potential Side Effects

Other reported side effects of CBD are:


  • Dry mouth
  • Low blood pressure
  • Lightheadedness
  • Drowsiness
  • Diarrhea 
  • Nausea 
  • Fluctuations in weight and appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Thinning blood

When mixed with other medications, CBD may cause additional side effects. For example, medications or supplements that come with a “grapefruit warning” should be avoided when consuming CBD. Grapefruit and CBD can interfere with a group of enzymes needed to metabolize certain drugs. 

There have also been reported side effects when mixing CBD with medications meant to treat psychiatric disorders.

How to Know What CBD is Legit? 

The FDA has not yet approved CBD for ingestion, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t on the shelves and online available for purchasing. Since these items are readily available, it’s essential to find the best and safest products available. 

Know before you purchase a CBD product that it has not been tested by the FDA the way that other consumables would be. With that in mind, there are some ways to ensure that you’re getting a better and safer product.

Is There Third-Party Testing?

One of the best ways to find out if the CBD you’re going to buy is safe is to see if it has been independently tested.

Trustworthy companies will let you know the results of the testing. The testing will provide information on the content such as how much CBD and THC is present.

Other things that will be filed in the report are:

  • Profile and potency of the CBD
  • Terpene content
  • Heavy metals
  • Pesticide residue
  • Microbiological contaminants 
  • Purity
  • Additional cannabis compounds

Does it Tell You What the Proper Dosing Is?

The CBD company should include dosing on the label, so the consumer knows what is appropriate to take. Depending on the type of CBD it is (full spectrum or CBD isolate), the dosing will be different. A good brand will share the right amount of dosing for their products. 

Does it Make Unfounded Claims?

Studies have shown some promising things about CBD and many people report its benefits. Even so, CBD is not yet approved by the FDA and should therefore be marketed like a supplement or vitamin. 

Though CBD may be beneficial for symptoms of certain diseases, no brand should be claiming that it can cure diseases. It should not be advertised as a miracle product able to fix any medical or mental health problem. If the claims are too grandiose or unverified, it’s better not to trust that brand.

Have Additional Ingredients Been Added?

The label should let you know if there are any additional ingredients added to the product. Some brands will add melatonin, chemicals, flavoring additives or other things that may not agree with you or you may not want to purchase.

Does it Display How Much CBD You’re Getting?

A good company will post the potency of your CBD. Though there isn’t a hard and fast rule about potency, some suggest the oil should contain 250-1000 mg in a 10 ml bottle.

The Future of CBD

There’s no doubt that CBD has significantly grown in popularity in recent years. It’s at the local coffee shop, in the health food stores, and in stores of their own. 

Whether you’re a strong advocate, completely on the fence, or totally opposed to it, with this much intense interest, it’s likely that more studies will be conducted to show the benefits and risks of CBD.

Over the coming years, research and user experiences will show whether it has major health benefits or if it’s just a passing fad. 

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