Cannabis is the genus of flowering plants in the Cannabaceae family consisting of three primary species: Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, and Cannabis ruderalis. Hemp, or industrial hemp, comes from the Cannabis sativa plant species. It is grown specifically for industrial use to make a wide range of products.
Although one might think hemp and marijuana are “species” or “strains” of cannabis, in reality, they do not qualify or characterize as either. The fact is that you can’t technically consider them as different plants at all.
It may be a little confusing and improperly explained when comprehending the difference between hemp and marijuana. With plenty of hemp products in the market, you need to understand what you are exactly buying. We aim to remove your confusion and explain to you what hemp is and what marijuana distinguishes.
If you want to know the fundamental differences between hemp vs. marijuana, go through this article to explore what each of these terms means and how they relate to cannabis. Know the differences between hemp oil vs. marijuana oil or CBD hemp vs. CBD marijuana. Because the clear explanation of marijuana CBD vs. hemp CBD will be enough to throw away all the confusion between hemp and marijuana.
What Is Hemp?
Hemp or industrial hemp is a term used for classifying varieties of cannabis that contain only 0.3% or less tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Cannabis as a drug, and industrial hemp, are both produced from the plant species Cannabis sativa and contain the psychoactive component THC. Yet, they are separate strains with unique phytochemical compositions and uses.
Hemp is processed and used to make different commercial items, such as paper, rope, textiles, clothing, biodegradable plastics, paint, insulation, biofuel, food, and animal feed. The hemp plant’s stalk provides fiber and hurds. Hurds can help create paper, fiberboards, and organic compost.
Hemp seeds are most commonly used as hemp seed oil rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and other vitamins and minerals. You can also use hemp seed oil in salad dressings and other cold dishes. Other uses for hemp seeds are sprinkling them on protein bars, smoothies, even sneaking them into your baked goods.
You can have hemp milk, hemp butter, flour, and protein powder. The hemp seed products are fabulously rich in dietary fibers, protein, vitamins, and minerals.
What Is Marijuana?
Marijuana is most famous as a recreational drug. It has high levels of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which have psychoactive effects of causing “high” in a person. Marijuana is found in many forms and has hundreds of differing strains. Many of them offer unique scents, tastes, and effects. Decades of genetic crossbreeding have made it possible to create unique, one-of-a-kind hybrid marijuana.
The term “Marijuana” is used to classify varieties of cannabis that have more than 0.3% THC and can generate psychotropic or euphoric effects on the user. Now, most informed individuals and organizations in the Cannabis industry don’t want to use the term, and some still consider it to be “racist.”
Marijuana is a psychoactive drug from the Cannabis plant. Many people from Native to Central Asia and the Indian subcontinent have been using the cannabis plant for recreational and entheogenic purposes and in various traditional medicines for centuries. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the principal psychoactive component of cannabis marijuana.
Marijuana has many mental and physical effects, including euphoria, difficulty concentrating, altered states of mind and sense of time, impaired short-term memory and body movement, relaxation, and increased appetite. You can feel the onset of effects within minutes after smoked and about 30 to 60 minutes when cooked and eaten.
The effects can last for two to six hours, depending on the quantity or dosage used. Upon high doses, consequent mental effects can include anxiety, delusions, hallucinations, panic, paranoia, and psychosis. Cannabis- marijuana usage and the risk of psychosis are firmly related, although the direction of causality is argued. The physical side effects are nausea, increased heart rate, difficulty breathing, and behavioral problems in children whose mothers used cannabis during pregnancy.
The short-term side effects may include dry mouth and red eyes. The long-term adverse effects may include addiction, decreased mental ability in adolescents who started regular use, chronic coughing, susceptibility to respiratory infections, and cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome.
Key Differences Between Hemp and Marijuana
True to say that both hemp and marijuana are taxonomically the same plants. They are only different names for the same genus, cannabis. Although marijuana comes from both the cannabis indica and cannabis Sativa plant, hemp comes only from the cannabis Sativa family.
Because there is still some confusion around hemp and marijuana, it is essential to comprehend the significant difference in their application, usage, and chemical components. In a sentence, marijuana will get you high, and hemp will not.
Hemp is also used all over the world for its nutritional benefits. To confuse hemp and marijuana would be the same as confusing lemons and oranges. Understanding the dissimilarities of hemp vs. marijuana or hemp oil vs. marijuana oil is crucial now.
The Difference Between Hemp and Marijuana
The ruling difference between hemp vs. marijuana is in each plant’s cannabinoid composition. Unlike marijuana, hemp has very little THC content– which is responsible for marijuana’s psychoactive effects. Hemp does not produce any mind-altering effects.
Instead, it can provide nutritional benefits and produce a wide range of therapeutic products because of its high CBD content. The chemical composition of each plant is the central defining characteristic between hemp vs. marijuana.
Though both hemp and marijuana produce high amounts of CBD– the non-intoxicating cannabis compound, THC grows at different levels. Although the CBD from marijuana CBD vs. hemp CBD is the same, they differ in cannabinoid content and effect profiles.
There is a difference between CBD hemp vs. CBD marijuana extracts. Hemp-derived CBD extract typically comprises a higher concentration of CBD and a THC level of 0.3% or less.
On the other hand, Marijuana-derived CBD can come with significantly higher amounts of THC, going from 5% to as high as 30%. Marijuana can be highly potent, primarily due to a lack of CBD, as most strains contain less than 1% CBD. Some outliers have a 1:1 ratio of CBD and THC, which are not as common as the high-THC strains.
