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Most Americans Don’t Know the Difference Between CBD and THC

New Survey Shows How little Americans Know1

CBD may be a household word, but a new survey shows that the majority of Americans don’t really get what it is – and most haven’t tried it.

If you’re one of those CBD consumers that do a ton of research before buying, you may tire of the articles that begin with an extensive explanation of what CBD is. You know that it’s a non-psychoactive cannabinoid, that it comes from hemp, that it’s federally legal, that CBD oil only contains trace amounts of THC.

If that sounds familiar, then you may find those explanatory paragraphs annoying and redundant. But a new consumer survey shows that this kind of education is still very, very necessary.

Invisibly used their Realtime Research tool this March to find out how many Americans are really using CBD, and how much they know about it.  They asked questions about their use and knowledge of CBD as well as questions about age and gender to see how that factored into their responses. 

In total, Invisibly surveyed 1087 people on the following questions:


  • Have you ever used a CBD Product?
  • Do you know the difference between CBD and Marijuana or THC-containing products?
  • What is the primary reason you’d use or consider using a CBD product?
  • What is your gender?
  • What is your age?

Invisibly surveyed 1038 Americans about their usage and knowledge of CBD, and the results show that there is still a lot of confusion about THC and CBD-based products.

While it might seem like everyone and their dog (or cat) is using CBD, this survey paints a different picture. Of those surveyed, 62% of respondents had never tried a CBD product in any form, and of this group around 71% aren’t at all interested, saying they “won’t use any CBD product.” 

Those that would be willing to try CBD said they were most interested in using it to reduce stress and anxiety, while 14% said they might be willing to use it to reduce chronic physical pain.

The survey also points to considerable gender disparity when it comes to CBD usage. According to these results, women are by far the most likely gender group to be CBD consumers. In fact, 59% of women (compared to only 26% of men and 24% of non-binary respondents) say they have tried both ingestible and topical forms of CBD. They are most likely to use CBD to either relieve stress or anxiety or to alleviate chronic pain.

Perhaps it’s not surprising that 68% of respondents who haven’t tried CBD don’t know the difference between CBD and THC-containing products like marijuana. 

The numbers were a bit more promising amongst those who have tried CBD – 64% of this group did understand the difference between CBD and THC. (But that still leaves 34% of this group who are using CBD without understanding how it differs from THC). 

The confusion about CBD and THC, and how hemp-derived products differ from marijuana, is clearly a hurdle the industry still needs to clear before the majority of Americans are willing to give CBD products a try. Of course, it doesn’t help that THC is still a Schedule I substance, and some of this confusion and concern may not be cleared up until cannabis is entirely legalized at a federal level.

Perhaps what the survey highlights more than anything else is the need for solid information about CBD. The high amount of crossover between those who say they wouldn’t try the substance, and those who don’t know the difference between CBD and THC-based products is pretty striking. 

This information may not be worth too much handwringing, though. After all, CBD was only explicitly legalized at the end of 2018, and ten years ago, CBD was still almost unknown to the vast majority of the American population. 

After years of prohibition and reefer madness paranoia, it probably shouldn’t be too shocking that it’s going to take a serious effort to educate the public about cannabis and its various components. And that effort is going to be necessary in order to keep up the momentum for cannabis legalization in the US.

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