Hemp and marijuana are a variety of cannabis. Both are Sativas but marijuana can also be an Indica. One gets you high, the other doesn’t. Both hemp and marijuana are technically the same plant — Cannabis sativa. However, hemp is completely legal, while marijuana is considered a schedule I drug. If you thought hemp and marijuana were the same thing – you are not alone. Let’s explore what hemp is and the history of cannabis to really understand the major differences between hemp and marijuana, or pot.
The Weird & Wonderful Differences Between Hemp and Marijuana
There’s more to these cannabis terms than meets the eye.
Hemp and marijuana are terms that get thrown around a lot — often incorrectly. People inside and out of the cannabis industry use these terms interchangeably to mean one singular type of cannabis. This is wildly inaccurate.
You see, they’re both varieties of cannabis but with very different legal statuses, uses, and benefits. One is completely legal across the US, while the other is strictly limited to states with laws permitting its use. So, in order to clear up the confusion, we’ve compiled a simple yet rigorous guide to hemp and marijuana.
Hemp vs. Marijuana
Hemp Oil vs. Marijuana Oil
|Hempseed Oil||Hemp CBD Oil||Marijuana Oil|
|0.012–0.018% CBD||10–20% CBD||0.5%–20%+ CBD|
|Almost no THC||10-35% THC|
|Non-intoxicating, no high||Non-intoxicating, mild buzz||Intoxicating, strong high|
|Federally legal||Federally legal||Federally illegal|
|Federally legal||Legal in 34 states||Legal in 35 states for medical use|
|Source of nutrition, supplements||Therapeutic benefits (anxiety, pain, sleep)||Medicinal benefits, recreation|
|Sold online||Sold online||Sold via dispensaries|
The main difference between hemp and marijuana is the quantity of delta-9 THC . Hemp is specially grown to carry less than 0.3% THC as per federal guidelines. If it carries more than 0.3% THC, it’s classified as marijuana, which is federally illegal (but legal in most states).
Historically, industrial hemp and its fibers have been used for clothes, rope, shoes, carpets, and paper. Specially grown high-CBD, low-THC hemp varieties are more commonly used to create CBD oil, CBD capsules, and CBD topicals for health and wellness.
Marijuana is used for a variety of different medicinal and recreational purposes. It carries large quantities of THC, the compound known to cause a “high” or feeling of euphoria. Many medical cannabis users consume high-THC marijuana for pain, inflammation, anxiety, depression, epilepsy, appetite stimulation, and glaucoma. Recreational users enjoy the feeling of THC in social settings.
Marijuana plants tend to be short, dense, and bushy with broad leaves situated all along the plant’s stalk. Marijuana plant height is dependent on strain. Indicas are short and unlikely to grow any taller than 6 ft, while Sativas can grow up to 20 ft. Hybrids can either be short or tall depending whether they’re Indica or Sativa-dominant.
Hemp plants are slim and very tall, reaching a height of 18.22 ft. Hemp leaves are also very skinny and are commonly found nearer the top of the stalk alongside the trichome-rich buds. Hemp plant color varies. Some are a lighter green, while others have a greyish hue.
Yes. You can smoke hemp flowers (buds) and leaves, provided they’re cured and dried beforehand. Smoking hemp bud is a very popular choice among users wanting an instant hit of cannabidiol (CBD) and other valuable hemp plant compounds.
Yes. Hemp has buds which are often referred to as flowers. They appear in bunches or clusters nearer the top of the stalk and are covered in fine, crystal-like growths called trichomes. These bunches or clusters are also known as colas.
Yes. Hemp seeds can carry THC but in very small, almost negligible, amounts. Consuming the seeds of hemp will not cause a high nor will it produce any euphoria. There is some immunoreactivity if consumed in substantially large doses.
Yes. Hemp does contain CBD. The quantity of CBD found in hemp depends entirely on the strain. Regular industrial hemp carries up to 4-6% CBD, while specially grown varieties of hemp can have up to 20-25% CBD. The specially grown varieties of hemp are commonly used for CBD oils.
There’s no difference between CBD found in hemp and CBD found in cannabis. They’re exactly the same compound no matter where you find it. The effects and benefits within your body are the same.
Before diving deeper into hemp and marijuana, let’s introduce the Cannabis family
Before we even begin with hemp and marijuana, it’s worth exploring the cannabis family.
