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. Both hemp and marijuana are technically the same plant — Cannabis sativa. However, hemp is completely legal, while marijuana is considered a schedule I drug. Hemp Seed Vs Weed Seed Fueled by widespread acceptance and removal of regulations, the hemp and cannabis industries are growing rapidly across the globe. They may technically be the same plant
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: 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.
Hemp Seed Vs Weed Seed
Fueled by widespread acceptance and removal of regulations, the hemp and cannabis industries are growing rapidly across the globe. They may technically be the same plant from a scientific standpoint, but in lawmakers’ eyes, two classifications exist with their own set of rules and regulations. Understanding the difference between hemp and cannabis seeds is a critical step for anyone involved in these industries – from seed to sale.
Hemp seeds can be used for a variety of everyday purposes and have been for years. The seeds of the Cannabis sativa plant are highly nutritious and can be found on the shelves of your local health food store. These seeds can be added to smoothies, salads, granola, and any other kitchen concoction you can scheme up in their processed form.
Recent developments regarding hemp and cannabis regulations have expanded hemp from grocery shelves to alternative health clinics and corner stores across the country and beyond. Hemp oil has various uses and benefits (which is why people use cbd lotion, take it as a tincture, and use it in cooking, to name a few), while being the fuel behind the recent boom in the CBD market.
The main distinction that separates hemp seeds from cannabis seeds sits in the amounts of certain compounds, called cannabinoids, present within them. The 2018 Farm Bill established a limit of 0.3 percent THC content for any Cannabis sativa plant to be classified as hemp in the US – seeds included. Some local jurisdictions on the state level (and other regions of the world) have their own definition of what distinguishes hemp from cannabis. Still, this 0.3% THC content threshold is quickly becoming an accepted standard.
Cannabis seeds, while again technically from the same plant as hemp seeds, are more often associated with the legal cannabis market for medicinal and recreational consumption. Anyone involved within the cannabis industry knows that the key to a high-quality cannabis product starts with the seeds used for production.
These seeds are essential both to the businesses and farmers who grow the cannabis crops and the consumers who use the many different varieties of cannabis products currently available. And while there are numerous methods to growing and producing the plant itself, the entire industry relies on the ability to use viable cannabis seeds obtained from a reputable and reliable source.
Another big difference between cannabis seeds and hemp seeds is cost. Since cannabis seeds are most often sold for purposes of growing cannabis plants, their seeds will typically cost you more than what you’d pay for hemp seeds at the grocery store. The rise of legal hemp and the CBD market has increased the value of hemp seeds a bit, but cannabis seeds will almost always cost considerably more.
Again, established regulations are what legally create the differences between hemp and cannabis in their many forms. Cannabis seeds in the US are classified as such if they grow plants with a THC content of 0.3% or higher. If you wonder whether the seeds you have are hemp or cannabis, you may have to wait until you can get the end crop tested to find out.