Understanding the differences between hemp vs marijuana is important if you want the myths about cannabis to stop spreading in public debate.
Although our knowledge about cannabis plants is much broader than, say, a decade ago, some people still stubbornly think that hemp is the same as marijuana — and the other way round.
Well, it’s not really that way.
Yes, both hemp and marijuana come from the same plant family, but in the big picture, there are many vivid differences between them.
This article will help you understand the key differences between hemp vs marijuana — the two sources of cannabis products.
Cannabis vs Hemp vs Marijuana: How to Use These Terms Correctly
There’s a common misconception among cannabis consumers that you can use the terms “hemp” and “marijuana” interchangeably referring to one and the same.
This isn’t how you classify cannabis plants, though.
As mentioned, hemp and marijuana come from the same parent, but this is where their similarities end.
Here’s a neat explanation of what cannabis, hemp, and marijuana are:
- Cannabis: this term is used to describe a plant family that includes many species such as hemp and marijuana.
- Hemp: hemp belongs to the cannabis plant family. These plants are grown for their solid stalks (industrial hemp) and flowers containing unique cannabinoid ratios with low levels of THC.
- Marijuana: this plant contains concentrations of THC and only trace amounts of CBD unless selectively bred for medicinal purposes. Marijuana is used either recreationally or medically due to its high THC content.
Long story short, hemp isn’t marijuana and vice versa, they only share the same genus.
Are you ready to take a more detailed look into hemp vs marijuana?
Key Differences Between Hemp vs Marijuana
Hemp and marijuana are grown for different purposes. They also have different cannabinoid ratios, produce different effects, and are regulated individually.
Here’s what you need to know about the differences between hemp vs marijuana.
If you want to tell the difference between hemp and marijuana right away — just look at them.
Hemp grows up to 15 feet and has long, solid stalks. These plants can grow closely together because they grow easily with lesser space. They also grow thin leaves and the majority of flowers appears on the top of the plant. Hemp may sometimes look like ditchweed.
Marijuana, in turn, grows shorter (doesn’t typically exceed 5 feet), has broad leaves and densely packed flowers that are covered with resinous crystals and threaded through with orange hairs, also known as pistils. Marijuana plants grow best when separated from other pots.
2. THC/CBD Ratios
Marijuana and hemp have different chemical compositions, specifically the ratio between THC and CBD, the most prevalent cannabinoids.
Marijuana produces between 15–20% THC on average, with some cultivars going beyond 30% as a result of crossbreeding different genetics. The majority of marijuana flowers have low CBD levels, typically between below 1%.
Hemp offers a reversed ratio of CBD to THC. Hemp plants sport up to 12% of CBD with THC levels below 0.3%.
The discussed ratio between THC and CBD causes marijuana and hemp to produce different effects.
Hemp isn’t psychoactive, so it won’t get you high. Instead, you’ll mostly experience the benefits of CBD and other cannabinoids, such as relief from anxiety, stress, pain, and inflammation — without intoxication.
With marijuana, it works the other way round. These plants produce psychoactive effects due to their high THC content. The marijuana high will most often make you feel enveloped with relaxation, euphoria, and sensory sensitivity on top of increased appetite. Consuming too much marijuana at once can make you feel a bit anxious, dizzy, and confused. It also temporarily increases your heart rake, hence the additional physical discomfort.
Hemp is a more versatile plant than marijuana. It can be used to make paper, ropes, building materials, and even fuel. Hemp seeds are considered a superfood because they’re packed with essential nutrients, whereas flowers are utilized to make CBD-infused products, from tinctures to vapes, edibles, and topicals.
Marijuana dominates among recreational and medical consumers who mostly use its flowers for the psychoactive high or medical benefits associated with THC.
In fact, THC has great therapeutic potential; people consume marijuana to relieve stress, pin, inflammation, sleep disorders, mood swings, problems with appetite, and more.
5. Growing Conditions
Hemp grows well when packed close together. The distance between each plant can be less than 5 inches, being able to fill multi-acre farms. These plants is also adaptable to different climates and temperatures, so you can grow it pretty much everywhere. The growth cycle of hemp sits at between 108 and 120 days.
Marijuana requires much more care than hemp. Weed should be grown separately in a precisely controlled environment, where humidity, warmth, and airflow are kept at sufficient ratios to produce high-quality flowers. The growth cycle of a marijuana plant typically lasts 90 days. Growing marijuana closely together entails the risk of pollinating the female plants.
Hemp is legal in over 50 countries across the world, including Canada and the United States. Hemp-derived products are widely sold online as well as in many local dispensaries.
CBD-infused products from hemp are considered health supplements and thus don’t fall under the same regulations as conventional medicine despite the well-documented health benefits. There are many aspiring companies that offer low-quality products that hasn’t been tested in any laboratory. It’s paramount to understand the features of high-quality CBD before buying anything online.
Unlike hemp, marijuana remains illegal in most countries. As of today, Canada and Uruguay are the only countries that have entirely legalized cannabis consumption. In the US, marijuana is legal for recreational use in 11 states, with 37 states having some legal framework for medical users. More European countries begin to loosen their policies around weed, eagerly decriminalizing its possession for personal use.
Summarizing the Differences Between Hemp vs Marijuana
Knowing the differences between hemp vs marijuana will help you in many areas of life, from delivering the desired effects from your cannabis products to staying out of legal trouble. By educating yourself about hemp and marijuana, you can benefit from each species as a conscious consumer.
Remember that the fact that hemp isn’t psychoactive doesn’t mean it has fewer benefits than marijuana. Any way, your approach to both plants shouldn’t be about choosing between hemp OR marijuana. Rather, let’s talk about hemp AND marijuana to bring others closer to cannabis.
Which one do you prefer — are you Team Hemp or Team Marijuana? Share your thoughts below in the comments!