Every variety of cannabis belongs to a small family of flowering plants known as Cannabacae, which includes approximately 170 species across 11 individual genus types (a taxonomic rank sitting between family and species). Cannabis (hemp + marijuana) is a genus of the Cannabacae family, as is Humulus (the hop plant used for beer) and Celtis (a type of tree or shrub native to many parts of the northern hemisphere).
There are three main species in the cannabis genus, two of which you’ve probably heard of before:
The three main species in the cannabis genus include cannabis Sativa, cannabis Indica, and cannabis Ruderalis.
Cannabis sativa (C. sativa)
Cannabis sativa (we’ll simply refer to it as “Sativa”) is most likely one of two subspecies you recognize most. Originated in central and eastern Asia, specifically the Mongolian and southern Siberian regions, but was later introduced to many parts of Africa, Europe, and the Americas.
Of the 750+ cannabis strains in existence, roughly 450+ are Sativa varieties, each with varying levels of CBD and THC. Hemp, a Sativa variety, carries low amounts of THC but high percentages of CBD. Marijuana varieties are the opposite, carrying more THC than CBD.
Cannabis indica (C. indica)
Cannabis indica (we’ll call it “Indica”) is the other subspecies you probably recognize already. First discovered and used widely across the Asian subcontinent, as well as in some parts of central Asia (Turkey, Pakistan, India, and Afghanistan).
As mentioned, there are roughly 750+ cannabis strains. An estimated 500+ are Indica varieties, none of which are hemp, only marijuana with high percentages of THC.
Cannabis ruderalis (C. ruderalis)
Cannabis ruderalis (“Ruderalis”) is the lesser-known cannabis subspecies, which sucks because it’s actually quite impressive. Originally discovered in the southern Siberian region. Adapted to very harsh climates, able to “auto-flower” without day-night cycles, and grows insanely quickly, making it very useful to cannabis breeders.
As you can see, hemp and marijuana are very broad terms for varieties of cannabis and are often used incorrectly, so let’s take a look at both in more detail.
What is hemp?
Hemp (otherwise known as industrial hemp) is a term used frequently to describe a variety of cannabis with less than 0.3% THC by dry weight, as per the Agriculture Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018’s definition.
However, this wasn’t always the case. The THC content was never factored into its definition. Hemp was simply a form of non-psychotropic cannabis used for industrial purposes (clothing, rope, textiles, etc) due to its incredibly strong and fibrous composition.
Today? Hemp is used not only for industrial purposes but also for CBD products available to you on the market. These products are marketed for their therapeutic value and physiological benefits (though not explicitly stated due to laws surrounding cannabis advertising).
Hemp has a long and colorful history
Hemp can be traced back to roughly 8000 BCE (more than 10,000 years ago!). It was found in hemp cloth belonging to ancient Mesopotamia, a region we know now as Iran and Iraq. Archaeologists also discovered traces of it in certain parts of Asia, notably China and Taiwan. Hemp cultivation is thought to be the oldest established industry, beginning in the Chinese Sung Dynasty (500 AD).
However, the earliest written reference to cannabis use for medicinal use was back in 1500 BC in Ancient China.
The Chinese Emperor Fu Si, a mythical emperor who came to life as a half-serpent being, often referenced the word “Ma”, a Chinese word for cannabis. He stated cannabis to be a very popular medicinal remedy and provided users with a yin and yang balance.
What is marijuana?
Marijuana is a term used by many to describe varieties of cannabis with over 0.3% THC. These varieties do cause intoxication or, rather, a whopping great “high” feeling, all thanks to the high THC content. Other terms for marijuana include weed, ganja, bud, green, pot, and grass.
Unlike hemp, marijuana varieties have never been used for industrial purposes.
There are 5 main differences between hemp and marijuana
- Physical characteristics
- Public perception
One of the biggest differences between hemp and weed is its chemical composition (mainly how much CBD and THC they carry).
Hemp typically carries anywhere between 10-20% CBD and below 0.3% THC, alongside other major and minor cannabinoids such as cannabigerol (CBG), cannabinol (CBN), and cannabichromene (CBC). Marijuana generally carries anywhere between 10-25% THC but has been known to go up to 33-35%. Certain marijuana strains are bred to contain more CBD. When this happens, the scales tilt, and the THC content decreases.
