Hemp vs Marijuana: Are They Different?
There is a lot of confusion out there about hemp and marijuana. Hemp has been cultivated for thousands of years for a variety of purposes (such as making clothes and rope), and was a prominent crop in the United States. Yet, when marijuana became illegal with the passage of the Controlled Substances Act in 1970, hemp production stopped. The reason for this stoppage is that hemp and marijuana were considered the same under American law. This changed with the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, which legalized the production of industrial hemp.
There are important differences between hemp and marijuana. While both are Cannabis plants, their chemical composition is unique. Specifically, hemp contains very little THC — the psychoactive component of marijuana — while marijuana contains much higher levels of THC. This means that products made from hemp won’t make you high if you ingest them, while products made from marijuana will produce the feeling of being stoned.
This distinction between hemp vs marijuana is important if you are considering CBD products, which are made from industrial hemp. Specifically, a CBD product made from hemp won’t get you high. Below, we have outlined the differences between marijuana and hemp to help you make a more informed decision about using either product.
All About Cannabis
To understand the difference between hemp and marijuana, we need to go back to a topic that you probably first learned about in elementary school science classes: classification of plants. Just like we do with animals, plants are grouped into a hierarchical structure. Going from the broadest to most specific, plants are classified by domain, kingdom, phylum/division, class, order, family, genus and species.
With this in mind, we can turn to the cannabis plant. Cannabis belongs to the Cannabaceae family, and is a genus of flowering plants. There are at least three species of Cannabis:
- Cannabis sativa
- Cannabis indica
- Cannabis ruderalis
Both hemp and marijuana are part of the Cannabis genus. Hemp is a variety of Cannabis sativa, while marijuana may be produced from either Cannabis sativa, or Cannabis indica.
Cannabis indica typically has a higher THC to CBD ratio, making it more psychoactive and producing a fuzzy, sleepy high. By contrast, Cannabis sativa has a lower ratio of THC to CBD, which means that it does not produce the same “mellowing” effect as Cannabis indica. We talk more about the two compounds, THC vs CBD, here.
In other words, when produced from Cannabis sativa, hemp vs marijuana are not distinct species of the cannabis plant. Instead, they are different, non-scientific names for cannabis. While the plant classification system doesn’t differentiate between the two plants, the law does – which highlights the most important difference between hemp and marijuana.
So How Does Hemp vs Marijuana Vary?
The Cannabis plant has a large number of naturally occurring compounds known as cannabinoids. These cannabinoids are associated with a range of health and wellness benefits. Two of the most well-known cannabinoids are cannabidiol, or CBD, and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC is the psychoactive component in cannabis that produces a feeling of being high or stoned.
This brings us to the biggest difference between hemp and marijuana: THC content. The term “hemp” is used in the United States to mean cannabis that contains 0.3% or less THC content. Marijuana is the word used to describe cannabis that has greater than 0.3% THC content by dry weight, up to 30% THC. Both plants contain high levels of CBD.
Hemp and Marijuana… the Legality Stuff
In the United States, industrial hemp is permitted to contain no more than 0.3% THC. If a plant contains a higher amount of THC, it is considered marijuana. While marijuana is legal in many states across the United States, it is a controlled substance under federal law. As a result, products made from industrial hemp – such as CBD oil – are legal across the United States, while products made from marijuana are illegal under federal law and in many states.
The upshot? The main difference between hemp and marijuana is the level of THC in a particular plant. However, there are other distinctions between the two plants, including:
- Legality (as described above);
- Cultivation: marijuana varieties are selectively bred to optimize the plant’s characteristics and to produce female plants with budding flowers, while hemp is grown to maximize size and yield, and is most often grown outdoors;
- Usage: marijuana is typically used recreationally or for medicinal purposes, while hemp may be grown for health and wellness products (such as CBD oils and topicals) as well as industrial and food products (such as paper, clothing, plastic and cooking oil).
If you are looking to reap the benefits of Cannabis without getting high or getting in trouble with the law, a product made from hemp is probably the right choice for you.
Hemp CBD vs Marijuana CBD
Quite frankly, the compound is the compound. It’s structurally the same, regardless of whether it comes from the hemp vs marijuana plant. If you are concerned about getting high by using a product made with hemp, we are here to assuage your fears. You cannot get high from a product made with hemp. That is due to the extremely low THC content in hemp grown in the United States.
THC in Hemp vs THC in Marijuana
The same question can be asked of THC that we just asked of CBD – is the compound the same? The answer is yes. Using CBD products that contain even low levels of THC may lead to a positive drug test result. This most often occurs when a person takes a full spectrum or raw product. Although this result is rare, it can happen. If you are subject to drug testing, then your best bet is to use a broad spectrum or isolate CBD product, both of which have 0% THC. Here’s an article to learn more about the ins and outs of lab testing in the cannabis world.
Marijuana CBD will always contain a higher level of THC. That’s what the product is intended to produce and will be the focus.
If you are concerned about THC levels in your product, only purchase products that have been independently tested by a third party laboratory. The company should make these lab results available on their website. Not only will buying independently tested CBD products protect you from accidentally consuming THC if you would prefer not to, it also provides assurance of the purity and quality of the product that you have purchased.
Uses for Hemp Compared to Marijuana
As we mentioned at the start of this article, hemp has been cultivated for thousands of years for a variety of purposes and was a prominent crop in the United States. Because hemp and marijuana are so closely related, when marijuana became federally illegal in the 1970s, hemp was shunned as well. That understanding of the huge range of uses for hemp is gradually becoming main stream again. One estimate states that there are more than 25,000 products can be made from hemp. The whole plant can be used, from seed to stalk. There may not be a more versatile plant grown on the planet today. Sustainable hemp seed, fiber and oil are used in raw materials by major companies today such as Ford Motor Company, Patagonia and The Body Shop.
Where the whole plant can be used for hemp products, marijuana focuses strictly on the flowers or buds of the plant. That flower can be used to make a wide variety of products such as lotions, creams, softgels, liquid supplements and more. All of these are intended for human use. While we are not doctors and cannot diagnose, prescribe, treat or cure any ailment, we can certainly pass on information as to potential benefits. There is a long list of them here!
Where to Buy Hemp vs Marijuana
Marijuana remains federally illegal. It is, however, at least legal in some fashion for medical patients in 48 states. That cannabis may need to be prescribed by a physician, or it may be available at a dispensary with a medical “card.” Marijuana, with those higher levels of THC, is recreationally legal in 18 states, the District of Columbia, The Northern Mariana Islands, and Guam as of the time of this article. It’s also been decriminalized in 13 other states as well as the U.S. Virgin Islands. As the laws vary from state to state, THC outside that .3% limit cannot be shipped across state lines, nor can you travel with it. You can find additional state by state legality information here. Even in states where marijuana is recreationally legal, it’s still subject to strict rules and will need to be purchased from a dispensary
CBD products that do not exceed the THC threshold can be found all over the place. Really. They sell CBD lotion at my hair salon. You will find a wide variety of strengths, product types, and costs. At Green Wellness Life, we only sell CBD products in our retail store and on our online CBD shop that are made from industrial hemp that have been independently tested.
This means that you can be assured that your CBD product contains no more than 0.3% THC, and that you can view the THC content and other features of the product before you buy. All of our lab test results by brand can be found on our site as well. While we aren’t doctors and cannot diagnose or treat any condition, we can offer you the latest research on CBD to help you decide which product is right for you.
To learn more or for help choosing a CBD product, take a peek at our Buyer’s Guide. You can also reach out to us by phone at 616-275-1039 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We love to talk hemp!