Besides THC, another key difference between hemp and marijuana is legality. It’s good that the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, also known as the 2018 Farm Bill made it legal to grow hemp or cannabis containing less than 0.3 percent THC and declared hemp-derived CBD products federally legal throughout the United States.
On the other hand, marijuana or cannabis containing more than 0.3 percent THC is not federally legal. The increased legality of hemp has significantly contributed to the rapid acceleration in diversity and availability of hemp-derived CBD oil.
On the other hand, marijuana is still categorized as a Schedule 1 drug. Meaning, any marijuana-derived product is considered illegal under federal law. However, people living in specific states have access to the therapeutic benefits of the marijuana plant, while those in other states do not.
Some key differences between hemp vs. marijuana are their cultivation and harvesting. Male hemp plants flower much faster than females and produce less fiber. Marijuana fields want to banish all males, but most female hemp fields have sporadically placed males.
Marijuana varieties are specially bred in highly regulated environments to create the breed’s characteristics and grow only female plants to yield budding flowers.
To cultivate a marijuana plant properly, a grower needs to pay close attention to the plant at each stage of its life cycle to maintain exact conditions in its environment, like proper temperature, lighting, and humidity. On the contrary, hemp is allowed to grow to maximize its size and yield. For this, hemp is generally grown outdoors and does not require as much control and attention like marijuana to grow. The male plants are usually preferred in hemp cultivation.
In hemp fields, the male hemp plants are placed to release pollen, which the female plants use for growing seeds that are either planted for future crops or sold as food. But in marijuana fields, male plants are usually wiped out to ensure the maximum production of sinsemilla (seedless) flowers.
Although ample spacing is essential in marijuana cultivation to decrease the risk of mold or bacteria, hemp can be planted more densely. While one plant per 4 square feet is planted in most marijuana crops, hemp plants grown for oil are roughly 40 to 60 plants per 4 square feet. When grown for fiber, these are more densely planted at a rate of about 100 to 120 plants per 4 square feet.
Both hemp and marijuana offer a range of usages that are unique to their composition. If you think about the comparative usage of hemp vs. marijuana, the use of marijuana is quite limited in scope. You can use it recreationally– ingesting edibles or smoking to get high, or medicinally. All of these activities are strictly regulated by state law.
On the contrary, hemp is highly versatile– the fibers are full of cellulose, making it ideal for textiles like rope, cloth, and clothing. Hemp clothing items are incredibly soft and durable and a viable alternative to cotton. Hemp is also used to make paper. You might not know that the first draft of the US Declaration of Independence was written on hemp paper.
Nowadays, some innovators are producing bio-concrete and bio-plastics using hemp. For example, one of the first Ford cars was constructed using hemp-based plastics.
Does Hemp Also Have THC?
Hemp and marijuana are from the same genus but differ in their cannabinoid composition. Both of them can produce a high concentration of cannabidiol (CBD). But the difference is in other cannabinoids, including tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)– the intoxicating cannabinoid in marijuana. Though marijuana can have 2% to 30% THC, FDA-approved hemp can have only 0.3% or less THC.
Hemp produces a broad range of cannabinoids but not enough THC to create intoxicating effects. The US industrial hemp is defined as a Cannabis sativa plant, which does not contain more than 0.3% THC. The European Union has set the limit at 0.2%, and in the UK, the limit is zero.
What is Hemp used For?
Hemp has a wide range of uses, like – hemp seeds have plenty of protein, dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals and hold an optimal ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids for healthy consumption.
A 2008 study identified that hemp proteins are more digestible for humans than common soy protein isolates (SPIs) used in food products. Hemp seeds can be used as food directly or via oil yielded from them. Seeds can also be ground up for flour and mixed with water to create hempseed milk.
Hemp is used in a wide variety of products such as:
- Industrial products– Paper, clothing, building materials, and plastic
- Food products– Cooking oil, hemp flour, and hemp seed-based products
- Medicinal products– Cannabidiol (CBD). CBD is used to produce various items such as CBD vape juice, CBD tinctures, CBD topicals, and other CBD-infused products.
Recently, the increase of delta-8, an isomer of THC produced from hemp, has resulted in a new type of hemp-derived product. CBD from hemp has a variety of medical uses. The FDA-approved drug to treat childhood epilepsy is the most official. Although more research is essential, scientists are looking at CBD to treat or ease symptoms of:
- Parkinson’s disease
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Pain, including chronic and neuropathic pain
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Sleep disorders
- Bipolar disorder
- Social anxiety disorder
The Bottom Line
Hemp and marijuana have a common plant genus, but they are very different plants for chemical compositions. From their appearance, it’s easy to get confused between them. That is why it is essential to understand the primary differences between hemp vs. marijuana as we live in a changing world where the statuses of both plants are changing now and then.
Despite the dysfunctional use of the terms “hemp” and “marijuana” and the generally negative connotations around them, they are now deep-rooted in our present and society and culture.
Walter was not an engineer even from the first day he stepped at the University of California in Los Angeles. He only had to fulfill his Father's wish to pursue civil engineering. He graduated in 2015, and he started practicing as a writer. His passion was thriving in the hemp industry following the controversies and myths about the plant. Walter E. Russo later embarks on a full-time job in a hemp website, and he now delivers informative content on everything you should know about hemp. His in-depth research and elaborate skills have earned him a reputation as a trusted writer. He enjoys watching football during his leisure hours.