It’s also important to differentiate between hemp and CBD, and how they’re used. As mentioned previously, hemp’s uses surpass simply being a variety of cannabis. It’s an extremely fibrous and robust plant. Not only houses cannabinoids and other plant compounds but also for many industrial purposes such as textiles, clothing, rope, etc. The seeds of hemp (not the plant) can be used for oil (hempseed oil). Carries very little to no plant compounds. Only useful for cooking, skincare, or as a carrier oil for CBD products.
CBD, as an isolated cannabinoid (plant compound), is just one part of the hemp plant (albeit a reasonably large one). Used primarily for its physiological and therapeutic benefits such as anti-anxiety, anti-stress, anti-inflammation, and pain relief. CBD is also found in marijuana as well.
There are no plant compounds exclusive to either variety
CBD and other plant compounds in hemp and marijuana are not different from each other. The CBD you find in hemp is exactly the same as you would find in marijuana. There are also no “exclusive” plant compounds present in either variety. You’ll find (and experience) most, if not all plant compounds regardless of whether you consume hemp or marijuana.
Appearance & physical characteristics
Hemp and weed strains look very similar, simply because they’re both Sativas. Both plants are very tall – the giants of the cannabis world. Taller than any other subspecies or variety (up to six meters tall). Long, thin, and sparse. Not particularly dense.
However, there are differences between the two.
During the growth process, you’ll notice marijuana has a higher population of thick and sticky resin, which looks like a bed of small white crystals on the flower buds. This resin houses all the valuable plant compounds (CBD, THC, etc).
Hemp, on the other hand, doesn’t carry as much resin. Most of the beneficial plant compounds are in the plant’s leaves. In fact, the leaves carry an abundance of cannabidiolic acid (CBDA) and tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA).
The legality of cannabis varieties is complex but put simply: hemp is considered federally legal, while marijuana is deemed federally illegal. Why? It’s all down to their THC content.
Both hemp and marijuana varieties carry THC, which is listed under Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). However, under the Agriculture Improvement Act (2018 Farm Bill), hemp is perfectly legal provided it carries less than 0.3% THC. Any higher than this and it’s immediately classified as marijuana, making it federally illegal.
State law, on the other hand, varies.
U.S. State law for hemp and hemp-derived CBD products
- 44 states allow hemp-derived CBD in one form or another — six states don’t allow any hemp-derived CBD whatsoever
- Legality of hemp CBD products in 16 states (incl. D.C.) varies
U.S. State law for marijuana and marijuana-derived products
- 16 states (incl. D.C.) allow medicinal and recreational marijuana
- 35 states allow the use of medical cannabis in some form or another — 27 of these don’t allow recreational marijuana use and 7 only allow medicinal CBD oil
When comparing weed and hemp, this is the least talked about. Despite both belonging to the cannabis family, hemp and hemp-derived CBD products are far more accepted now than marijuana, though the tide is beginning to turn for the latter.
In my opinion, federal hemp legalization across the U.S. opened up the discussion surrounding cannabis benefits, both medicinally and therapeutically. This, in turn, has encouraged a more widespread cannabis-positive vibe, particularly when it comes to non-intoxicating plant compounds e.g. CBD, CBG, etc.
Even THC is slowly gaining some acceptance, though the issue of being “high” still exists. Many still believe THC consumption is for stoners without any knowledge of how beneficial it can be. Marijuana, therefore, remains somewhat marginalized, especially among straight-laced individuals stuck believing everything the war on drugs told them.
Difference between hemp oil, CBD oil, marijuana oil
Vape oil extracted from marijuana flower
|Hemp Oil||Hemp CBD Oil||Marijuana Oil|
|AKA hempseed oil||AKA CBD oil||AKA THC oil, cannabis oil, or hash oil|
|Made from hemp seeds||Made from stalks, leaves, flowers of hemp plants||Made from the leaves and flower of marijuana plants|
|0% THC||Less than 0.3% THC||More than 0.3% THC|
|0% CBD||Up to 90% CBD||1-20%+ CBD|
|Non-intoxicating||Non-intoxicating but psychoactive||Intoxicating, psychoactive|
|Used for cooking, skincare, and as a CBD oil carrier||Used for health benefits||Same as hemp CBD oil + specific conditions = appetite stimulation, insomnia, muscle spasticity|
Is hemp or cannabis better medicinally?
