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How To Tell CBD Flower From Weed

Bluntly put, you often can’t tell CBD flowers from marijuana buds by just looking at them.

The thing is, indoor-grown hemp buds and cannabis buds alike are pretty much identical in appearance, smell, and taste.

OK, I know this information doesn’t really answer your questions (at least not yet).

But, by the end of this BS-free guide, you’ll learn my top tips to distinguish CBD flowers from weed.

D8 CBD Flower Buds

What Is CBD Flower? 

Cannabis can be split into two categories of plants:

  • Marijuana
  • Hemp

Based on the 2018 Farm Bill, the definition of CBD flower is the buds of a hemp plant that contains <0.3% Delta 9 THC. 

The Farm Bill aims to clearly distinguish non-psychoactive hemp plants from marijuana plants with a high level of the psychoactive compound THC.

Note that any ganja plant containing <0.3% Delta 9 THC is defined as a hemp plant (aka industrial hemp).

Usually, we use the phrase CBD flower to refer to the blooming parts (aka the buds) of the hemp plant.

You can think of the hemp plant and the marijuana plant as being the same plant but with different levels of dominant cannabinoids.

Today, you can find a huge variety of CBD strains in smoke shops and of course, online.In states where marijuana is legal, many of these strains boast higher amounts of THC than the norm set by the 2018 Farm Bill. Note – these are only sold in dispensaries.

For example, ACDC strain is a high-CBD bud (one of my personal favorites). This strain averages 13% CBD and about 1% THC.

Heads Up!

Strains that contain more than 0.3% THC are typically neatly labeled as high-CBD strains, and not merely termed “CBD flower.”

Ultimately, the information on the package of each cannabis product is the best way to tell CBD flowers apart from marijuana.

CBD Flower VS Weed Buds 

To sum it up, hemp and marijuana buds are very much alike when it comes to their:

  • Aroma
  • Look
  • Taste

Yup. it’s crucially important to learn the difference between hemp and marijuana.

But please, save your precious time and energy! Don’t fall victim to the tons of cheap content out there.

I’ve personally read a gigaton of BS claiming that you can tell the difference between CBD and marijuana based on visible external characteristics of the flowers.

This simply isn’t how the actual game works though.

Let’s get into some more practical tips below and learn how to identify hemp buds.

indoor grown cbd bud

Things in Common 

1. Aroma

The hemp aroma will be dancing on your palate just like psychoactive THC flowers do.

Both hemp and marijuana buds share the same legendary smell of … oh well, weed!

Yup, hemp buds smell just like any ordinary marijuana bud would smell. They can be fruity, sweet, diesel, or earthy… and the list goes on and on.

Wondering why is that so?

We already briefly discussed that CBD buds come from the same plant family as marijuana: Cannabis sativa.

All members of the cannabis genus, regardless of their CBD and THC content, owe their unique aroma profile to terpenes.

Ahhh, ahh, terpenes: the naturally occurring, highly therapeutic, tiny molecules packing a BIG punch.

By the way, did you know that other plant species and even some animals also produce terpenes?

Full of wellness benefits, terpenes are to blame for the delectable ride that cannabis generously offers to us.

Nonetheless, terpenes are involved in the psychoactive effects of cannabis.

show that terpenes work in synergy with the rest of the active compounds. This way, they contribute to the entourage effect.

A short summary:

Terpenes are aromatic molecules produced by cannabis plants in varying amounts. Yup, both hemp and marijuana plants produce terpenes.

…and a simple example:

If a hemp bud carries that gorgeous pine forest hit flavor on the palate, then it’s high in Pinene.

But many THC strains are also high in Pinene, among other terpenes that both hemp and marijuana plants have in common.

That’s why you can’t count on the aroma of hemp flowers as a reliable factor to distinguish CBD buds.

Each cannabis strain has a distinct flavor and aroma profile, thanks to its unique symphony of terpenes.

The levels of terpenes in each strain are not set in stone. They differ from one harvest batch to another.

Moreover, experts are continuously looking for new ways to increase terpene levels and enhance phytochemistry.

2. Look

There’s no way to tell hemp buds apart from marijuana buds by their appearance.

Yes, I’m getting repetitive here. Even though I already sound like a broken record (I know), but I’m just making sure to get the message across.

The thing is, most of the CBD and THC, among other cannabinoids, are produced in the cannabis plant’s trichomes. Terpenes and flavonoids also occur within the trichomes.

Ultimately, trichomes serve the function of molecular factories.

The trichomes are the highly resinous, tiny glands visible on the mature cannabis buds when they’re ready to harvest (or have already been harvested, dried, and cured).

