hemp vs marijuana

Hemp vs Marijuana: What’s the Difference?

The world of cannabis almost has its own unique language, with lots of distinct terms, phrases, and words that aren’t heard elsewhere. It’s important to understand those terms, from THC and CBD oil to hemp vs marijuana, in order to make the right choices when buying and using cannabis products. This marijuana vs hemp guide will highlight the key differences between hemp plants and cannabis plants.

What Is Hemp?

The term “hemp” or “hemp plant” is used to refer to a specific type of cannabis plant that contains a maximum of 0.3% THC. THC is the cannabinoid, or natural compound, in cannabis that makes people feel high.

Hemp is specifically grown with low amounts of THC in order to be more widely accepted and legal, and the very low level of THC in hemp means that it’s very unlikely to be able to get anyone high.

What Is Marijuana?

When it comes to the hemp vs marijuana difference, the main difference is that marijuana is a broader term, typically used to refer to cannabis plants that contain higher amounts of THC and can potentially get people high, as explained by NC State University.

This term can be used interchangeably with other terms, like “weed” or “cannabis”. From a legal and technical perspective, marijuana is used to describe cannabis plants with over 0.3% THC content.

hemp vs marijuanas difference

Is Hemp Identical to Marijuana or Cannabis?

So, is hemp the same thing as marijuana or cannabis? From one angle, yes, but it depends on how you interpret each term. Technically, hemp is indeed a type of cannabis plant, but it’s very specifically different from the rest, due to its low level of THC.

From a legal point of view, the terms “hemp” and “marijuana” are not used to refer to the same thing; instead, hemp always refers to plants with low THC, and marijuana is used for those with a greater amount of THC.

Is hemp the same as CBD or THC? No, CBD and THC are cannabinoids. That means that they’re essentially just ingredients or compounds that are found within the plant matter. CBD can be found in hemp, and THC can also be found in hemp, but only in very low quantities. CBD and THC can also be found in marijuana, too, along with other cannabinoids.

Hemp vs Marijuana Difference

Understanding the difference between hemp vs cannabis is essential in order to make the right purchases from your local marijuana dispensary.

As explained above, the primary differing factor between the two is their amount of THC. However, they can also differ in other areas, like legality, with hemp being much more legal and accessible compared to marijuana.

Effects also differ. Industrial hemp is far less potent, while medical marijuana has a wider range of possible health benefits and applications.

Chemical Composition

The main difference between cannabis vs hemp is their chemical composition. If we break down the key constituents of the marijuana plant and the hemp flower, we can see how clearly they differ.

Hemp strains can only be classed as hemp if they have less than 0.3% THC content. Anything with more THC than that will be classified as marijuana.

In terms of the other cannabinoids, it varies from strain to strain. Some hemp will contain lots of CBD, for example, or CBG.

marijuana vs hemp

The History of Hemp

The history of marijuana goes back centuries, with this plant having been used by various peoples and civilizations in many different parts of the world. The earliest traces of hemp growth go back to China, and it’s likely that it spread to Europe around the Middle Ages, becoming a very popular crop and being used for fiber or sustenance. Indeed, the nutritional quality of hemp has been researched to a great extent, like in this PubMed study.

Hemp was later transported to the New World and grown in great quantities in many parts of the US, like Virginia, Kentucky, and Missouri. It was in high demand in the 19th century, but legal restrictions saw production decline greatly in the 20th century. In more recent years, marijuana legalization has helped hemp make a comeback and it’s being used for many purposes today.

Legalization: Hemp vs. Marijuana

From a legal perspective, hemp and marijuana are very different. Typically, in many parts of the world, hemp is completely legal, while marijuana is forbidden or strictly controlled. This is mainly due to the fact that marijuana can be used as a recreational drug and contains the psychoactive cannabinoid, THC.

In the US, hemp growth was very highly regulated for a long time in the 20th century, but regulations have greatly eased since the FDA’s 2018 Farm Bill. Thanks to that bill, farmers can easily and legally grow hemp plants without the need for excessive documentation or any application processes, as outlined by the USDA.

As we can see, hemp and marijuana are very different in several key ways, including their legal status, potential uses and benefits, and their effects on the human body. By understanding these differences, you can avoid any legal troubles and always ensure you choose the right type of plant or product for your needs. For additional information on the subject, contact us.


Written By

Ian Baker

Ian Baker does content and customer communications with Happy Leaf Collective through the website and blog. With 5 years of total experience working in cannabis niche, 3 were spent as a budtender in Arizona. 2 years ago, following his passion of writing and educating, Ian made the move into content and communications.