Whether hemp or cannabis is better medicinally is really up for debate, though we believe it depends entirely on the condition being treated.
Speaking with Weedmaps, Dr. Adie Rae, PhD who has treated patients with hemp-derived and marijuana-based treatments believes neither is superior to the other, though CBD-rich marijuana extracts are potentially better for specific conditions.
“I treat patients with both hemp and marijuana CBD products and I couldn’t say one is more effective than the other. I can concur that most of my patients find that having THC, even the 0.3% found in hemp-derived CBD products, more effective than products with 0% THC”, adding, “I do believe, however, that CBD-rich marijuana extracts offer greater therapeutic value than full-spectrum hemp CBD, as it pertains to specific medical conditions”.
We agree on pretty much every level here.
Both hemp-derived full-spectrum CBD products and marijuana-derived products, on the whole, are incredibly beneficial, simply because they carry a whole arsenal of plant compounds, including CBD, THC, minor cannabinoids (CBN, CBC, CBG), terpenes (linalool, limonene, etc), and flavonoids.
Is hemp, CBD or marijuana better for sleep, anxiety or pain?
Marijuana is generally considered better for pain than hemp-derived CBD, simply because the “high” associated with THC can mentally mask how you respond to pain — almost like not caring about it. That’s not to say CBD isn’t useful. It’s very useful, particularly when combined with THC.
Marijuana (especially high-THC marijuana) is less helpful for anxiety than CBD. Large amounts of THC can actually increase anxiety symptoms by over-stimulating brain regions responsible for fear and fear perception, typically via CB1 receptors. CBD can counteract this THC-related fear response by altering the shape and size of CB1 receptors, which prevents THC from properly binding.
There’s a common misconception that THC-rich marijuana consumption can result in better sleep. This isn’t strictly true. THC can cause drowsiness, sure, but it can also cause restlessness, racing thoughts, and energy (10mg+ doses), which isn’t conducive to a good night’s sleep. We recommend a mixture of CBD and THC here (high-CBD marijuana). CBD is soothing and may reduce racing thoughts and restlessness.
These plant compounds work together in synergy to create what’s known as the entourage effect
The entourage effect is a still theorized phenomenon whereby all plant compounds work together in synergy to produce enhanced benefits within your body. Researchers believe there are two different types of entourage effect:
1. Intra-entourage = An interaction among cannabinoids or terpenes e.g. CBD + THC + CBG interaction or linalool + caryohphyllene + limonene interaction.
CBD reduces a THC high and its associated side-effects via blocking cannabinoid receptors (mainly CB1). In this case, high-CBD marijuana consumption may produce a more balanced and well-rounded high by preventing THC from fully binding to these receptors.
2. Inter-entourage = An interaction between cannabinoid and terpenes e.g. CBD + THC + linalool + pinene + caryophyllene
Hemp-derived or marijuana-derived CBD products may produce mood-stabilizing effects via interactions between terpenes (myrcene + limonene) by somehow interacting with CBD and THC.
There are many other examples of intra and inter-entourage effect benefits but most, if not all are still being researched as we speak.
We recommend experimenting with hemp and marijuana to find out which one suits you best.
There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to hemp and marijuana benefits. We believe the best way to figure out which one suits you best is to experiment with both.
Because hemp-derived CBD products don’t cause a high, we advise starting here first. A full-spectrum product is preferred. Perhaps try a 500-750 mg oil and place two or three drops under your tongue morning and night. The high-CBD content, along with all the other beneficial plant compounds.
If hemp-derived CBD products aren’t working as well as you’d hoped and you live in a state with legalized adult-use marijuana, try a cannabis-derived product instead.
If you’re new to higher levels of THC, find a product with a balance of CBD and THC. Something like a 1:1 CBD:THC oil or a 2.5-5 mg THC gummy. This balance won’t cause a whopping great high and will no doubt give you some physiological and therapeutic benefits.
Recommended Hemp and Marijuana Flowers
Hemp and marijuana flower are arguably the “purest” cannabis products you can get on the market. You can either smoke or vape dried cannabis flower for best results but, remember, you’ll get completely different effects.
Hemp flower won’t cause you to feel intoxicated but may produce slight euphoria due to brain and central nervous system stimulation via CBD and other plant compounds working synergistically with THC. Marijuana flower, on the other hand, will cause intoxication due to higher percentages of THC blooding your brain’s cannabinoid 1 (CB1) receptors.
