If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it’s probably a duck, the old saying goes. Well, no wonder CBD flower causes a good deal of confusion: it looks like weed and smells like weed, but… it’s not weed?
Not exactly, though it depends on what you mean by weed. Cannabidiol (CBD) flower IS cannabis, but not the usual kind. Normally, cannabis is bred for maximum THC content. CBD flower (as the name suggests) is bred for maximum CBD content.
Hemp growers are departing from old-school industrial hemp and applying the same artisanal growing methods used by premium marijuana farmers to hemp, right down to hand-trimming and slow-curing the buds. This flower presents a rare opportunity to consume CBD in its natural form: no processing, additives, or extraction.
CBD flower offers other advantages as well: it has the highest bioavailability of any CBD consumption method, and the effects are experienced almost instantly. At the same time, it involves inhaling smoke, something generally considered to be unhealthy (for good reason).
Further complicating things, only CBD flower with less than 0.3% THC content is even legal, and there are cases of law enforcement arresting CBD flower users because they cannot distinguish between hemp flower and marijuana .
There’s a lot to unpack here, so we put together this article as a definitive guide on CBD flower. In it we:
- Explain the different types of CBD flower (and which are legal/illegal)
- See how smoking/vaping CBD flower measures up to consuming CBD oil or tincture
- Review the best nationally-available (and federally legal) CBD flower brands in the US.
What is CBD Flower?
CBD flower is cannabis that is grown to maximize CBD content, rather than THC. It’s the same plant (cannabis) with the same terpene + cannabinoid content, just bred for CBD.
There are four types of CBD flower:
1. Hemp Flower (Smokable Hemp)
CBD hemp flower (also known as smokable hemp) is the only type of CBD flower that is federally legal and refers ONLY to CBD flower that contains less than 0.3% THC, the limit set by the 2018 Farm Bill that legalized hemp nationwide.
Legally speaking, the only difference between hemp and marijuana is that marijuana has THC levels higher than 0.3%. So, only CBD flower strains that are below that threshold are considered “smokable hemp,” which is legal nationally and can be ordered online. All other types of CBD flower are still legally considered marijuana.
2. CBD Dominant Flower
These commonly have between a 5:1 or 20:1 CBD:THC ratio, with more than 0.3% THC.
3. 1:1 CBD:THC Flower
These strains have an equivalent amount of CBD and THC, often in the 60-80mg per gram range of each (which is usually about 8-10% CBD & THC by weight).
4. High-THC Low-CBD Flower
These indica or sativa strains are bred to have a higher amount of CBD than typical marijuana strains while still being THC-dominant. Marijuana strains rarely contain more than 2-3% CBD, but these strains usually contain in the 3-6% range with moderate-to-high amounts of THC, along with other cannabinoids like CBG).
Advantages of CBD Flower Over Other Methods of Consumption
CBD is absorbed faster AND more efficiently through smoking (or vaping) than through oral consumption, so smoking CBD flower is actually a highly efficient way of consuming CBD.
Why is smoking CBD more efficient?
1. Smoked (or Vaped) CBD is Absorbed Instantly Through the Lungs
Oral consumption (either with a CBD oil, edible or beverage) requires that CBD pass through the digestive system and the liver. Liver enzymes break down CBD, and only a small portion of the CBD is passed into the bloodstream (where it takes effect in the body).
The poor bioavailability of ingested CBD products is why many people take tinctures, which involve holding the drops sublingually (under the tongue) where they are absorbed by the mucus membranes in the mouth and enter the bloodstream without having to go through the liver. CBD lollipops are a form of edible that is absorbed sublingually.
But smoking (or vaping) CBD is actually even more efficient than sublingual drops, because the CBD is absorbed through the alveoli of the lungs. The lungs provide a larger surface area for absorption than the mucus membranes under the tongue, so the CBD enters the bloodstream quicker and more efficiently. One study found that the bioavailability of smoked CBD is 31%, relative to an estimated 13-19% when consumed orally.
2. Smoking/Vaping CBD Flower Allows You to Consume Large Amounts of CBD Quickly
It’s not just that smoking CBD is one of the fastest/most efficient ways to consume CBD. CBD flower also provide a particularly hefty dose of the good stuff. For instance, according to their lab-test results Henry’s Original CBD Pre-Rolls have 145mg of CBD per gram. Each joint is half a gram, so that means over 70mg of CBD per pre-roll.
A typical CBD beverage, on the other hand, usually contains 10-25mg of CBD. This is partially why smoking CBD flower is often the domain of more serious CBD-heads: it’s steeeeeerong.
3. CBD Flower Is Unprocessed
This is an often-overlooked advantage of smoking CBD flower over nearly every other form of consumption (CBD oils, tinctures, edibles, beverages, and vape juices).
To make CBD oils and tinctures the CBD must be extracted from hemp. There are a number of different ways to do this, and some are more efficient than others (ethanol and C02 extraction are considered the best). The bottom line is: the results of CBD extraction vary, and unless the brand is lab-tested and transparent in their sourcing/extraction methods it’s difficult to know whether any given brand does it right.
CBD vape juices, on the other hand, contain additives like propylene glycol.
With CBD flower none of this is a concern: it’s all full spectrum, no extraction, no processing, no additives.
