Different hemp-derived CBD delivery formats are arriving on the scene all the time. More and more ways of getting cannabinoids in you are popping up, it seems, daily. And as time goes on, we’ll see an increase in hemp products that have higher concentrations of other cannabinoids that are believed to have targeted effects. Who’s complaining? It’s nice to have options, right?
Currently, you can find CBD in the form of pills, tinctures, vape cartridges, salves … even in your makeup and skincare. Heck, you can opt for a CBD suppository, if you want to go there (double entendre intended, lol). One way to get your CBD dose, that is really finding its groove in the current market, is with hemp flower. Read on to find out if it could be one of the CBD forms that work for you!
What Is Hemp Flower?
Hemp flower is also known as hemp buds CBD flower, and CBD bud. Yep, hemp flower is hemp’s version of the “bud” or “nug” that is the well-known smokeable herb form of marijuana.
Hemp flower comes from female hemp plants that have reached full bloom and have begun to secrete cannabinoids and resins in order to attract pollen from male plants and produce seeds. And that’s the optimum time to harvest them: when they’ve produced those precious cannabinoids but not the seeds.
As you probably already know, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), cannabidiol (CBD), and the gamut of more than 100 known cannabinoids, are found in all cannabis—i.e., both marijuana and hemp. However, (you probably know this too) marijuana = high THC, and hemp = high CBD. And each has been bred to boost the amounts of its respective dominant cannabinoid. For example, before medical marijuana was a thing (in the 60s, 70s, 80s), marijuana was likely to around 2-5 percent THC. There’s a lot of high-THC strains out there now, reaching 30-45 percent at times. On top of that, hemp is currently being bred to be richer in other cannabinoids that are considered to be beneficial like cannabigerol (CBG).
While it lacks the THC and psychoactive effects, hemp flower looks, smells, tastes, and smokes similar to weed. This, no doubt, leads people to the next question …
Is hemp flower legal?
Yes. Hemp was first defined apart from marijuana by the federal government in the 2014 Farm Bill, followed by a succession of states that wanted to get in on the hemp fever that’s been lighting a fire under the U.S. agriculture and marketplaces ever since.
For nearly a century, during prohibition, the terms cannabis, marijuana, and hemp were used interchangeably. It began with the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 and continued through the overkill of the Controlled Substances Act of the 1970s that made marijuana (and subsequently, hemp) a Schedule I drug because it has “a high potential for abuse” and “no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.” This placed marijuana (and it’s can’t-get-you-high cousin, hemp) on the same level as heroin and LSD. However, …
The 2014 Farm Bill defined hemp as containing .3 percent or less tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and made it legal to cultivate, produce and sell within state-defined programs that were considerably restrictive. The 2018 Farm Bill loosened those restrictions, and as long as hemp and hemp-derived CBD products follow the guidelines of the bill, they are legal. The defining factor is the THC amount of .3 percent or less.
What it comes down to is that hemp flower with the legal .3 percent or less amount of THC will not get you high. So, you ask, what does it do?
What is CBD flower used for?
In terms of benefits, hemp flower is used for reasons very similar to other CBD forms. People are inhaling hemp bud to relieve stress, inflammation, pain, and insomnia. Even though research of CBD is mostly limited to pre-clinical studies involving animals (mice, usually), many people opt to use it to help treat symptoms of arthritis, PTSD, fibromyalgia, diabetes, cancer, and more.
But in order to get those cannabinoids in CBD flower to give up those potential benefits, you’ve got to add a little heat.
Activating your hemp flower cannabinoids
The cannabinoids in natural, raw hemp flowers are in their inert forms. Remember, cannabinoids are molecules—we’re talking chemistry here. Before cannabinoids like CBD, THC, and CBC become active, they exist in their precursory forms: CBDA, THCA, and CBCA. Cannabidiolic acid (CBDA) is the precursor to CBD.
So what’s the difference? Something called a carboxyl group that is present on the CBDA molecule. It’s this carboxyl group that prevents CBDA from binding to receptors in your body. Therefore, you won’t experience the effects of CBD. That’s why you won’t get high if you eat raw marijuana—there’s almost no THC! Only THCA.