Hemp flower recommendations
Plain Jane Acid Rock Indoor
Plain Jane’s Acid Rock is one of our favorite hemp flower products currently on the market. A hybrid of River Rock and Suzy Q strains. Very high terpene count, notably pinene, giving it a very deep wood and wine smell. Very aromatic. Great when smoked. Carries 15-16% CBDA, along with small amounts of CBG, CBCB, and cannabidivarin (CBDV).
Good for: Relaxation, subtle mood-enhancement, pain, inflammation
Secret Nature CBD Secret OG
Secret Nature CBD’s Secret OG is special. VERY special. An Indica-dominant hybrid hemp flower with just over 17% total CBD content. Incredibly relaxing with some sedative qualities. Really good as a nighttime smoke or vape (either is perfectly fine). High caryophyllene content. Strong pepper and wood smell. Very pungent when smoked. Can be overwhelming. Best smoked outside, to be honest.
Good for: Sedation, relaxation, pain relief, sleep improvement
CBD American Shaman John Snow CBG Hemp Flower
One of the best CBG/CBD hemp flowers out there. A rare hybrid of Jack The Ripper + Philly Sour Diesel. Carries nearly 21% CBG with just over 0.1% THC. Very citrusy and sour flavor, and a diesel-like aroma. Definitely a daytime smoke to boost your mood, focus, and creativity.
Good for: Mood enhancement, focus, concentration, creativity, pain relief, inflammation
Marijuana flower recommendations
Marijuana flower isn’t readily available online for nationwide purchase. You have to live in a legalized state in order to purchase it, either from a dedicated web store or via a licensed dispensary. Below is a list of our favorite marijuana flower strains for you to look out for.
Zkittlez (otherwise known as Skittles or Island Zkittlez) is a lesser-known marijuana flower that packs quite a punch. An Indica-dominant blend of Grapefruit and Grape Ape cross-bred with an unknown mystery strain. Carries over 19% THC with very little CBD. Packs an almighty punch. Very strong euphoric body high with sedation. Not suited to beginners. Best-used for nighttime relaxation and sleep.
Good for: Sleep, relaxation, calm, pain relief
OG Kush is an obvious one. Quite possibly the most famous hybrid strain in existence. It’s a hybrid fusion of a northern Californian strain and a Dutch Hindu Kush strain. Incredibly skunky and pungent with spicy and woody notes when smoked or vaped. Very unique and well-rounded experience. Contains 18-19% THC. Not a particularly good choice for newbies but seasoned cannabis vets will surely get something out of this. A winning choice, for sure.
Good for: Mood-enhancement, relaxation, some anxiety and stress
Ringo’s Gift is one for the beginners. A mix of Harle-Tsu and ACDC, both high-CBD marijuana strains on their own. Incredibly balanced at 10-12% CBD and 7-8% THC (on average). Provides you with a really nice high without being too overwhelming. Contains an abundance of linalool, an aromatic terpene known for its spicy and floral aroma. We recommend this to any inexperienced cannabis user looking for a mild high.
Good for: Relaxation, mild euphoria, mild pain and inflammation
Hemp vs. Marijuana: What’s the Difference?
What makes hemp legal and marijuana illegal? What’s the difference between these two closely-related plants?
Both hemp and marijuana are technically the same plant — Cannabis sativa.
However, hemp is completely legal, while marijuana is considered a schedule I restricted substance.
In this article, we demystify the cannabis plant and discuss exactly what makes these two plants different.
Table of Contents
Summary: The Difference Between Hemp and Marijuana
Hemp and marijuana are the same species of plant — Cannabis sativa.
The difference is in their specific growth habits.
Hemp is any strain of Cannabis sativa that contains less than 0.3% THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, the main psychoactive compound in the plant). These strains are used for making textiles, biodiesel, and nutritional supplements such as CBD.
Marijuana is any cannabis strain with more than 0.3% THC by dried weight. Marijuana can include both Cannabis sativa and a related species — Cannabis indica. These strains are used primarily for their psychoactive effects.
