A very common question we get asked revolves around the differences between marijuana vs hemp. Most people, until a couple of years ago, were completely unaware that the two were more or less identical, except for a couple of minute differences. There are also some minor differences in hemp CBD vs marijuana CBD, which we will discuss as well.
Hemp, also known as Industrial Hemp, has a long and interesting history in the United States. The same can be said for marijuana.
In this article, we will take a look at the common differences between hemp vs marijuana.
The Cannabis Plant Family
This plant family offers some wonderful therapeutic health potentials – this should not surprise you. Cannabis was used in ancient Roman and Chinese medicine for wound healing, menstrual disorder, seizures and tapeworm infection.
The cannabis family is made up of three important species which all differ based on their growth pattern and concentration of plant-based chemicals (phytochemicals, or phytocannabinoids).
This is the first difference to remember when discussing differences in marijuana vs hemp.
The plant is further sub-divided into two broad categories…
Hemp, or Industrial Hemp
The picture above does a good job at showing the different leaf structure of hemp vs marijuana.
In an early attempt to differentiate between marijuana vs. hemp, most people believed that marijuana came from the female plant while hemp is derived from the male plant.
In some cases, the classification was based on the fact that marijuana is a drug while hemp is not. Although these differences may not be technically wrong, the focus was on the wrong criteria.
Let’s take a look at each category and their specific characteristics.
The Hemp Plant
This is a class of cannabis plants that was long cultivated for industrial purposes, hence the name ‘Industrial Hemp.’
Its’ low concentration of THC makes it a prime choice for the extraction and production of hemp derived CBD products. Apart from serving as a raw material (a.k.a. biomass) for the CBD oil industry, hemp is also a good substance for building materials, clothing, composite materials, cordage, cosmetic, food industries, paper, plastic, and clothing.
Figure 1.0 – Hemp Leaf
If you found your way to this website, you are more than likely at least somewhat familiar with CBD, or cannabidiol. For a long time, hemp was illegal in the United States. It has always been somewhat of a grey area for Americans.
There are even some pretty interesting conspiracies you can look into that involve hemp. Hemp became decriminalized in 2018 with the passing of the Farm Bill of 2018. Since then, hemp derived CBD items have flooded the marketplace.
The Marijuana Plant
Marijuana is a plant that naturally contains a controlled substance known as THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol. THC has been widely utilized for both medicinal and recreational properties.
It has a high THC content which makes it unsuitable for the production of CBD based products. It contains more than 483 different compounds with cannabinoids being the most active compounds. Terpenes fall second to cannabinoids in popularity.
Figure 2.0 – Marijuana Leaf
THC is a psychoactive compound responsible for people feeling ‘high.’ This compound is still regulated heavily within the United States, and is the main difference between marijuana vs. hemp.
Main Differences of Hemp vs Marijuana
There are other differences between hemp and marijuana besides THC content. Outside of a molecular standpoint, here are some other key differences between marijuana vs. hemp…
- Uses – Hemp is more of an industrial plant than cannabis. It produces the toughest fiber in the world. Information gathered from research reveals that scientists are presently exploring the possibilities of biofuel extraction from the hemp plant. The vast majority of marijuana is channeled into medicinal and recreational use because of the THC content.
- Growth pattern – Hemp plants are a product of several years of crossbreeding cannabis plants to eliminate the possible presence of THC. Hemp plants can grow faster, taller and hardier than marijuana and may require a controlled environment for proper growth and development. Hemp plants have a tendency to grow long, lengthy and bulky stalks. These stalks are where their strong fiber comes from.
- The concentration of CBD – As stated earlier, the hemp plant contains a higher concentration of CBD than marijuana. This is the prime reason why it is legal in several parts of the world (not all). Many farmers are starting to develop specialized strains of hemp solely for the purpose of growing a highly medicinal product.
- Effects on the body – The high concentration of THC in marijuana makes it a good source for psychoactive chemicals. This may interfere with brain activity and cognitive functions by getting the user high. Hemp derived CBD produces little to no side effects on users, and especially no psychoactive effects.
Hemp CBD vs Marijuana Based CBD
I’d like to start off by saying that CBD is CBD. Regardless of where your CBD oil comes from, at a molecular level, it is identical. This is like asking the difference between rain water and river water. Water is water, right?
The big differences in hemp CBD vs marijuana based CBD is the other compounds that might make it into your products.
If you purchase hemp derived CBD products, you know that there will be less than a 0.3% THC content. This means CBD derived from hemp plants cannot, and will not, get you high. It’s not possible. There isn’t enough THC in them to even come close to offering any psychoactive effects. This is one of several reasons CBD is so popular.
People are getting the therapeutic benefits of the cannabis plant, without getting high. Not everyone enjoys being high. Hemp CBD is also federally legal within the United States.
Marijuana based products, on the other hand, likely contain a large amount of THC. These will most definitely get you high, and are restricted in most states for this reason.
Most states actually require you to have a medical marijuana license to purchase any marijuana products, even CBD oil derived from marijuana.
These are the major distinguishing factors between hemp CBD and marijuana based CBD.
Conclusion | Marijuana vs Hemp
There you have it! You now have the knowledge to be able to distinguish the differences between marijuana vs hemp. For those who wish to quickly review these, here they are:
- Both are part of the cannabis family
- Industrial Hemp typically contains a high CBD content, and very low THC content. For this reason, it is now a legal compound.
- Most hemp will have less than 0.3% THC in order to meet the Farm Bill of 2018 guidelines and regulations.
- Marijuana contains a lot of THC, and is heavily regulated.
Remember, when it comes to hemp CBD vs marijuana CBD, the only real differences is the residual amounts of THC left in the product. Hemp CBD doesn’t have enough THC to get you high, while marijuana based CBD does.
I hope this article helped you get a better grasp on the differences between hemp vs marijuana. Feel free to check out any of our other educational articles.
Basic Journal of Medical Sciences: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6387667/
Food and Drug Administration: https://www.fda.gov/news-events/public-health-focus/fda-and-cannabis-research-and-drug-approval-process
How Stuff Works: https://science.howstuffworks.com/life/botany/question211.htm
Psychology Today: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-teenage-mind/201105/history-cannabis-in-ancient-china
Systematic Reviews Journal: https://systematicreviewsjournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13643-019-1243-x
United States Senate: https://www.agriculture.senate.gov/2018-farm-bill
Vegetation History and Archaeobotany: https://www.jstor.org/stable/23418014?seq=1
Washington State University: http://ses.wsu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/WP2014-10.pdf
Way of the Leaf: https://wayofleaf.com/blog/how-many-species-of-cannabis-are-there