Do CBD Buds Look Different? – How to Tell CBD Flower From Weed

12 cannabis buds in a horizontal line. Purple bud on the left and each bud moving right is a little more green.

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CBD flower and marijuana are like cousins in many ways, including their look and smell. They are two variants of the same plant, leading to lots of similarities.

CBD buds might not look different from marijuana buds, but they do still have molecular differences that make them a distinct product. The amount of cannabinoids found in the bud (THC versus CBD and more) distinguishes the two, but it’s impossible to know these values without lab testing.

All hope is not lost, though, if you need to tell the difference between weed and CBD in a pinch; the effects these two types of bud produce are different enough that you can likely use them as a guide. Let’s dive deeper into what makes CBD and weed different in the first place and unpack what you can do to decide what you’re working with.

How to Identify CBD Hemp Buds

If you need to determine whether your buds are from CBD hemp flower or marijuana, you’ll need to gather as much information about the product as you can.

Look out for the way it’s packaged, where it’s sold, and what it’s marketed as for clues. But, beyond these more obvious signs, it gets far trickier to distinguish between CBD flower and weed.

Does CBD Flower Look Like Weed?

CBD hemp flower is, in terms of appearance and other physical properties, virtually indistinguishable from marijuana. 

Its size, shape, and coloring all mimic weed to the point that it’s nearly impossible to differentiate between the two just by looking at them.

Does CBD Flower Smell Like Weed?

CBD flower carries the same distinct, earthy, and gassy odor that marijuana does, largely because there are very few differences between a hemp bud and a weed bud.

Things like terpenes and flavonoids are found in both plants in large quantities, and it’s these molecules that give either hemp or weed their taste and smell. 

CBD flower is often grown to have a diverse or strong profile of other cannabinoids, terpenes, etc. to enhance the therapeutic experience it provides, so it may, in some cases, have a smell you’re less familiar with or that you encounter less frequently with weed.

Still, there is no real difference between the way these two plants and their buds look, taste, and smell. This fact can be a real problem for some, but a blessing for others.

Do CBD Buds Have Seeds?

Almost all CBD buds (and weed buds, for that matter) do not have seeds in them because of the way they’re grown. 

The sinsemilla method, in which female plants are isolated from male plants to avoid pollination, allows for buds to be produced without the presence of seeds. 

More colloquially, “sinsemilla” is often used to describe potent marijuana, perhaps mainly because the practice is becoming more and more widespread as producers attempt to push out the strongest, most cutting-edge product possible.

Without male plants around to participate in pollination, female plants can focus much more of their resources to bud production, leading to fuller, more dense, and more complex flower.

Stunning hemp plant shining under the sun.

How Do You Tell the Difference Between Hemp and Weed?

The main (and best) way to tell the difference between hemp and weed is to take a look at the packaging it comes in. CBD hemp flower should be clearly marked as such, and it should contain information about the potency of various cannabinoids and terpenes found within.

The same goes for THC-containing products that are sold legally (in states or other areas where the substance is commercially sold). Even products sold via a medical marijuana program should have distinct and easy-to-read packaging with all the information you need.

If you don’t have access to packaging or details about the product you’re using, you may need to get a bit more creative to figure out what you’re working with.

Effects

Because marijuana contains THC, a psychoactive cannabinoid that causes impairment (changes in behavior, coordination, thought, etc.), and CBD does not, there are noticeable differences between the way these two affect the body.

If you’re using a product and notice what feels like a high, your product has enough THC in it to make a difference. 

That means that it’s marijuana rather than hemp, which must contain only 0.3% or less THC by weight to be sold in anything other than a medical marijuana program.

Lab Tests

If you really need to get to the bottom of whether your buds are marijuana or hemp, a lab test is the way to go. Lab testing allows you to get a feel for how much of which cannabinoids, including THC or CBD, are present in your product.

The CBD we can find in stores, gas stations, and smoke shops is made from hemp that has only 0.3% THC or less. 

Of course, it’s up to sellers to ensure that their product falls within legal limits, so it’s possible lab testing may reveal slightly higher-than-expected amounts of THC for CBD hemp flower. But in general, hemp should have very little THC.

Lots of CBD doesn’t necessarily mean your flower is hemp, either; CBD is also found in marijuana, sometimes in high quantities. 

A lab test can tell you 1) how much CBD your product has, 2) how much THC your product has, and 3) based on these results, whether your bud is indeed hemp flower or not.

Did My Dealer Sell Me CBD?

Unfortunately, there’s no real way to know if what you’ve been sold is weed or CBD-packed hemp flower other than lab testing or simply giving the product a try. 

It’s good to note, though, that lab testing is only a possibility when the product in question was legally purchased; if you’ve bought what you’d like to confirm is marijuana, getting it tested might not be an option.

If you’re willing to, trying the product out to see how it affects you is the next best course of action. Taking a few puffs should be all you need to figure out whether or not your product is marijuana.

Final Thoughts

CBD buds may not look, smell, or taste much different than marijuana, but they certainly are their own unique product. The main difference between the two is the amount of THC present, which changes whether or not a user will experience a psychoactive high.

Unfortunately, though, these similarities make it very hard to know if you’re looking at marijuana, which is still federally illegal in the U.S., and hemp, which is not (so long as it contains 0.3% THC or less).

That’s why it’s important to understand how you can figure out the difference should you need to: lab testing is always the ideal option, but if you’re really unable to use it, trying your buds out should tell you all you need to know.

In the future, as CBD and other cannabis products become more widespread and popular, it’s possible that there will be definitive and successful methods for differentiating between them all.

But, for the time being, testing and some trial and error are likely your best bets. 

Shopping for your products with trusted sellers is also a good habit to get into, and one that saves you the trouble of having to figure these details out for yourself. 

Be sure to stop by our directory to view CBD product options of all sorts that are safe and legal to use.

Secret Nature Indoor CBD Flower

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Josh Murdoch

Josh Murdoch

I was born with Cystic Fibrosis, and although it is incurable, CBD and THC have been allowing me to live my life as a healthy adult now for years. For that reason, I’ve dedicated my career to spreading the good news about cannabinoids. Currently, I work for a vertically integrated cannabis company called Unrivaled Brands that operates in California, Oregon, and Nevada. Previously, I worked on two cannabis farms in northern California, one of which was located in the famous Humboldt County. I’ve also managed a medical cannabis delivery service in Marin County, California. I created CBD Facilitator to share what I’ve learned, and to recommend the best products that I have found in this chaotic market.

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