Comparing Hemp and Marijuana
|Botanical Name(s)||Cannabis sativa||Cannabis sativa or Cannabis indica|
|Growth Patterns||A tall, stalky plant resembling a small tree||Can be tall and stalky or short and bushy|
|CBD Content||Generally very high (>10% by dried weight)||Can be very high (>20%) or very low ( <1%) by dried weight|
|THC Content||Less than 0.3% by dried weight||Generally much higher than 0.3% by dried weight (10% to 25%)|
|Uses||Textiles, paper, biodiesel, hemp seeds, and nutritional supplements (e.g. CBD)||Recreational drugs, herbal medicine, nutritional supplements|
|Psychoactive Effects||No psychoactivity||Anywhere from low to high psychoactivity|
|Legality||Legal throughout the United States and most of the world||Illegal throughout most of the world except through medical programs|
Introduction to the Cannabis Family
All cannabis plants, including hemp and marijuana, are members of the Cannabacea family. The only other notable member in this family is the hop plant (Humulus lupulus) — one of the primary ingredients in beer brewing.
Within the Cannabacea family, there are three main cannabis species to be aware of — each with their own unique growth characteristics.
A) Cannabis Sativa
Cannabis sativa is the most widespread species of cannabis. There are hundreds of different strains of this species, some with high THC content (marijuana), others with very low THC content (hemp).
This species is believed to have originated from Southeast Asia, where the humidity is much higher and the growing season is longer. As a result, it has the longest flowering time of all the cannabis species and grows the largest.
B) Cannabis Indica
Cannabis indica originated from northern climates and, therefore, has a higher tolerance for cold weather and a much shorter flowering time to accommodate the shorter growing seasons.
It’s only recently become a popular species for growers looking to produce psychoactive crops thanks to its smaller plant size and larger flower size. This is ideal for people cultivating the plants indoors under lights. A large Cannabis sativa strain would normally grow too tall to be successfully cultivated indoors without special consideration regarding the design of the growing space.
There are no Cannabis indica strains currently classified as hemp. All members of this species are classified as marijuana.
C) Cannabis Ruderalis
Cannabis ruderalis is the lesser-known cannabis species. It’s a small plant that produces very low yields and lacks any notable fiber content.
What makes this strain unique is its ability to produce flowers irrelevant of the day length. This compares with Cannabis indica and Cannabis sativa, which are both highly influenced by day length (the days growing shorter triggers them to begin flowering).
What’s the Difference Between a Strain and a Species?
We’ve been talking a lot about the different species of cannabis — Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, and Cannabis ruderalis. These are differentiated by their genetic makeup as well as unique growth habits.
However, the cannabis plant is very complex, and there is a lot of potential for variation even within these species. We refer to these different variations as “strains.”
The best example to use to compare how strains of the same species can be radically different is hemp strains vs. marijuana strains. Although both are considered to be the same species due to the overlap in their genetic makeup, they have obvious differences in their growth characteristics.
Hemp, for example, naturally has very low THC content, while marijuana has very high THC content.
There are thousands of different strains of cannabis plants. Some are found in nature, while others were cultivated to have specific traits. If you’ve ever shopped for marijuana before, you may have noticed that each type has its own name — Deathstar, OG Kush, Lemon Haze, to name a few. Each strain has a different set of qualities, specifically engineered into the plant by a breeder.
Some strains are bred to produce high THC, others to have larger flowers, and some to resist overly dry or humid climates.
Why Does Hemp Exist?
Cannabis is best known for its psychoactive effects through the THC content of the resin produced by the flowers. However, THC and the plants that produce it are illegal throughout most of the world. It’s been this way for the last 80 years.
The cannabis plant has a lot of other useful traits to offer outside of its psychoactive effects. The fibrous stems are valuable for manufacturing textiles and biodiesel, the seeds make for a rich source of nutritional protein and fatty acids, and the leaves are rich in medicinal compounds such as cannabidiol (CBD) and cannabichromene (CBC).
It was discovered shortly after the banning of THC and the plants that produce it that some species of cannabis didn’t have any psychoactive effects. These plants were later classified as “hemp” — noting that to be considered hemp, the plant had to produce less than 0.3% THC by dried weight.
Now, hemp is completely legal throughout the United States as well as most of the world. Any supplement made from hemp is considered a nutritional supplement rather than a psychoactive drug. Marijuana, in comparison, is considered a recreational drug, and its cultivation is highly restricted.
