The Differences Between Cannabis And Hemp Explained

The difference between hemp and marijuana plants is not usually explained very well when people are wondering about it. It’s

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The difference between hemp and marijuana plants is not usually explained very well when people are wondering about it. It’s no surprise that the CBD industry has excelled as of late, and the rules and regulations are always changing as well. Because of all of the constant changes for CBD users, it’s crucial to realize what the differences are between cannabis and hemp. Swarms of people think they are one and the same without having ever even researched the subject. This assumption can cause confusion, because if everyone thinks they are the same, then no one will ever get to the bottom of it. The confusion hasn’t only been here for a few years, it has been caused by decades of misrepresentation on the topic. If one person tells you they are the same, then there is a chain-link of wrong information being sent out, and if no one takes the time to educate themselves on it, then no one will ever realize the truth. Misinformation just keeps on repeating itself.

What’s the difference?

Marijuana is apart of the cannabaceae family of flowering plants. There are a total of three different types of this species. They are cannabis ruderalis, sativa, and indica. Cannabis is more often referred to as having various strains. The truth is, cannabis doesn’t actually even qualify as a plant. Because of the broad classifications that it has, it is important to dive into this topic in a little more detail to avoid much of the confusion surrounding it. The background of both hemp and cannabis has a past that is nearly as old as time itself. So it is no surprise how it created the confusion along the way.

What Exactly Is Hemp?

Certain varieties of marijuana that contain 0.3% or less of THC are classified as hemp. This is to be calculated by dry weight. This definition wasn’t so simple before the Agricultural Act of 2018 was released. All along, hemp was pretty much always described as being marijuana that did not have the same effects or non-intoxicating you can also call it. Hemp is plainly used in a variety of ways for the products it can create. There has been reported use of hemp dating back to at least 10,000 years ago. Some believe that it was even the first crop that was harvested by anyone. Hemp is used to produce so many different things ranging from paper, a material used to make houses, food, ropes, and clothing.

What Exactly Is Marijuana?

We now know a little more about what hemp is, which isn’t too complicated after all. As hemp is classified as 0.3% of THC, marijuana is anything that is more than 0.3% THC. As hemp doesn’t have the euphoric effects, marijuana does have the ability to produce them. Many people throughout the nation will disregard even using the term “marijuana”. They feel it doesn’t represent it accurately. Cannabis has always been the original term that was widely used in early history. Dabbling in some information into a little bit of its origins is relative here. In the early 1900s, almost one million Mexicans flocked into the United States seeking refuge. It was during this time that an anti-Mexican mentality began and people started using the term “marijuana” as kind of a negative connotation to its use by the Mexican immigrants. Sometime after that, people began starting various rumours that the marijuana that the Mexicans used can cause very dangerous urges in people. This only fuelled the anti-Mexican movement even further. Because of the negative connotations and perceptions surrounding marijuana, governmental rules and regulations started to be introduced and acted upon a lot more. In 1927, there were reportedly 11 states that passed an anti-marijuana law, and by 1930, a huge scare of “Reefer Madness” was in full bore. Once the Marijuana Tax Act of 1927 came into place, huge taxes were gained on the possession, transportation, and sale of cannabis. Because of such strict regulations, it was pretty much considered to be banned. Throughout the next 80 years, it has been effectively prohibited.

What Is The Confusion Surrounding Marijuana And Hemp?

After defining both hemp and marijuana, it is clear to see that the main factor that differs them from each other is the content of THC in the plant and if it will cause the effects that will make you high. Even though it is a fair way to define the biggest difference between the two, we can even dive a little further to gain a better understanding. If we look into the hierarchy of fruits in the species, we can come to an even greater realization.

When we classify cannabis as being marijuana or hemp, it would be nearly the same as saying all fruits are sweet or sour, and that would fail to recognize all of the different and various characteristics that each fruit has to offer. Marijuana and hemp can appear so similar to each other that it would be hard to tell the difference between the two. Police officers have actually made arrests on people for carrying around hemp because it so closely resembles marijuana. The problem with having so many different terms to describe hemp and marijuana is that the difference and similarities get so easily mixed up. This is why society needs to be educated on the topic to stay informed. The legal system would surely benefit from knowing the difference, and that could potentially save the one carrying the hemp around a lot of unnecessary troubles.