Think of those epic, sparkling buds we crave to hold in our hands. They are actually displaying their beautiful, sugar-coated-like trichomes.

But it doesn’t really matter if a cannabis flower is high in CBD or high in THC:
both of these active compounds, alongside other minor cannabinoids, get stored in the trichomes. There’s no way to tell them apart at a glance.

Hence, the physical appearance of the bud itself won’t really let you know if you’re dealing with CBD flower.

However, when it comes to comparing hemp plants vs. marijuana plants, there are some visible differences.

The Hemp Plant VS the Marijuana Plant: Visual Differences
  • Typically, the marijuana plant has broad leaves, a bushy posture, and quite dense buds. 
  • Hemp plants grow skinnier and taller in size while displaying less foliage.

Unless you’re a cannabis grower, though, you can’t count on comparing the physical appearance of the ganja plants to determine whether you’re dealing with CBD flower.

Most of the average cannabis consumers only get to interact with the harvested plant material rather than witness the plant growth itself.

3. Taste

As mentioned above, the flavor of hemp and marijuana buds depends on the levels of terpenes. All members of the cannabis plant genus produce terpenes.

So then again, you can’t tell a CBD flower from a regular ganja flower based on its taste.

Honestly, the fact we can’t visually distinguish hemp from illegal marijuana can be a big bummer. That’s especially true if you get caught with hemp products, and you need to prove that they conform to the local laws.

High time to dive into mastering the difference between CBD weed and “regular” weed.

botany farms cbd cbd buds


The primary difference between hemp and marijuana flowers is the effects we get to experience upon consumption.

Here’s the simplest rule to remember:

  • It’s the chemical composition that sets hemp and marijuana flower apart, rather than the way these buds look at a glance.

In a nutshell, CBD flower consumption will not get you high.

Actually, it’s not quite accurate to state that CBD flower is deprived of psychoactive potency. For the record, caffeine and nicotine also fall into the category of psychoactive substances.

But CBD does lack the intoxicating effects of the good ol’ Delta 9 THC.

That’s why consuming hemp flower or any other form of pure industrial hemp won’t lead to a temporary impairment in cognitive function, among other effects associated with THC products.

How To Tell CBD Flower From Weed 


Hemp flower is usually neatly packaged in a way that makes it clear it’s hemp.

The goal of all cannabis packaging and labeling rules are:

  • Protect the cannabis users from fraud, 
  • Prevent children from accidentally consuming an appealingly-looking cannabis product,
  • Clearly identify all CBD products as such, and differentiate them from THC products.

This means the user should be able to tell the difference between hemp buds and regular weed flowers by simoly reading the product’s label.

One of the major reasons for the strict cannabis labeling requirements also involves avoiding possible issues with the law.

Unless the CBD content is evidently presented on the package, law enforcement can easily think it’s marijuana.

Also, knowing the ratio of CBD to THC in a product is a must to avoid failing a drug test.

However, it’s essential to know that even if you stick to consuming a pure hemp product, there’s still a (small) chance of failing a drug test. 

This depends on a wide array of factors that are unique and strictly personal.

Third-Party Testing Certificates 

The truth is that the CBD market has been in a long and exhausting battle with mislabeling and fraud.

Multiple pieces of research, including a 2020 update, prove that this issue hasn’t reduced over time. In my opinion, CBD oil is probably one of the most mislabeled products in the new age history of cannabis.

Do you want to guarantee that the cannabis buds in your possession are legal hemp flowers and not marijuana? The only way is to check out the third-party lab test!

Every reputable cannabis retailer will provide third-party lab testing results, no matter if we’re talking about hemp products or marijuana goodies.

All you have to do is to look at the product’s potency test if you want to know if it’s marijuana or Hemp.

This will outline if the bud contains <0.3% Delta 9 THC. Thus, you know for sure it’s a pure CBD flower.

Wrapping Up: How To Identify Hemp Buds

I’ll keep things explicitly brief here.

The only real and reliable way to know the difference between CBD flower VS marijuana flower is to check out the product label.

But, you can’t even trust the label if you’re dealing with a low-quality product.  

So to be sure, look for a certificate of analysis from an ISO-approved lab.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does CBD Flower Taste Like Weed?

Yes, CBD flowers taste and smell just like weed flowers. You can’t rely on evaluating the flavor to distinguish a pure hemp flower from marijuana.

How Is Hemp Flower Different From Weed?

The major difference between a hemp flower and a regular weed flower is the amount of Delta 9 THC. Hemp contains <0.3% THC, and it doesn’t lead to the typical “high” we get to experience with ganja products.