Most of the CBD supplements on the market are, therefore, manufactured from hemp in order to fit into this classification.
1. Growth Habits: Hemp vs. Marijuana
Hemp and marijuana can have similar growth habits. Both hemp and marijuana strains of Cannabis sativa tend to be very tall with thin leaves. Other forms of marijuana that come from Cannabis indica tend to be much shorter and bushier and have thicker leaves.
The main difference in growth habits between hemp and marijuana is specific to the resin produced by female flower buds. The resin on marijuana strains tends to be much thicker and stickier than hemp. This resin is where the majority of the CBD, THC, and other cannabinoids are produced.
Hemp, on the other hand, produces far less resin and will tend to accumulate valuable cannabinoids within its dark, rich leaves.
2. Chemical Composition: Hemp vs. Marijuana
The chemical composition of hemp and marijuana is the main differentiator between the two plants.
As mentioned, hemp strains are only classified as such if they produce less than 0.3% THC by dried weight. Anything over this concentration is considered marijuana.
The other cannabinoids in the plant (there are over 80) can vary substantially.
Some hemp is high in other cannabinoids such as CBC or CBG (cannabigerol), while others contain almost exclusively CBD.
3. Legality: Hemp vs. Marijuana
Hemp and marijuana have very different legal classifications.
Although this can vary a lot depending on what part of the world you’re in, in general, hemp is legal to cultivate and possess, while marijuana is illegal.
Again, this is due to the psychoactive effects of marijuana and the lack of psychoactivity in hemp.
Until recently, hemp cultivation was highly regulated by the United States Federal Government. In order to cultivate the plant, a farmer needed to send in an application and was subject to multiple levels of inspection, monitoring, and taxation.
With the release of the 2018 Farm Bill, hemp cultivation was opened up across the board. It’s now 100% legal for a farmer to choose to grow hemp on their land, as long as the plant they choose to grow produces less than 0.3% THC by weight. No more applications or government inspections are necessary.
Hemp also makes it easier for manufacturers to produce CBD products without jumping through regulatory hoops at every corner. Since hemp is now classified the same way as a vegetable, extracts made from the plant are technically considered nutritional supplements.
This is why you can now buy CBD products made from hemp plants without having to sign up for a medical marijuana program.
These laws are very similar around the world.
Best Hemp Flower Brands
Hemp flower comes in a similar form as marijuana flower. You can add them to a vape, smoke them, or use them to make your own DIY products.
Every strain is completely different in terms of flavor and effects, and strain selection changes every few months as new harvests are made available. The market is always evolving and changing as growers breed new and interesting new genetic strains.
Here are some of the best suppliers for hemp flower in the United States.
Final Thoughts: Hemp vs. Marijuana
Hemp and marijuana are very similar — in fact, they’re technically considered to be the same species.
The difference between the two lies in the chemical profile of each plant. In order to be classified as hemp, the plant needs to have less than 0.3% THC by dried weight, while anything over this concentration is classified as marijuana.
Due to the lack of THC in any meaningful amount, hemp plants are legal throughout most of the world. Nobody is getting high off hemp, so government regulators have started to loosen restrictions on the plant in recent years. For this reason, most of the CBD products available on the market are made from hemp plants instead of marijuana.
Wait, What!? I Thought Hemp and Marijuana Were the Same Thing!
If you thought hemp and marijuana were the same thing – you are not alone. When it comes to understanding the difference between hemp and marijuana, it can get a little confusing and details are often improperly explained. With a greater amount of hemp products in the market, from supplements to beauty products, it is important to understand the exact nature of what you are buying. We aim to deconstruct this confusion and explain to you what hemp really is and dive a little into the history of cannabis, so that you can choose wisely and confidently.
Understanding the Difference: What Is Hemp? What Is Marijuana?
Before we lay out all of the differences between hemp and marijuana, it is important to note that one of the big similarities that probably leads to the confusion between the two is that they are both derived from the Cannabis plant.
Both hemp and marijuana are, in fact, taxonomically the same plant. This means that they are different names for the same genus, which would be Cannabis. But while marijuana comes from both the cannabis indica or cannabis sativa plant, hemp belongs solely to the cannabis sativa family.