A Few Differences Between Hemp And Marijuana Plants

With very different legalities surrounding hemp and marijuana, one should know a few of the most important key differences between the two. Educating yourself on the subject could potentially make your day better if you are pulled over by a cop while holding hemp in your vehicle.


The chemical composition between marijuana and hemp is the single and biggest difference. They can both produce a high amount of the non-intoxicating compound, CBD. THC content differs tremendously between them both, though. Marijuana can contain up to 30% THC, whereas hemp can only contain up to 0.3%.

Legal Differences

Because of this vast difference in THC levels, it causes the regulations between them both to be very different from each other. Back in the Controlled Substance Act of 1970, Hemp was listed as an illegal substance. In the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018 though, it was removed as an illegal substance. In turn, this legalized the use of hemp and products it was used to make as long as it was under 0.3% THC. Marijuana is still on that list of illegal substances.

Differences In Cultivation

Marijuana needs different growing conditions than hemp in order to thrive and produce a great harvest. Because of all of the different varieties of marijuana strains, they need specific and tailored environments that will positively bring out the characteristics of that breed. Each cycle of the plant’s growth must be closely monitored. Things that can affect its growth are humidity, lighting, and temperature. On the flip side, hemp is in most cases grown outdoors and doesn’t need anywhere near the same level of control that marijuana needs to thrive. Its primary goal is mostly focused on growing in huge quantities.

Differences in Usage

Because of a huge difference in THC content in hemp and marijuana, it’s no surprise that the usage for each is very different from each other. THC can cling to CB1 and CB2 receptors in the Endocannabinoid System. This reaction is what causes the user to experience all of the different effects that make them high. Many people use it recreationally, and many people also benefit from the medical uses it can provide. Hemp, on the other hand, can be used for clothing, paper, building materials, and plastic. There is also hemp in a number of food products such as hemp oil, hemp flour, and various seed products. Many people will use hemp for lotions and there are even hemp tattoos out there.

Comparison Of Hemp CBD And Marijuana CBD

CBD can be gathered from either hemp or marijuana. One would think that the CBD gained from each plant would be completely different from each other, but they aren’t. Jeremy Riggle, Ph.D., who is a scientist at Mary’s Nutritionals has stated that the origination of the CBD molecule doesn’t matter because the pharmacology between them both is one and the same. If the CBD is of the same molecular level, then that should make the CBD legal no matter what source it originated from, but it is not always the case.

Things can get fairly confusing at this point. All hemp products, and that includes hemp CBD, were legalized under the Agricultural Act of 2018. This would cause one to think that it would make CBD legal, whether or not it was derived from marijuana or hemp. The biggest thing to take into consideration here is that if the CBD is gathered from hemp that falls under 0.3% THC content, that is when it becomes legal. The Agricultural Act does not include CBD that is derived from marijuana, and it still remains as a controlled substance. If the CBD derived from marijuana is at a level of 0% THC content, it is still considered to be illegal because it’s not legalized under that act.


Hemp from CBD is completely legal if it has under 0.3% THC content according to the Agricultural Act of 2018. Marijuana from CBD is not legal because it still falls under the category of a controlled substance. The level of THC is completely irrelevant to its legality.

A Few Last Things To Note

Even though this topic can still be confusing no matter how simple it is attempted to be explained, it is the hope that people will have gained some knowledge regarding hemp and marijuana. Confusion between hemp and marijuana has been spanning over decades, so it’s no wonder why there are such differing views on the topic. Some days you might still hear people say they smoked a bowl of hemp because they may not have been educated on the different terms of it that are being used. A key thing to take away from it is that you will now know what your rights are if you are carrying around a bag of hemp. Because of the legalities involved, you can now avoid issues if a police officer tries to pull you over and confiscate your bag of hemp, or worse, charge you with a felony.

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