December 29, 2021

What's "Hot" Hemp?

Sometimes you hear something that hooks onto your brain. Perhaps the phrase “hot CBD” is one of those things clinging to the edge of your mind like a gecko on an overhang.

If that’s you, keep reading. We love your curiosity! So, we promise to answer this question so you can stop musing on it and move on to the next imponderable. Or shopping for your CBD goodies. Onwards and upwards, right?

Hot Hemp — What Is It?

In a nutshell, hot hemp is hemp that contains more than 0.3% THC by weight. In some jurisdictions, hemp with excessive THC concentrations is defined as “marijuana.” (Yes, we know — industrial hemp and marijuana are two distinct subspecies of cannabis sativa L….)

Hot hemp is something that occurs at the crop level. Regulations for cultivating hemp require growers to test each batch of hemp to measure its THC content.

Why Does Hemp Go Hot?

New research has proven that hot hemp is caused by genetics, not environmental or biological factors.(1) So, while floods and disease may harm a crop, they won’t spike the plants’ THC.

THC levels in hemp can be influenced by careful breeding, selecting cultivars with specific genetic markers that indicate the grown plant will be within a certain acceptable THC range. There are 22 varieties of industrial hemp seeds sold commercially.(2) Because THC levels can vary wildly from strain to strain, growers need to evaluate and pick seeds wisely.

Is Hot Hemp Legal?

According to the 2018 Farm Bill, only hemp that has 0.3% or less THC is federally legal. As such, growers aren’t supposed to produce crops that exceed this THC limit.

If a farmer’s hemp plants are hot, the plants must be destroyed. They can’t be turned into products.(3) According to market research, an average of almost 11% of hemp crops ran hot between 2018-2020.(4) This is costly and frustrating for many growers.(5)

When you get down to the state — and sometimes even municipal — levels, there may be different rules. Many states permit THC and high-THC CBD either recreationally or via medical marijuana programs. Other states swing the complete opposite direction and only allow 0.0%-THC CBD. Still other locales don’t articulate CBD rules and, therefore, de fact defer to the federal guidelines. It’s a bit of a hot mess you might say….

So, Is Hot CBD A Thing? And What About High-THC CBD?

In theory, there’s no such thing as “hot CBD” because there shouldn’t be any “hot hemp” for it to be derived from. Remember — all the hot crops are destroyed and don’t continue through the CBD supply chain. You won’t find “hot CBD” products on the market.

There is high-THC CBD, though. CBD with higher levels of THC is often derived from marijuana rather than industrial hemp. (Generally, marijuana’s a high-THC/low-CBD plant whereas hemp’s a high-CBD/low-THC plant.) For this reason, it may or may not be legal (recreationally or as part of an official medical marijuana program) where you live. Where it’s legal in some capacity, high-THC CBD products will be available for appropriate consumers.

So, best practices for you as a consumer. We recommend:

  1. Checking local laws to see what kinds of CBD products are legal to you
  2. Reading package labels to see how much CBD and THC are in the CBD products
  3. Confirming the label-declared cannabinoid content via the products’ certificates of analysis
  4. Buying from a reputable CBD retailer

Learn More

While this was a short post to answer your burning hot hemp questions, our library has plenty of resources that go into more detail on the cultivation and processing of hemp as well as researching and buying legit CBD products.

If you’re interested in expanding your body of cannabiknowledge related to hot hemp, check these articles out:

  • From Seed To Sale: How CBD Oil Is Made
  • 0.3%, the Magic Number: What This THC Threshold Is All About
  • Is CBD Legal in the United States? (CBD Laws)
  • How To Read A Certificate Of Analysis (COA) For Your CBD Products
  • How To Read CBD Product Labels For Safety & Quality
  • CBD Supply Chain – How It All Works
  • Is CBD A Drug? The Answer: It Depends
  • CBD: Medical vs. Recreational Use
  • Why You Should Buy CBD Online & Not Locally

Hot Hemp, Burning Question & Ever-Hot Topic

Hot hemp is hemp that has more than 0.3% THC. Crops that run hot must be destroyed, so there aren’t CBD products [legally] made from these plants.

High-THC CBD is a different thing. It’s likely derived from marijuana and may or may not be available to you recreationally or via a medical cannabis program.

When buying CBD, you should always confirm the cannabinoid content of the products and check local laws to see what’s legal in your area.



  1. Ramanujan, K. (2021). Hemp goes “hot” due to genetics, not environmental stress. Cornell Chronicle.
  2. Sabaghi, D. (2021). Study: Some Hemp Strains May Contain Illegal Levels of THC.
  3. Cowan, R. (2020). What Is “Hot Hemp?” Is It Real? LA Weekly.
  4. (2021). How Many Acres Have Farmers Lost to Hot Hemp? New Frontier Data.
  5. Quinton, S. (2020). Hot Hemp Pits States Against Feds.

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