A Brief History of Cannabis
The history of cannabis has been a turbulent one, and one that still faces confusion and misunderstanding. Due to how closely related the plants are, the government outlawed hemp and hemp seeds at the same time marijuana was made illegal. Cannabis was an early target of the “War on Drugs” in the 1970’s, and led to the misconception around hemp, lumping both hemp and marijuana into the same conversation.
Hemp was legalized in the United States in 2018 through the Farm Bill, which lifted the provisions on hemp that were previously classified as a drug on par with heroin. In the Agricultural Act of 2018, the definition was further changed to describe the non-intoxicating forms of Cannabis that is used specifically for its industrial uses. Hemp can produce essential resources in everyday textiles, industrial textiles, building materials, as well as health and body care. Because hemp is mostly the fiber of the plant, there is evidence of its uses throughout history up to 10,000 years ago. Early evidence shows hemp in rope and other industrial materials.
Today, hemp affords many legalities that marijuana does not. For instance, products made from hemp – including medicine , wellness , clothing and body care – can be purchased almost anywhere in stores and online. In fact, hemp is now known to have over 20,000 different applications, with a ton of innovation expected over the years to come.
Does Hemp Have THC?
A key difference between hemp and marijuana lies within – meaning, within their chemical composition. The cannabis genus is made up of over 110 known cannabinoids and hemp and marijuana’s cannabinoid profile is characteristically different. The greatest determination for whether the plant is hemp or marijuana depends on the spectrums and concentrations of psychoactive compound , THC .
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the chemical responsible for the intoxicating effects of marijuana, otherwise known as a high. So while marijuana is mostly made up of THC (sometimes reaching as high as 30%), hemp is made up of less than 0.3% THC. In other words, hemp won’t produce a high, which is great if that’s something you’d prefer to avoid.
Benefits of Hemp
Hemp is incredibly versatile and the entire hemp plant can be used in a myriad of ways . Follow along as we deconstruct some of the most popular uses of hemp.
Hemp Stalk: Using Hemp for Fiber and Hurds
The hemp plant’s stalk, also referred to as the stem, provides fiber and hurds. Fiber is used to produce textiles, rope, plastics and even building insulation. Hurds are used to create paper, fiber boards, and organic compost.
Hemp Seeds: Using Hemp for Food and Beauty Products
One of the most common uses is hemp seed oil, which is full of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids and other vitamins and minerals. You can use hemp seed oil in salad dressings and other cold dishes – we don’t recommend using it for cooking as it has a very low smoking point.
Other uses for hemp seeds are sprinkling them as is on protein bars, in smoothies, even sneaking it into your baked goods! You can have hemp milk, hemp butter, flour and protein powder. Why should you give hemp seed products a try? Because they’re incredibly rich in dietary fibers, protein, vitamins and minerals!
Hemp-derived CBD vs Marijuana-derived CBD
Now that we’ve established you will not get high from hemp, let’s shift focus to the properties of hemp that give way to CBD. While the CBD compound is the same from both marijuana-derived CBD and hemp-derived CBD, they differ in the amount of cannabinoid content and effect profiles.
Cannabinoid Content and Effect Profiles
Hemp-derived CBD extract typically consists of a higher concentration of CBD and a THC level of 0.3% or less. Marijuana-derived CBD can come with significantly higher amounts of THC, going from 5% to as high as 30%. Bottom line: if you want CBD without any THC, hemp-derived CBD is your best best.
Those wishing to avoid THC should go with a CBD isolate product made from hemp rather than a full-spectrum CBD. A CBD isolate is the purest form of CBD – it contains around 99% cannabidiol without any additional cannabinoids, terpenes and plants components. In contrast to isolates, full-spectrum CBD retains the full spectrum of cannabinoids and has its own set of benefits such as the “entourage effect”, arguing that THC, even in small amounts below 0.3%, can help increase efficacy thru the bond with CB1 and CB2 receptors. To simplify, the “entourage effect” says that the plant works best as it was naturally grown. With all the different types of CBDs, it’s ultimately up to you to decide which is your preferred choice.
Though there is still some confusion around hemp and marijuana, it is important to understand that there is in fact a great difference in their application, usage, and chemical components. To put it simply, marijuana will get you high and hemp will not. Hemp also is an incredible utilitarian plant used all over the world and noted for its nutritious benefits. To confuse hemp and marijuana would be akin to confusing lemons and oranges. Understanding how they are dissimilar can be critical in helping inform you on how you use hemp and marijuana products in your life.
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