And while we both may think we’re taking about the same product, we aren’t. Both oils do come from a cannabis plant, but they’re inherently different, and it’s important to know the distinction before browsing the shelves.
CBD (cannabidiol) oil is usually made from hemp because it legally cannot have more than 0.3% THC content. When made from the cannabis plant, which contains more than 0.3% THC, it becomes psychoactive and not legal for sale. The extracted CBD is mixed with a carrier oil such as hempseed oil or olive oil into the final product.
There are three ways CBD oil can be classified: Full-Spectrum, Broad Spectrum, and Isolate. Full-Spectrum CBD oil contains all the phytocannabinoids and terpenes found in hemp, which combine to create what is called a beneficial “entourage effect.” Being full-spectrum, it will have a legally-allowed amount of THC in the mix, although by no means enough to get the user high. Users who wish to not consume any THC can choose a Broad Spectrum product, which contains all the phytocannabinoids and terpenes except tetrahydrocannabinol.
Purists can opt for CBD Isolate, which contains 99.9% cannabidiol and nothing else — no phytocannabinoids and no terpenes are added. All three forms are typically sold side by side alongside dietary supplements, so today they can be found everywhere from grocery, drug and convenience stores to spas, salons, and big-box retailers. Because the FDA does not regulate supplements, always keep a critical eye on any health claims made by a CBD oil manufacturer on the product itself or in the advertising that got you interested.
Cannabis oil, on the other hand, is made from recreational cannabis plants, so it is rich in THC: usually upwards of 10%. This makes it illegal under federal law, although legal medically and/or recreationally in multiple states. As such, you won’t find it being sold in retail stores next to CBD oil: you’ll be making your purchase inside a licensed dispensary.
Because of its potency, many cannabis oil users are seeking its medical benefits, which may include pain treatment and insomnia relief. Medical professionals will often prefer a prescribed oil dose to smoking flower, and of course users who feel that smoking carries a stigma appreciate having the option of consuming oil (or applying it topically.) Some cannabis oils are manufactured in capsule form, with precisely-defined dosages, for ingestion.
Medical users are often particular to a form of cannabis oil called “Rick Simpson Oil” named after a skin cancer patient who became known for using a homemade cannabis oil as a topical remedy. So should you see a cannabis oil product labeled “RSO,” you’ll know it’s been formulated for direct skin application.
Cartoon Source: MG Magazine, July 2020