CBD Flower vs. Marijuana: What’s the Difference?

CBD Flower vs Marijuana

It looks like marijuana and smells like marijuana, but it isn’t marijuana. What is CBD flower, and how is it different from the form of cannabis we’re all used to? Learn the difference between CBD flower and marijuana in this guide, and find out how to tell them apart.

What Is CBD Flower?

“CBD flower” refers to Cannabis sativa buds taken from plants that have been bred to be high in CBD and low in THC. Like most organisms, cannabis is receptive to selective breeding, making it possible to maximize CBD content while keeping THC levels below 0.3%. According to Observer’s CBD flower reviews, CBD-rich hemp buds are becoming massively popular around the nation due to their impressive benefits and lack of intoxicating effects.

What Is Marijuana?

“Marijuana” is a somewhat outdated term used to refer to THC-rich cannabis. While the 2018 Farm Bill directed the DEA to remove CBD and most other cannabinoids from their list of illicit substances, THC remains a Schedule I drug, meaning its possession carries the greatest possible repercussions at the federal level. Any cannabis products containing more than 0.3% THC are considered to be marijuana.

Hemp vs. Marijuana

What, exactly, is the difference between hemp and marijuana? We’ll break it down into four categories:


There’s a massive legal difference between hemp and marijuana. While hemp products like CBD flower are usually placed in the same regulatory category as hemp seed oil and hemp T-shirts, marijuana products like THC-rich cannabis flower are technically in the same legal category as heroin and methamphetamine. State laws, however, vary in their stances on cannabis possession, often openly defying the federal government’s official position.


Marijuana will get you high while CBD flower and most other hemp products won’t. The notable exceptions are products containing delta 8, a cannabinoid usually classified as hemp despite its close similarities to THC. CBD flower, though, is a hemp product that has absolutely zero intoxicating potential, and smoking CBD flower usually feels lightly relaxing or even sleep-inducing instead.


In terms of aroma, CBD-rich hemp flower and marijuana are completely indistinguishable. Pardon the use of a colloquial term, but both simply smell like “weed,” making it impossible to determine the difference between hemp flower and marijuana based on aroma alone.


Hemp flower and marijuana also look exactly the same. True, there are considerable differences in appearance between cannabis strains, but these differences apply just as much to CBD-rich hemp strains as they do to THC-rich marijuana cultivars. You won’t be able to tell whether a cannabis bud is hemp or marijuana by looking at it.

Chemical makeup

Obviously, CBD flower and marijuana are fundamentally different on a chemical level. Marijuana can contain as much as 30% THC, but it usually features less than 1% CBD. Hemp flower, on the other hand, must contain less than 0.3% THC by law, but it can contain as much as 20-25% CBD.

How Do You Tell the Difference Between CBD Flower and Marijuana?

The only way to tell the difference between CBD flower and marijuana (aside from using it) is to have your buds tested at a lab. Cannabis analytics labs will generally charge more than you paid for your cannabis to test it, but this is the only surefire way to be certain of the cannabinoid content in your buds.

Before you take this extreme step, though, do some basic research. The company that produced your cannabis likely left their brand name or logo around somewhere, and you can get in touch with them to determine the cannabinoid content of your product. Or, the cannabinoid percentages in your flower may simply be listed on the product label.

CBD Flower vs. Marijuana: The Bottom Line

In a way, it’s a bit silly that we’re still so concerned about the difference between CBD flower and marijuana. The federal government should have moved years ago to clarify the regulatory status of cannabis and eliminate archaic cannabis prohibition laws. If this had happened, the differences between CBD flower and marijuana would now be more academic and less life-and-death.

As it stands, though, knowing how to tell CBD flower and marijuana apart could be the deciding factor in whether or not you spend years in federal prison. Make sure you know the differences between CBD flower and marijuana front-to-back, and opt for hemp unless you live in a state where all forms of cannabis are legal.