Where to Buy CBD Flower Near Me
There are four types of stores where you can typically buy CBD flower:
- CBD-focused stores
- Smoke shops
- Marijuana dispensaries
- Online stores
But remember that all types of CBD flower besides smokable hemp (less than 0.3% THC) are still federally illegal and can only be found in marijuana dispensaries.
5 Best CBD Flower Growers
While there are some amazing CBD-dominant cannabis growers around the country (our page on CBD pre-rolls features a few), we chose only nationally-available brands for this list (brands that sell flower with less than 0.3% THC and ship to all 50 states).
We favored in particular brands that are organic and always lab-tested. Here are our favorites.
One of the best-known growers of hemp flower in the US, they carry all the major CBD-dominant strains and grow their hemp organically. Berkshire adopted some of the same techniques of premium marijuana growers, including hand trimming and slow curing the flower (which protects the trichomes and structure of the buds). Each hemp strain also comes with a certificate of analysis attesting to the CBD content.
While this flower is on the pricier side at $10/gram, you get what you pay for, and Berkshire is one of the brands that really brings an artisanal approach to CBD flower.
Secret Nature describe themselves as an “artisan CBD company,” and, like with Berkshire CBD, we agree. They use high-quality organic sungrown hemp (our preference) with no additives or pesticides. Their selection is relatively limited (they have only four strains in stock at time of writing) but also quite unique (they’re the only place we’ve seen strains like Frosted Kush, Sour Gummi, and Fuji).
At $40 an eighth this flower is fairly pricey (you know it’s pricey when CBD flower is as expensive as marijuana) but you likely won’t do better in terms of quality.
While Tweedle Farms is not certified organic (which is an enormously expensive process, we hear), they claim to use no pesticides, sprays, or synthetic fertilizers in their grow-op. Other positives of Tweedle Farms (besides the name, which is obviously awesome):
- They offer helpful notes on the genetics of each flower and even a smell-guide for the cultivated cannabis noses out there.
- They highlight the dominant terpenes in each strain on their website.
- Their products are lab-tested and the results are posted online.
Tweedle has over a half-dozen different strains to choose from, including a variety of pre-rolls, and their prices are moderate: an eighth of premium flower costs $25, though you can also purchase “smalls” (smaller nugs and shake) for a bargain at $60 an ounce.
This Oregon-based hemp company has a great selection of CBD flower, including Kush hemp, the first strain of Kush bred for CBD content. All of their strains have less than 0.3% THC and generally range from 15-19% CBD. One big plus about Blue Ridge: all their flower is lab-tested and they post the results online. You can buy their CBD flower strains by the gram, eighth, or quarter-ounce (ranging from $7-10 per gram).
5. Plain Jane
Plain Jane, based in Oregon, offers some of the most affordable hemp buds on the market: an eighth costs just $11, a half-ounce is $42. Like Blue Ridge, they post the results of their lab test online so you know what you’re getting. They’ve also got pre-rolls at only $5 a pop!
Possible Health Concerns with Smoking CBD Flower
Bottom line: smoking anything is unhealthy to some extent. On the one hand, smoke irritates the lungs and exposes you to potential carcinogens. But on the other hand, studies on the link between marijuana and lung cancer have had mixed results (in contrast to the link between tobacco and lung cancer, which is very well established).
Some of the largest, most comprehensive studies on long-term, chronic marijuana use have not found any connection between smoking marijuana and lung cancer. Other studies have found that smoking marijuana elevates the risk of developing lung cancer.
The takeaway: there may be more of a health risk to smoking CBD than consuming CBD in other forms, but we’re not sure what that risk is (or if there even is a risk).
FAQ on CBD Flower
How is CBD flower different from marijuana?
Marijuana is cannabis bred for high THC levels, CBD flower is cannabis bred for high CBD levels. However, legally, any cannabis flower with more than 0.3% THC is considered marijuana.
Is CBD flower legal?
Hemp flower with less than 0.3% THC is federally legal. All other types of CBD flower are still federally illegal, though they may be available in your state either recreationally or medicinally.
Some states have specifically banned CBD flower, and there are also cases of law enforcement arresting users after mistaking CBD flower for marijuana.
Does CBD flower get you high?
It depends on the THC content: hemp flower with less than 0.3% THC will not get you high (though admittedly the experience can be sort of in-between high and not high), but many strains of CBD flower are in the 1-4% THC range, which is enough to be psychoactive.
Should I try CBD flower?
If you are new to CBD, then smoking or vaping CBD flower is likely not the best option, since you can get a more accurate (and smaller) dosage with an oil or tincture. Try out CBD a few times at smaller doses and, if you enjoy it and think you can handle it, step up to CBD flower.
Can you fail a drug test due to CBD flower?
As long as the flower contains less than 0.3% THC then, no, you will not fail a drug test due to smoking CBD flower. However, there are cases of individuals failing drug tests because the CBD products they were consuming had a higher level of THC than was advertised. So, that’s why you make sure to buy from a trusted, lab-tested brand.
How does CBD flower make you feel?
Smoking CBD flower is a peculiar feeling: not a high, but a sort of spacey, mellow, relaxing buzz that can catch you off guard. One of our team members vividly described the feeling in this post.