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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Hemp vs Marijuana: Similarities & The Differences
Short Answer: They are two forms of the cannabis plant that are used very differently.
Deconstructing the biggest controversy of hemp that caused it to be banned for 80 years
Hemp is different from marijuana in its function, cultivation and application. But these differences didn’t stop our political leaders from getting confused and accidentally grouping all forms of cannabis as a Schedule I Drug and banning it in 1970 under the Controlled Substances Act.
Psychoactive cannabis, or “marijuana” as it is widely known, is used for medicinal or recreational purposes. Many states are slowly legalizing recreational marijuana, but marijuana remains federally illegal. An amendment to the 2018 Farm Bill legalized hemp in the U.S.
Today, hemp can be used in variety of ways that marijuana cannot. These include healthy dietary supplements, skin products, clothing, and accessories. Today, you can buy legal hemp products not just online, but in many grocery stores and everyday businesses. Overall, hemp is known to have over 25,000 possible applications.
Even after almost 50 years, the government still seems to have some confusion in distinguishing the two plants. Despite the recent legalization, federal policies surrounding hemp growing and sales of hemp products are often still up in the air, and banks continue to treat hemp businesses like criminals. In some rare cases, there are still arrests over hemp, such as truckers arrested while transporting completely legal hemp.
Can You Get “High” Off Hemp?
Recently, people have started smoking hemp in the form of pre-rolled cigarettes, or bought as “buds” that look similar to marijuana. Smoking “hemp flower” can be very relaxing, but it won’t make you “feel high” like smoking marijuana. That’s because these legal hemp buds are high in a compound called CBD, but extremely low in the compound THC. Keep reading to learn more about these cannabinoids.
Hemp vs Marijuana
|Type||Is it Cannabis?||Chemical Makeup||Psychoactive?||Cultivation||Applications|
|Hemp||Yes||Low THC |
So How Can You Actually Tell The Difference?
Hemp and marijuana can be differentiated by looking at their chemical makeup, method of growing, natural adaptability and, sometimes, appearance. Marijuana and hemp have noticeable and contrasting differences.
Marijuana often looks different from hemp. When you observe their leaves, marijuana’s shape tends to either be broad-leafed, a tight bud, or look like a nugget with tiny hairs or crystals. Hemp, on the other hand, has skinnier leaves that are concentrated at the top. Few branches or leaves exist below the top part of the plant. When you observe the plants from afar, marijuana looks like a short fat bush. Hemp, especially hemp grown for fiber or seed, is typically skinnier and taller (up to 20 ft). At times, it almost looks like long ditchweed – hemp was actually found to grow among weeds in Nebraska, Kansas and many other states. In general, when you compare a marijuana farm with those of industrial hemp, you’ll notice that they are clearly very different from one another.
The main difference between the two is in their chemical composition, specifically in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC is the chemical responsible for marijuana’s psychological effects. An average batch of marijuana contains anywhere from 5-20% THC content. Some premium marijuana can have up to 25-30% THC. Legal hemp, on the other hand, has a max THC level of 0.3%, essentially making it impossible to feel any psychoactive effect or get a “high.” This threshold is heavily regulated in other countries that have legalized hemp. Hemp also has high cannabidiol (CBD) which offers numerous unique benefits.
The environment in which hemp and marijuana are grown are often strikingly different. Hemp is grown closely together (as close as 4 inches apart) and are typically grown in large multi-acre plots. It can also grow in variety of climates and its growth cycle is 108-120 days. There are numerous varities of hemp, which can be grown for fiber, seed, or CBD content. Unlike hemp, marijuana requires a carefully controlled, warm, and humid atmostphere for proper growth. Its growth cycle only 60-90 days. Medical cannabis also cannot be grown too close to each other. They are typically grown 6 feet apart. Hemp and marijuana can’t be grown together: if marijuana grows among (or close to) a hemp field, the hemp’s pollen would immediately ruin the marijuana crop, diluting marijuana’s psychoactivity. Both crops would become useless.
THC vs CBD
What are the chemicals that make hemp and marijuana different?
Tetrahydrocannabinol, also called THC, is the chemical responsible for marijuana’s psychological effects. An average batch of marijuana contains anywhere from 5-20% THC content. Some premium marijuana can have up to 25-30% THC.
In order to remain legal, hemp must remain below the maximum THC level of 0.3%, essentially making it impossible to feel any psychoactive effect or get a “high.”
CBD has analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and anti-anxiety properties without any psychoactive effects. Thus, it has recently gained popularity as a medical supplement and is now the leading application of hemp in the U.S. Some researchers believe that all the natural compounds in hemp work together, something called the “entourage effect.” This means the tiny amounts of THC could enhance the action of CBD, but you still won’t “feel high.”
Buyer beware: Not all CBD is created equal, and there are even fraudulent products on the market. The CBD market is currently unregulated, meaning consumers need to be careful! We recommend being very cautious and researching all products before purchasing CBD oil. Our website is full of useful resources like the best CBD oil guide to help you make the right purchase.
Cannabis Sativa vs Cannabis Indica
Difference explained in official terms
Sativa strains are typically taller, loosely branched, and have long, narrow leaves. They are usually grown outdoors and can reach heights of up to 20 feet. Sativa plants typically have a higher concentration of CBD enzymes, essentially causing no mind-altering effect.
Indica strains are shorter, densely branched and have wider leaves. They are better suited for growing indoors. Indica plants contain higher THC content, which has an intoxicating effect of causing a “body buzz”.
Note: Many hybrids of these plants have been developed recently, so it is more important to examine the exact level of THC, CBD and other compounds in a plant rather than strictly categorizing them “sativa” or “indica”
How Hemp got grouped with Marijuana
Was it right to ban hemp along with marijuana?
In the 1970s, President Nixon declared a “War on Drugs” and signed into law the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. This law established a set of banned drugs and created the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). It also unintentionally outlawed one of the world’s oldest domesticated crops, hemp.
The war on drugs actually began even decades before, with cannabis one of the first targets. Despite this, cannabis is an extremely safe plant which can benefit people and the planet in thousands of ways. But these laws not only led to the demise of hemp, but also an increased misconception of the plant and its benefits. People feared hemp, when it had benefited humanity for centuries.
In the Controlled Substances Act, marijuana was grouped with all types of cannabis and was made illegal to grow in the US. This, unfortunately, classified hemp as a drug even though it doesn’t include any of the chemicals that make marijuana a drug.
Final thoughts on hemp vs. marijuana
At Ministry of Hemp, we support all forms of the cannabis plant. Ultimately, we believe cannabis should be fully legal for anyone to safely use to enhance their lives, whether that means smoking psychoactive cannabis (“marijuana”), taking hemp-derived CBD, or building hempcrete homes.
Hemp is now fully legal at the federal level, though many state and federal regulations and policies are still behind the times. Meanwhile, marijuana is slowly becoming legal state by state, and could someday be federally legal too.
Despite our support for all forms of the plant, we also think it’s important to recognize the differences. While medical marijuana can transform lives for the better, industrial hemp in all its forms has thousands more uses. We’ll only discover its full potential to benefit humanity if we cultivate all forms of the plant, and expand our understanding of all its uses.