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Are Hemp and Marijuana the Same?

by Pankaj Kumar 13 Mar 2019

No, they are both part of the Cannabis family. Hemp and marijuana are genetically distinct and differ in both cultivation, chemical properties, and use.

Hemp is grown and cultivated for fiber and seed to produce a variety of products including foods, oils, rope, and fabrics. Marijuana is cultivated to yield high levels of the psychoactive ingredient, Tetrahydrocannabinol, more commonly known as THC, concentrated heavily in the flowers and buds. Marijuana contains both THC and CBD, and these compounds have different effects. THC creates a mind-altering “high” when it is broken down by heat and introduced into the body.

CBD has been found to have analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and anti-anxiety properties without any psychoactive effects. Thus, it has recently gained popularity as a dietary supplement and is now one of the leading applications of hemp in the US. Below is more information on how they are distinct from one another:

  1. Chemical Composition: The most significant difference lies in their chemical composition, particularly in terms of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content. THC is the psychoactive compound that causes the 'high' associated with marijuana. Marijuana typically contains a high concentration of THC (ranging from 5% to over 30% in some strains). Hemp, on the other hand, contains a very low THC level, legally defined as less than 0.3% THC by dry weight. This low level of THC means that hemp does not produce a psychoactive effect.

  2. Legal Status: Due to its high THC content, marijuana is still classified as a Schedule I drug under federal law in many places, making it illegal in those jurisdictions. Hemp, however, was removed from the Controlled Substances Act by the 2018 Farm Bill, effectively legalizing it at the federal level in the United States, as long as it contains less than 0.3% THC.

  3. Usage: Hemp and marijuana are used for different purposes due to their chemical compositions. Hemp is highly versatile and is used for a variety of industrial and commercial products including clothing, paper, biofuel, plastic substitutes, and hemp-derived CBD products. Marijuana, because of its high THC content, is primarily used for medicinal and recreational purposes.

  4. Cultivation: The cultivation practices for hemp and marijuana also differ significantly. Hemp plants are typically grown close together and can thrive in a variety of climates. They are grown for their seeds and fibers, which are used in creating numerous products. Marijuana plants require a carefully controlled, warm, and humid atmosphere for proper growth. They are grown for their flowers, where the majority of THC is located.

  5. Appearance: There are visual differences as well. Hemp plants are usually taller and skinnier, while marijuana plants tend to be shorter and bushier with broader leaves.

In summary, while hemp and marijuana come from the same plant species, they are distinguished by their THC content, legal status, uses, cultivation methods, and appearance. It's important to understand these differences, especially when discussing legal, agricultural, or commercial topics related to cannabis.


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