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Marijuana, Hemp, CBD: What’s Legal and Where

Marijuana, Hemp, CBD: What’s Legal and Where

With cannabis products becoming increasingly popular, this is a very common question. With so much false and uncertified information about CBD products being spread online, users are often left wondering where they stand when the legality of the various cannabis products is concerned.

But really, the question here should be, what is the difference between cannabis, marijuana, hemp, and CBD, and how do they relate to one another?

Understanding the differences between these terms is the key to understanding what is legal and where. We will, therefore, go straight to explaining the differences between cannabis, marijuana, hemp, and CBD.

What Is Cannabis?

Cannabis is an annual herbaceous plant. It is classified into five different species, among which are Sativa and Indica.

Both hemp and marijuana are sub-classifications of the genus Cannabis. So contrary to what most people think, marijuana is not another name for the cannabis plant, but it does in fact represent a female plant of the Cannabis Sativa plant.

Although hemp and marijuana are strains of the same plant, they have different chemical compositions and impact the body differently. However, having the same originating plant, hemp and marijuana definitely share some traits.

In the following section, we will be explaining the differences between hemp and marijuana.

What Is Marijuana?

Marijuana is described as a cannabis plant with 3% to around 20% THC concentration on average.

The cannabis plant is made up of at least 120 chemical compounds known as cannabinoids. THC and CBD are the most common and well understood among them.

The legality of cannabis products is actually based on THC concentration. This is because THC is responsible for the ‘high’ effect associated with the consumption of the marijuana plant. 

On the other hand, CBD is not a psychoactive ingredient and it causes no mind-altering effects.

The marijuana plant contains a high concentration of THC and is harvested for its relaxing, psychoactive and euphoric properties.

According to the federal government, marijuana is considered a ‘schedule 1’ substance. This means that the federal government does not recognize any medical benefits or uses of the plant. For this reason, marijuana is still federally illegal.

What Is Hemp?

With the signing of the 2018 Hemp Bill into law by President Trump, the growth, use, and possession of hemp products are completely legal in all 50 US states.

Hemp can be described as cannabis which contains less THC. While it is low in THC concentration, hemp has exceptionally high CBD content making it very popular among natural wellness enthusiasts.

Different parts of the hemp plant are usually put into various uses as shown below: 

  • Flowers are harvested for their cannabinoid content (mostly CBD and other helpful terpenes)
  • Seeds are often used in the cosmetics and food industries.
  • Stalks provide fiber used in the clothing and building industries.

The main difference between hemp and marijuana is brought about by the difference in cannabinoids, i.e. the concentration of THC and CBD.

The legality of Marijuana, Hemp and CBD

Now that we understand what all these terms mean, it’s time we addressed the elephant in the room: their legality!

The cannabis industry is a relatively new one and it is faced with a major hurdle; lack of a well-organized system to regulate the use of cannabis products.

In addition, different laws regulate the possession and the use of these products in different countries and states. This means that product A may be illegal in one state and completely legal in state B.

These differences leave people confused as they don’t know what is legal and what is not. What you want to know here is whether hemp-based and marijuana-based CBD products are legal. And if they are legal, where can you find them? In some states such as Michigan, the use of CBD in drinks and food is illegal. In other states such as Oregon, there is very little quality control, so you must be very careful to avoid buying poor quality or potentially harmful CBD products. And if you’re looking to buy CBD oil in Minnesota, for instance, make sure you check all relevant sources.

To start off, know that all hemp-based CBD products are completely legal in the US. This means that you should be okay using any form of hemp CBD. However, you should be careful since there have been cases of harmful or wrongly labeled CBD products finding their way into the market. 

States Where Only Medical Marijuana Is Legal

The following states have legalized the use of marijuana for medical use but not for recreational purposes:

  • Arkansas
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Arizona
  • Hawaii
  • Florida
  • Minnesota
  • Illinois
  • Maryland
  • Louisiana
  • North Dakota
  • Missouri
  • New Hampshire
  • Montana
  • New Mexico
  • New Jersey
  • Ohio
  • New York
  • West Virginia
  • Rhode Island
  • Oklahoma
  • Utah 
  • Pennsylvania.

Although legal, most of these states will require you to provide a prescription from an authorized physician in order to access medical marijuana.

States Where Only Hemp-Based CBD Products Are Legal

The following states only allow CBD products with less than 0.3% THC content:

  • Alabama
  • South Dakota
  • Idaho
  • Georgia
  • South Carolina
  • North Carolina
  • Indiana
  • Kansas
  • Lowa
  • Nebraska
  • Kentucky
  • Mississippi
  • Tennessee
  • Wyoming
  • Texas
  • Wisconsin
  • Virginia.

That is the general breakdown of the legality of both hemp and marijuana-based CBD products. 

However, it is crucial to note that these laws keep on changing, and so this may not be the stand a week or even a few days from today. You should, therefore, keep updating yourself on what is happening at the state and federal level regarding the legality of cannabis products.

So are cannabis products legal? Yes and no. Cannabis products are legal in all 50 US states only if they have been derived from the hemp plant.

When it comes to marijuana, the laws differ between the states. However, following the passing of the 2018 hemp bill, more states and countries are warming up to the use of cannabis products, and it is only a matter of time before marijuana is completely legal, too.


Suzanna, co-owns and publishes the newspaper Times Square Chronicles or T2C. At one point a working actress, she has performed in numerous productions in film, TV, cabaret, opera and theatre. She has performed at The New Orleans Jazz festival, The United Nations and Carnegie Hall. She has a screenplay and a TV show in the works, which she developed with her mentor and friend the late Arthur Herzog. She is a proud member of the Drama Desk and the Outer Critics Circle and was a nominator. Email:

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