Rescue 1 CBD Blog

Marijuana vs Cannabis vs Hemp

As a first responder, your organization’s policy can make or break your decision on whether or not you try CBD products. A lot of terms in the hemp and cannabis industry are incorrectly used interchangeably. When it comes to your organization’s policy, it’s important to understand the difference between marijuana vs. cannabis vs. hemp.

First responders need to know about the legal differences

In reference to policy, your contract and/or the law, these terms are very important to understand: Marijuana, cannabis, hemp and cannabinoids. Some of them can share the same meaning but all of them could dictate whether you can or cannot use CBD in your department.

Disclaimer: I’m not a lawyer and this isn’t legal advice. These definitions are from the federal government. Everything else is my experience with other fire departments and their union/administrative policy. 

Marijuana vs. Cannabis vs. Hemp: Definitions

Let’s look at the federal definitions to clear up any confusion.

Cannabis- The FDA definition: Cannabis is a plant of the Cannabaceae family and contains more than eighty biologically active chemical compounds. The most commonly known compounds are delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). Parts of the Cannabis sativa plant have been controlled under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) since 1970 under the drug class “Marihuana” (commonly referred to as “marijuana”)

The DEA mentions cannabis once on the controlled substances list as an alias to “Marihuana”

the federal definition of cannabis and marijuana

Hemp- Any Cannabis Sativa plant that has less than 0.3% THC by weight

Marijuana- Cannabis (any species) that contains more than 0.3% of THC by weight.

CannabinoidsNo federal definition. The FDA mentions cannabinoids once in the 2018 farm bill as an extract from the hemp plant. Cannabinoids are a family of compounds found in cannabis plants. CBD and THC are the most common cannabinoids found in cannabis. Other minor cannabinoids like CBG, CBN and CBC are also present in cannabis.

Besides getting asked “Will I fail a drug test taking CBD?”, the next most frequently asked question we get is “Are firefighters allowed to take CBD?”

And my answer is always: what does your policy or union contract say about these four words?

What does your policy say?

These four words are all that matter.

By these federal definitions, CBD is made from hemp, not marijuana. So if your policy just prohibits marijuana, then clearly you’re not breaking any rules by taking CBD.

However, if your policy prohibits the use of all hemp products, then you’re prohibited from using CBD.

This is what I mean by having to understand the language.

The definitions may not be understood by your administration or the city/county you work for.

For example: They may prohibit marijuana and then informally state you’re not allowed to take CBD because the policy clearly prohibits marijuana.

A lot of us are still under the misconception that hemp and marijuana are considered the same plant. That’s just not true any more.

In other words, whether you’re allowed to use CBD or not is all about the language. I’ve had conversations with a few departments around the country regarding their policy and their union contracts. I’ll share with you what I’ve seen over the last few years:


Instances where you’re allowed to use CBD:

-No mention of cannabinoids or hemp in the policy

-If the policy only prohibits you from failing a drug test

Marijuana being prohibited would not cover the definition of CBD as you can see from the federal definitions above. Marijuana is not hemp.

Instances where you’re prohibited from using CBD:

-If the policy prohibits all cannabinoids (CBD is a cannabinoid)

-If the policy prohibits all hemp products since CBD is made from hemp

-And, obviously if they specifically prohibit CBD


A grey area:

Some contracts will state something like “the use of cannabis products are prohibited”. The reason this can be tricky is because some states, like Florida, have changed the definition of what hemp and cannabis are.

If your laws are written so that hemp isn’t considered cannabis, then taking a “cannabis product” like CBD isn’t a problem.

Just to reiterate, this is something you should bring to the attention of the attorneys in charge of overseeing your policy.

The Bottom Line:

I hope this article helps to clear up any confusion you might have over marijuana vs. cannabis vs. hemp. Understanding the definitions around these terms is critical to understanding your organization’s policy.

If you want to have an informal consultation with us about how CBD fits into your policy, contact us here or fill out the form below.

Help Rescue 1 CBD Make a Difference:

Fill out this 5-Question Survey and do your part to bring CBD into the US Fire Service’s mainstream!

I hope you got something out of this article. If you did, please share it around the firehouse so we can spread the word about CBD that’s safe for the job.

And be sure to tune in to our podcast as we interview guests from various fields, including mental health, fitness, sports medicine, chiropractic, and of course, the Fire Service.


We’re always available to answer any questions you have. Feel free to email us, DM us on social media, or call at (866) 381-6867. And don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter!

Facebook: Rescue 1 CBD

Instagram: @rescue_1_cbd

Twitter: @cbdrescue


About Rescue 1 CBD

At Rescue 1 CBD, our mission is to challenge the status quo of health and safety in the US Fire Service, while also bringing to light the potential of the cannabidiol compound to be a game changer for wellness. 

We are also here to provide products and information to help first responders stay healthy well into retirement. Our content is aimed at leaving the Fire Service better than we found it by letting firefighters have a more common sense-based standard for physical and mental wellness.

Our enduring goals are: improving our first responders’ sleep and physical/mental health and helping them to cut back on the number of medications required to do what they do on a daily basis.


*Always be sure to consult a physician before making any changes to your health or fitness regimen.*


Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Disclosure

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any diseases. This website contains general information about diet, health, and nutrition. The information is not advice and is not a substitute for advice from a healthcare professional.