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Hemp vs. Marijuana: What’s the Difference?

hemp vs marijuana

Hemp vs. marijuana: do you know the difference?

There is a lot of confusion around the two.

They’re both cannabis, hence much of the confusion. The rise in popularity of CBD has made it particularly important to understand the difference between hemp and marijuana. It’s all too often explained, well, not very well. We’re hoping to remedy that.

Hemp vs. Marijuana

Hemp and marijuana are both cannabis. Not different strains, as they’re often categorized. They’re different names for the same genus (Cannabis) and species.

Because of this, although different, hemp has long been confused with marijuana. It’s thanks to that confusion that it was lumped in with marijuana and banned after the passing of the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937

hemp vs marijuana
Anti-marijuana propaganda from the 1930s (Getty Images)

Following years of anti-marijuana propaganda, this legislation resulted in 80 years of cannabis prohibition. Thankfully, we’ve come a long way since then.

Of course, legality differs. Marijuana is legal in some parts of the country, whereas the 2018 Farm Bill made hemp legal nationwide.

But that’s not the only (or most important) difference…

How They’re Grown

Since cultivators grow hemp and marijuana for different purposes, it makes sense that they’re cultivated and harvested differently.

Marijuana is selectively grown in closely controlled environments, usually indoors. To ensure a premium crop, cultivators pay close attention to the plant at each stage of its life cycle. It’s important to maintain ideal conditions, including temperature, lighting, and humidity.

Hemp, on the other hand, is grown outside and doesn’t require the same level of control and attention. Although it too requires hard work, it tends to be a lot less fussy.

When they’re mature, the plants can look quite different from each other.

Marijuana leaves tend to be broad or clumped together in a tight bud. Marijuana looks more like a short, fat bush.

Hemp has skinnier leaves that tend to group together at the top of the plant, leaving very little below. Hemp is typically narrowed and taller than marijuana.

Chemical Composition

The main difference between hemp vs. marijuana is its chemical makeup. And here we’re talking specifically about THC, the chemical responsible for marijuana’s psychological effects, as well as CBD.

Typically, marijuana has a THC content of anywhere from 5-20%, sometimes as high as 30%. For hemp, the THC level reaches a maximum of 0.3%. That’s way below the level to induce any kind of psychoactive effect.

So, in other words, cannabis plants with 0.3% or less THC content are hemp. Cannabis plants with more than 0.3% THC content are marijuana.

hemp vs marijuana

The CBD makeup is also different. Hemp typically has a much higher CBD content, whereas marijuana usually has a very low CBD content.

It’s important to note that you can extract CBD from hemp OR from marijuana. Yes, it can come from both plants, although most CBD on the market comes from low-THC hemp. Just in case, be sure to check the label and COA to ensure that you are in fact getting CBD from hemp.

And now you know!