When it comes to smells, there are few things that divide people more than the distinct scent of cannabis. Some love it, while others don’t – and that’s perfectly fair.
But after being on the market for some time, millions are familiar – and seemingly fine – with the hemp oil smell.
Does CBD smell like weed? The answer is complicated and simple at the same time. To answer the question, we need to deconstruct cannabis plants and see how they affect the CBD oil smell.
Does CBD Smell Like Weed?
Yes, CBD smells like weed because it is weed. Contrary to popular belief, marijuana and hemp aren’t real plants. The words aren’t used in botany, medicine, or any scientific field.
Understanding the Cannabis Plant
The word “cannabis” is also used interchangeably with THC “marijuana” strains. However, cannabis is a plant genus, not a species.
Marijuana and hemp are chemotypes (broad categories for plants genetically similar but chemically distinct) of the species cannabis sativa L. (or simply “cannabis sativa). Specifically, hemp belongs to the third cannabis chemotype (Chemotype III), referring to cannabis sativa L. plants with overwhelming CBD content, up to 1% THC, used for drug or industrial purposes.
Chemotypes I and II refer to high THC and balanced CBD:THC strains respectively. A fourth and fifth also exist, which don’t focus on THC or CBD.
The term “chemovar” may also come up. A chemovar is a chemotype as well, but its classification goes deeper than just THC. Instead, chemovars take into account terpenes and other cannabinoids.
So why the confusion? We’ll get to that soon. Right now, let’s look at another reason CBD does smell like weed.
Hemp vs. Marijuana: What’s the Difference?
Science aside, why do these terms exist? We can attribute it to two things.
The differences between marijuana and hemp boil down to THC content. Anything with less than 0.3% THC is federally legal hemp. “Marijuana” contains over 0.3% THC, making it a federally controlled substance. It’s an easy way to separate legal from illegal products but serves no scientific purpose.
The second reason these terms took off is marketing. Long before the 2018 Farm Bill greenlit federal hemp cultivation, CBD vendors stressed the alleged differences between hemp and marijuana. Consequently, many people were led to believe that hemp and marijuana were two different species.
What Are Terpenes?
Terpenes are aromatic oily compounds found throughout the plant kingdom, and cannabis is no exception.
What makes the cannabis plant so unique is that it can contain terpenes from various plant species. Many cannabis chemovars contain limonene or pinene, along with a slew of others.
What are Terpenes for?
What are CBD terpenes for? That depends on who you ask. Humans enjoy terpenes for the flavor they add to fruits and other edible plants, along with many potential therapeutic benefits.
Health supplement companies also extract the terpenes for essential oils, whose scents may have medicinal properties.
Terpene aromas can vary from sweet to spicy and everything in between. Next time you get ahold of some cannabis flower, smell it carefully. You may notice some of the following terpenes and scents.
What do Terpenes Smell Like?
What do terpenes smell like? The better question is “what don’t terpenes smell like?” Terpenes give fruits and plants their aromas. Although cannabis doesn’t have every terpene, it still carries a broad range of these compounds.
Myrcene is the most abundant terpene found in cannabis, more commonly found in strains of the indica variety. Myrcene smells earthy and slightly fruity, with an aroma resembling cloves and grapes.
As its name implies, pinene is common in pine trees, which gives them their distinct forest musky scent.
Identifiable by its pepper and spicy notes, it’s no surprise caryophyllene is common in plants like black pepper. One unique thing is that, unlike other terpenes, caryophyllene acts on our CB2 endocannabinoid receptors. A 2016 paper published in Nutraceuticals refers to caryophyllene as a “dietary cannabinoid.”
Linalool is a terpene that gives lavender its floral scent. It’s a rare cannabinoid compared to myrcene, pinene, or caryophyllene.
Humulene is common in hops, given them their spicy, earthy smell. One reason humulene stands out is that it’s an appetite suppressant. Cannabis high in humulene will lower or eliminate the desire to eat.
Types of CBD Products
Initially limited to hemp oil, the market is full of exciting and innovative options, including:
- Vape products (oil and e-juice)
- Imitation cigarettes
- Dissolvable powder
But we’re not nearly done. Any of those CBD products can fall into three main categories.
Full-Spectrum, Broad-Spectrum, and CBD Isolate
Terpene content makes CBD smell like weed – and the other way around. But aroma varies depending on the kind of extract you buy.
Currently, there are three CBD product options, each with advantages and disadvantages.
Full-spectrum CBD (or “whole-plant”) uses every part of the cannabis plant to extract and retain as many cannabinoids and terpenes as possible. Its goal is to be a carbon copy of the source plant.
As a result, full-spectrum CBD also carries hemp’s full aromatic profile. One sniff of this CBD product will hit you with a potent, “hempy” taste, along with other notes depending on your oil’s terpene content.
Broad-spectrum CBD is identical to full-spectrum in most respects. The only difference is that broad-spectrum extracts are processed to remove all of the THC, but leave the other compounds untouched. The filtration process can cause collateral damage and reduce the other cannabinoids and terpenes.
Many vendors infuse their products with terpenes after, but this isn’t the same as natural retention. Vendors like Colorado Botanicals minimize the problem with their more efficient proprietary CO2 extraction.
Broad-spectrum is the best choice if you want the benefits of full-spectrum CBD without THC. That being said, the similarity means broad-spectrum CBD smells the same as its full-spectrum counterpart.
CBD isolate is in a league of its own. Isolate extraction filters out everything else, leaving behind a plain, flavorless product containing up to 99% CBD.
Despite its purity, isolate is the least potent choice. Other plant compounds complement – and sometimes control – the nature and intensity of CBD’s effects.
However, isolate is THC-free. Its flavorless, odorless properties make it perfect for dissolvable powders and tinctures for mixing with food.
Isolate may have some faint cannabis hints, but aside from that, don’t expect any scent or flavor.
What Does MCT Oil Taste Like?
MCT oil (medium-chain triglyceride oil) is commonly used as a carrier for CBD oil and other similar products. It also has applications in the food industry.
Although it’s extracted from coconut or palm oil, the process filters out any traces of the source, isolating the MCT.
Much like CBD isolate, MCT oil has no taste or smell.
Does CBD Smell Like Weed When You Smoke?
No, CBD doesn’t smell like weed when you smoke. The cannabis containing your CBD, however, will smell like weed because – again – it is weed.
CBD alone doesn’t give off a smell when you burn it. Just like burning wood has a distinct campfire smell, cannabis’ chemical composition gives it its distinct odor when burnt.
But the burning plant matter’s aroma is universal. If you think your hemp flower is going to smell better, we recommend you step outside before lighting up.
Does CBD Oil Smell Good?
Yes, CBD oil smells good – if you like the smell of cannabis plants. Perhaps the better question is “does CBD oil smell bad?” While many of us may not like that particular aroma, most customers don’t think it smells terrible. If hemp scents aren’t your thing, it won’t be hard to at least tolerate the smell.
Hartsel, J. A., Eades, J., Hickory, B., & Makriyannis, A. (2016). Cannabis sativa and hemp. Nutraceuticals, 735–754. https://doi.org/10.1016/b978-0-12-802147-7.00053-x
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Stein, D. D. (2019, November 18). Importance of chemovars in medical cannabis. Neurology of Cannabis. Retrieved September 29, 2021, from https://www.neurologyofcannabis.com/blog/importance-of-chemovars-in-medical-cannabis/.