How, then, do we get rid of that carboxyl group and activate our cannabinoids? Through decarboxylation. Decarboxylation is a chemical reaction that causes raw, inert cannabinoids to drop the carboxyl group, release a little CO2, and, wham! Activation! There are two ways to decarb raw cannabis (in hemp or marijuana): through time and heating. The cannabinoids in raw cannabis will activate as it dries over long periods of time—but that’s not very practical for consumption. Heating through smoking and vaping are the best two ways to activate cannabinoids immediately.
So, now that we know why and how hemp flower is used, what makes it different from CBD oil?
Why Is Hemp Flower So Popular?
Strains explained and the rise of artisanal hemp flower
Think of the love and creativity that go into wine and craft beer these days. The concern with characteristics of appearance, flavor, and smell. The poetic language used by creator and connoisseur alike to describe them. The conversations to be had over the appeal of various varietals.
As with beer and wine, and even coffee, craft hemp flower is blossoming into the market to offer products—strains, if you will—that have sensory experience and added social value. People talk about and gather around these artisanal consumables. They become enthusiasts. Special jargon crops up in conversations about this or that strain. By the way, strains are to hemp flower (and pot) as varietals are to wine.
Strains are the result of crossbreeding various cultivars of hemp. Cultivators do this in order to increase (or decrease) the presence of certain cannabinoids in hemp flowers, and, therefore, the associated effects. Along with various strains comes a range of characteristics.
For example, Lifter CBD hemp flower strain is described as providing relief without drowsiness, having an earthy aroma with hints of floral notes, and a flavor that is woody and slightly sweet.
For people who are into it, hemp flower can bring an enjoyable experience beyond popping a gel or swallowing a tincture. Like we said … options are nice to have.
Whole plant nutrients without the intoxicating effects
Another reason people are digging hemp flower is that they can enjoy all the whole plant nutrients of cannabis without the intoxicating effect. When you get raw hemp flower, all the goodness of the cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids are locked and loaded, waiting to be consumed. But unlike with marijuana, you’re only going to get a negligible amount of THC, so you won’t get high. This means you can relieve your anxiety without getting faded. You can get stuff done while telling your inflammation to take a hike.
And, oh, let’s not forget … no infamous munchies.
That’s great, you say. But can’t I get all that with CBD oil? You can. But as with all forms of CBD, Hemp CBD flower has its advantages, like …
Hemp flower relaxes you more in the body
Smoking and vaping hemp flower is a way to get a significant amount and range of cannabinoids into your system fairly quickly. With this form of consuming hemp CBD, there is an appreciable absorption rate through the lungs, and you can simply smoke more right away if you need it. People use it to stave off pain and inflammation during the day and to de-stress in the evening—like a relaxation infusion.
And with hemp flower, you can be certain you’re getting the full spectrum of cannabinoids and whole plant nutrients because it hasn’t been processed to remove anything. That doesn’t mean you don’t have to watch out for quality, though.
Hemp is a bioaccumulator, which means it leeches impurities from the soil around it. If your hemp was grown around heavy metals, pesticides, or other contaminants, they will certainly be in your hemp and in you if you ingest it. Sadly, there are cultivators that will use the crop to clean out their crops, and then sell the hemp to be used for CBD.
Always vet your hemp product and make sure that it comes with a certificate of analysis (COA), which is an analysis of what is in your hemp (from cannabinoid amounts to impurities) that is performed by a third-party lab. It is important to know that your hemp CBD is safe.
Bud and hemp flower hybrids
You may have heard of a spliff, which usually refers to a joint that contains part tobacco and part weed. Some people like to use hemp flower to mellow out the psychoactive effects of their weed. One of the effects of CBD is that it moderates THC; it will actually block THC from attaching to receptors, proving that nature is a fan of checks and balances.
But now that marijuana has been bred to have such a high THC content, some people are finding that hemp flower can help them tone down their joints to their own personal Goldilocks zone. Hence, the weed and hemp flower spliff hybrids. Wonder if it was a stoner that thought of that? A millennial stoner, perhaps … (No shade stoners. Or millennials 😉 )
An Alternative to Weed
Another reason hemp flower is so popular is that it is a legal alternative to weed. For those who smoked weed for a long time, and for whatever reason they can’t anymore, CBD flower can be the next best thing. Some might argue even better.
