Industrial Hemp vs. CBD Hemp

As a renewable source for raw materials, hemp is incorporated into thousands of products from paper and textiles to trending health foods, holistic body care, and CBD. While the boom may seem like a sole characteristic of the modern legalization era, hemp has deep roots in both world and American history, but its most recent policy reforms have spawned an interest in agriculture like never before.

Uses For Hemp

Henry Ford gave the world a glimpse at the possibilities of hemp when he unveiled his plastic car in the 1940s—a vehicle whose recipe called for 70 percent of cellulose fibers from wheat straw, hemp, and sisal.

Hemp’s broad range of uses holds true today. And as one might expect, hemp is just as diverse in varieties as it is in applications. Traditionally, hemp farming has been divided into three main categories: fiber, seed, and high-cannabinoid (or CBD) producing. Different varieties perform better in differing environmental conditions. High-CBD varieties, for example, are better suited to create flower for extracts, where fibrous strains are used in textiles, building materials and more.

Industrial Hemp

industrial hemp next to human

^ Industrial Hemp in comparison to human height

Industrial Hemp has genetics that are substantially different from CBD hemp. These plants grow with a spindly, lanky stalk covered with leaves. They do not produce the luscious buds / flowers like CBD hemp. Considered a low-maintenance crop, Industrial Hemp plants typically reach between 6 to 15 feet in height. 

Industrial Hemp is not grown for high concentration of CBD. Most is on the market and is bred for making textiles such as clothing and fiber, as well as food products and health and beauty products. 

For example, the hemp seeds you buy at the store to add to your morning smoothie are typically from Industrial Hemp, as they are contain Omega 3 fatty-acids, but no traceable CBD.

CBD Hemp

cbd hemp plant

^Size of a mature hemp plant grown for CBD

Hemp grown for CBD purposes look more like miniature Christmas trees. They grow a lot wider, while producing the buds which contain the higher levels of CBD.

These buds are then dried and used for smokable CBD or extracted to then be used in oils, topicals and food products. 


Hemp for CBD yield has many applications as a pharmaceutical and dietary supplement, so it presents several regulatory challenges depending on the product’s end use. In addition to the lack of FDA oversight, farmers must stress the levels of THC to remain clear of regulatory violations. Hemp for CBD yield should contain no more than .3% THC. If the CBD yield grows too high, the crop may no longer meet the legal framework for hemp and need to be destroyed.

Trustworthy CBD products should be Third Party Tested, to ensure these THC levels are below the legal limit, while showing that there is CBD in the product. 


Furthermore, to produce the highest yield of CBD, within regulatory THC levels, growers need to understand and master the effects of stress, and growing variables like soil makeup, moisture content, and PH levels. Once the plants are growing, farmer options are severely limited—meaning no herbicides, insecticides, or fungicides allowed.

High-CBD varieties are also grown only as female plants since male plants can pollinate an entire crop, triggering seed production in females and a reduction in CBD yields. When hemp reaches sexual maturity, vigilance is required to check fields for male plants to prevent the loss of an entire crop.

The 2018 Farm Bill marked the dawn of a new era, but American farmers have their work cut out for them, especially when hemp cultivation is largely based on trial, error, and observation. So much is needed regarding infrastructure, education and genetics and those in the trenches can speak to this first hand—urging caution whether a new grower is planting hemp for CBD, seed or fiber. Regardless, there’s a very exciting future for those who want to be a part of the hemp community.

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