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The Difference Between Hemp and Marijuana

With hemp flower becoming more popular in recent years, many people are struggling to identify the difference between the two. Let’s learn in today’s article!
Staff editor
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Understandable confusion

The world of cannabis is so full of technical jargon and insider lingo that even the most seasoned cannasseur can get confused. To make things even more complicated, the (relatively) new hemp industry added a flood of new products, cannabinoid and abbreviations to the cannabis dictionary.

It’s enough to make your head spin…

But don’t fret! In this article we will decipher the some of the most important terms and phrases that you need to know in order to distinguish the hemp plant from the marijuana and what the difference between CBD from hemp and marijuana is.

What is hemp?

The difference between hemp and marijuana is made strictly on a legal level. Both marijuana and hemp come from the same family of plants called Cannabis sativa (L) with the simple difference that the hemp plant needs to have less than or equal to .3% delta-9 THC in order to qualify (legally) as hemp.

THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol is one of over 100 naturally-occurring cannabinoids found in cannabis plants. THC is the cannabinoid that is mainly responsible for producing a “high” feeling in consumers and is generally used as the potency indicator for weed. Since hemp has such a low percentage of THC, it’s very unlikely to make people feel high but it still creates some of the same medical benefits as marijuana.

hemp or marijuana
Hemp leaf held up to the sun

What is marijuana?

Unlike hemp, the term “marijuana” is more of a broad one, used to describe cannabis in general. It can be used interchangeably with other terms like weed and cannabis. From a legal perspective, the term “marijuana” is used for cannabis that has more than 0.3% THC content. This is how marijuana differs from hemp.

So what does weed look like? Well that’s where things get even more tricky because the plants look almost identical. Historically, hemp was grown for its fibers and marijuana for its flowers but in recent years, smokable hemp flower has become increasingly popular and it looks exactly like traditional weed.

Grow cannabis at home
Green Unicorn Farms flower

What is cannabis?

The word “cannabis” is yet another term you’ll hear when you visit a cannabis dispensary or speak with cannabis users. Like marijuana and weed, cannabis is a very general term, used to encompass all of the different cannabis plants. This includes the likes of Indica and Sativa cannabis, as well as hybrid strains.

There are estimated to be over 100 species of cannabis plants in total which form the “Cannabaceae” family. The history of cannabis goes back thousands of years. These plants have been cultivated and consumed all over the world and are still hugely popular and significant today.

What is the difference between hemp and marijuana?

Many people wonder about how to tell hemp and cannabis plants apart and have questions like “Does hemp and cannabis look the same?” Well, from a simple visual perspective, hemp and cannabis may appear identical.

Hemp plant vs cannabis plant

Beyond visuals, hemp and marijuana have a lot in common. The plants are from the same family and share many of the same compounds and characteristics. However, they differ in terms of THC content.

The main difference between hemp and marijuana lies in the amount of THC content each plant contains. Hemp plants legally must have 0.3% or less in terms of their total THC content. Marijuana plants, meanwhile, will have over 0.3% THC.

Because of this difference in THC, legal hemp products won’t make the user feel high, whereas cannabis products could do, depending on how much of the THC cannabinoid they contain.

Hemp oil vs cannabis oil

These days, it’s possible to find and use many products that are derived from different forms of cannabis plants, like hemp and marijuana. Hemp oil and cannabis oil are two popular examples. But is there a difference between hemp oil and marijuana oil? Yes, in fact, there are several big differences to take into account.

Hemp oil, which may also be known as hemp seed oil, is a type of oil derived from the seeds of hemp plants. It’s rich in healthy fatty acids and antioxidants, as well as useful vitamins. You can’t get high from hemp seed oil as it has no THC and very low cannabidiol (CBD). It’s mainly used as a nutritional supplement.

Cannabis oil, which may refer to products like CBD oil and THC oil, is very different. It’s made from the flowers and biomass of the cannabis plant and contains high levels of cannabinoids like CBD and THC. It can be used for its alleged medical benefits to ease chronic pain or anxiety, and it may have psychoactive side effects. producing euphoric effects and intoxication, depending on the amount of THC in it.

How is hemp cultivated differently than marijuana?

Another big difference between hemp and cannabis is how they’re cultivated. But what is the difference between growing hemp and growing marijuana? Well, these plants can be grown in very different ways. Some of the differences in the cultivation of hemp and cannabis regard to the sex of the plants and the spacing between them.

Male hemp plants grow very quickly compared to females. This means that the males are often favored when growing hemp for fibers and even female fields have some male plants placed sporadically around. With marijuana, the focus is much more on female plants, and male plants are removed and avoided entirely unless the cultivator is breeding.

The other big difference is density and spacing. Marijuana plants have to be spaced apart to reduce the chances of bacterial growth. Hemp plants grown for fiber and seeds can be grown much closer together. Plus, hemp is often grown outdoors, while marijuana is usually grown inside. There are also legal differences between growing hemp and marijuana, which leads us nicely onto the next point.

Is hemp cultivation legal in the US?

Yes, it is possible for American farmers to grow hemp with less than 0.3% THC. This is thanks to recent legislation changes, like the 2014 Agricultural Act and Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018. Because of this change in legal status, hemp is generally regarded in the same category as any other plant, rather than a drug.

World history of hemp

The history of hemp goes back many years. In fact, historical evidence suggests that hemp was being used as far back as 26,000 BC. Early records of hemp growth and usage have been found in parts of Europe and Asia. It was used in China to make cloth and rope, as well as in Japan for fibers and paper.

As time went by, cannabis and hemp continued to play key roles in various societies around the world. It was used in Ancient Greece and Rome as a source of fiber, as well as being used medically and recreationally. Famous Roman naturalist Pliny the Elder recommended cannabis as a remedy for several medical problems.

In terms of the Americas, reports vary. Some reports say that the plant was brought to America by Christopher Columbus, but it is believed that native tribes were already using it long before Columbus arrived. Other civilizations and societies like the Vikings made use of cannabis plants for things like rope.

In more modern times, hemp became a prominent crop in the US in the 20th century, but the Marijuana Tax Act put a temporary end to that. The plant resurged during WW2, being used to make soldier’s uniforms. In modern times, hemp and cannabis plants are being grown widely and used for many different products.

Can hemp be used like marijuana?

Even though hemp is separate to other kinds of cannabis, it can be used in similar ways. It’s possible to smoke hemp, for example. However, users should not expect the same results or experiences when using hemp and cannabis. Due to its low levels of THC, hemp won’t get people high, but it can offer certain benefits and effects, due to the presence of other cannabinoids, like CBD.

Final word

As we can see, hemp and marijuana have lots in common, but they also have some important differences. It’s important that beginners in the marijuana world understand the key differences between the two plants. This will help you make the right choice of plants and products to use in your own life and wellness plan.

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