Are Hemp and Marijuana the Same?

Deconstructing the biggest controversy of hemp that caused it to be banned for 80 years

Short Answer: No, they are just both part of the Cannabis family

Hemp is completely different from marijuana in its function, cultivation and application. But these differences didn’t stop our political leaders from getting confused and accidentally grouping all Cannabis species as a Schedule I Drug and banning it in 1970 under the Controlled Substances Act. Even after 45 years, the government still seems to have some confusion in distinguishing the two plants. Although legislation is being made, progress has been slow.In its application, hemp and marijuana serve completely different purposes. Marijuana, as it is widely known, is used for medicinal or recreational purposes. Hemp is used in variety of other applications that marijuana couldn’t possibly be used in. These include healthy dietary supplements, skin products, clothing, and accessories. Overall, hemp is known to have over 25,000 possible applications.

Can You Get “High” Off Hemp?

“Your lungs will fail before your brain attains any high from smoking industrial hemp”

Hemp vs Marijuana

The Difference Between Hemp and Marijuana

TypeIs it Cannabis?Chemical MakeupPsychoactive?CultivationApplications
HempYesLow THC
(< 0.3%)
NoRequires minimal care. Adaptable to grow in most climates.Automobiles, body care, clothing, construction, food, plastic, etc.
MarijuanaYesHigh THC
(5%-35%)
YesGrown in carefully controlled atmosphereMedical and recreational use

So How Can You Actually Tell The Difference?

Hemp and marijuana can be differentiated by looking at its appearance, makeup, and natural adaptability. Marijuana and hemp have noticeable and contrasting differences. 

The Difference Between Hemp and Marijuana

Appearance

Marijuana looks contrastingly different from hemp. When you observe their leaves, marijuana’s shape tends to either be broad leafed, a tight bud, or look like a nugget with organd hairs.  Hemp, on the other hand, has skinnier leaves that’s concentrated at the top. Few branches or leaves exist below the top part of the plant. When you observe the plants from afar, marijuana looks like a short fat bush. Hemp is typically skinnier and taller (up to 20 ft). At times, it almost looks like long ditchweed – hemp was actually found to grow among weeds in Nebraska. In general, when you compare a marijuana farm with those of industrial hemp, you’ll notice that they are clearly very different from one another.

hemp and marijuana have different chemical composition

Chemical Makeup

The main difference between the two is in its chemical composition, specifically in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC is the chemical responsible marijuana’s psychological effects.An average batch of marijuana contains anywhere from 5-20% THC content. Some premium marijuana can have up to 25-30% THC. Hemp, on the other hand, has a max THC level of 0.3%, essentially making it impossible to feel any psychoactive effect or get a “high”. This threshold is heavily regulated in other countries that have legalized hemp.Hemp also has high cannabidiol (CBD) content that acts as THC’s antagonist, essentially making the minimal amount of THC useless.

hemp and marijuana are cultivated differently

Cultivation environment

The environment in which hemp and marijuana are grown is strikingly different. Hemp is grown closely together (as close as 4 inches apart) and are typically grown in large multi-acre plots. It can also grow in variety of climates and its growth cycle is 108-120 days. Unlike hemp, marijuana requires a carefully controlled, warm, and humid atmostphere for proper growth. Its growth cycle only 60-90 days. Medical cannabis also cannot be grown too close to each other. They are typically grown 6 feet apart. If, somehow, marijuana grows among (or close to) a hemp field, the hemp’s pollen would immediateately ruin the marijuana crop, diluting marijuana’s psychoactivity.

THC vs CBD

What are the chemicals that make hemp and marijuana different?

Tetrahydrocannabinol, also called THC, is the chemical responsible marijuana’s psychological effects. An average batch of marijuana contains anywhere from 5-20% THC content. Some premium marijuana can have up to 25-30% THC.

Hemp, on the other hand, is regulated to only contain a max THC level of 0.3%, essentially making it impossible to feel any psychoactive effect or get a “high”. Rather, hemp contains high cannabidiol (CBD) content that acts as THC’s antagonist, essentially making the minimal amount of THC useless.

CBD was also recently found to have analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and anti-anxiety properties without any psychoactive effects. Thus, it has recently gained popularity as a medical supplement and is now one of the leading applications of hemp in the US

** Most CBD oil in the US market is imported, making it difficult to control and regulate its quality. We recommend being very cautious and doing your due diligence before purchasing CBD oil.

Cannabis Sativa vs Cannabis Indica

Difference explained in official terms

Cannabis Indica vs Cannabis Sativa

Sativa strains are typically taller, loosely branched and have long, narrow leaves. They are usually grown outdoors and can reach heights of up to 20 feet. Sativa plants typically have higher concentration of CBD enzymes, essentially causing no mind-altering effect.

Indica strains are shorter, densely branched and have wider leaves. They are better suited for growing indoors. Indica plants contain higher THC content, which has an intoxicating effect of causing a “body buzz”.

*Many hybrids of these plants have been developed recently, so it is more important to examine the exact THC level of a plant rather than strictly categorizing them “sativa” or “indica”

How Hemp got grouped with Marijuana

Was it right to ban hemp along with marijuana?

president nixon declares war on cannabis

In the 1970s, President Nixon declared a “War on Drugs” and signed into law the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. This law established a set of banned drugs and created the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). It also unintentionally outlawed one of the world’s oldest domesticated crop, hemp. This not only led to the demise of hemp, but also an increased misconception of the plant.

In the Controlled Substances Act, marijuana was grouped with all types of cannabis and was made illegal to grow in the US. This, unfortunately, classified hemp as a drug even though it doesn’t include any of the chemicals that make marijuana a drug.Learn more about the legality of hemp in the United States.

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