With hemp flower you can still perform your daily routine. In fact, some CBD is believed to help with focus, confidence, and energy. Some people use it to get through the stress of their day. It can be a viable alternative to the sometimes derailing effects of weed, where you might calm down so much you call into work and crash on the couch with Uber Eats on speed dial.
However, even though hemp flower is legal—as much as we’d like to tell you that you definitely would—you may not pass a drug test. And here’s why …
Will I Pass a Drug Test After Smoking Hemp Flower?
CBD will not generally show up in a drug test because drug tests are not looking for CBD, but other cannabinoids instead. However, it is possible to fail a drug test with any CBD product, even isolate.
There are too many variables to give any other answer than “possibly” to this question. Factors like the manufacturer of the test, individual metabolism, how often CBD is consumed, and whether it is full spectrum or not play a role.
Several Factors at Work
Now, we know hemp flower is full spectrum. We also know that the law only allows .3 percent or less THC in hemp flower. Drug test look for a threshold of THC. If you smoke or ingest a lot of hemp CBD within a certain period of time, your THC level could go above that threshold even though you are not getting intoxicated.
Another thing to consider is this: Remember how we explained decarboxylation earlier? How THCA converts to THC once it is heated, right? Some hemp flower does not include on its COA the amount of THCA combined with the delta-9 THC amount. What does this mean? There’s going to be more THC in your hemp flower when you smoke it, than when it’s in herb form. Either way, the amount is not enough to get you high, but if you smoke enough of it in a day, it could trigger a positive on a drug test.
So, if flashing your COA for your legal hemp flower isn’t going to cut it with your boss, you’ll want to know the risk of smoking hemp flower. You won’t get high, but even a negligent amount of THC might stand up and wave hello on a drug test. There’s simply no way to guarantee it in the current climate.
What Else Can I Do with CBD Flower?
As we’ve already mentioned, the two most common ways to use hemp flower are by smoking and vaping it.
You can smoke hemp flower in all the traditional ways that weed is combusted and inhaled. Through joints, pipes, etc. And it is even sold in pre-rolls, so the work is done for you. Smoking allows the full spectrum of hemp cannabinoids to get into you fairly quickly through the lungs. The disadvantage of smoking hemp flower is the same as it is for weed and tobacco—smoke inhalation is damaging. But you already knew that, didn’t you?
Vaping is highly effective, and has an even higher absorption rate than smoking. Also, it’s not damaging to your respiratory system like smoking is. With vaping, though, you will have to buy and maintain a dry herb atomizer.
Cooking with hemp flower
Beyond these two options is cooking with hemp flower. Want to get the full spectrum of hemp cannabinoids and nutrients into your food? Make your own edibles by infusing butter or oil with hemp. It’s a process, but if you like cooking, it will be an enjoyable experience. There are a couple of things to keep in mind, however, …
- Edibles are difficult to gauge, effect-wise and dose-wise. The effects take longer to come on but stick around longer. They also depend on digestion, so the amount absorbed into the bloodstream may differ from person-to-person.
- Before extracting your full spectrum CBD from your hemp flower and infusing it into butter or oil, you will need to activate your cannabinoids through decarboxylation. This is done by heating your hemp flower in the oven at no more than 245° F for 60-90 minutes. If you overheat or bake your hemp buds for too long, you will degrade the cannabinoids, and they will lose potency.
- Because your activated hemp flower needs a carrier, you will need to infuse it in butter, oil, or ghee. You should heat it gently for thirty minutes in your chosen carrier. Again, overheating or burning will cause degradation.
- In any subsequent cooking or baking, keep the temperature below 315°.
Cooking with hemp flower and making your own edibles can be very satisfying. With your own infused hemp flower oil or butter, you can prepare many of the already existing cannabis recipes out there by simply substituting your hemp bud oil for the cannabis butter.
Is Hemp Flower for You?
There’s so much to learn about hemp and cannabinoids. Not only does the hemp plant seem to offer an amazing range of benefits and uses, today’s market continues to develop and provide options for getting the benefits of hemp cannabinoids and nutrients into your personal lifestyle.
Hemp flower offers an experience similar to smoking cannabis that is legal and non-intoxicating. Additionally, you can enjoy the characteristics of hemp strains like a true connoisseur, and become a real hemp bud boss in your social circles. Who brought those paleo berry hemp flower gummies to the party? You did, that’s who. How fun is that?