What is the Difference between Hemp and Marijuana Plants

There has been a growing demand in CBD (a non-psychoactive component) especially as it’s becoming a popular chemical compound for its medical benefits and legalities it brings to its users. However, there has been confusion for most of the users to comprehend the differences between hemp and marijuana and its relation to cannabis. Cannabis is a flowering plant and can be derived from three main strains: Sativa, Indica, and Rureralis.

It’s commonly believed that Cannabis is the source and mother of hemp and marijuana. By taxonomy, marijuana and hemp are interchangeably the same plants. They come from the same genus which is cannabis; to be more specific hemp comes from cannabis Sativa and marijuana comes from two: cannabis Sativa and Cannabis Indica. Let’s get more acquainted with these terms separately.

What’s Hemp?

It has commonly been consumed as a non-intoxicating Cannabis grown for industrial use. Evidence shows that hemp has been used since 100 centuries ago and it’s believed to be the first plant ever harvested by human beings. It’s known to be the reason for our ancestors’ earliest innovations.

Hemp is a strain of cannabis and those of which that include 0.3% or less THC are legal and shall not be regulated as a controlled substance under federal law since Agricultural Act of 2018 (or 2018 Farm Bill)  had passed. Note that this Act did not state marijuana but hemp, which means that marijuana-derived CBD is considered a controlled substance under FDA stringent regulation,even if that special marijuana contains no THC at all! 

What’s Marijuana?

Compared to hemp, marijuana contains 0.3% or more THC by dry weight. This can cause euphoria and psychotropic effect. Just like hemp, it’s known as a cannabis species.

In American culture, marijuana is mostly a racist term and even people in this industry avoid using this word. In fact, cannabis was used instead of the term marijuana in early American history which we will understand it was all a simple misconception and misunderstanding.

Short story about Marijuana 

Due to the Mexican revolution, many Mexicans migrated to America as asylum in the 1910s. During this time rumors had it that marijuana was used by these Mexicans and that it led to suicide, thus, for a while marijuana was correlated to “Mexican Cannabis” or “locoweed”. Because of this negative misconception the government began to regulate cannabis in aggressive ways and anti-marijuana laws had passed for 11 states by 1927 and since then there were varieties of propaganda against its usage because they implied: “Reefer Madness”.

Why Confused by Hemp and Marijuana?

What describes these two plants are actually based on the amount of THC each has. In other words, the extent to which hemp or marijuana get users high is an important factor in discriminating the two. Nevertheless, it’s not right to categorize cannabis as either hemp or marijuana. Therefore, based on only this factor considering other characteristics are also of equal importance. In addition, marijuana and hemp are both very similar in appearance. Only if these two terms never existed! It’s good to be informed of their meanings and how they’re legally used in different societies or countries.

Fortunately, there are four main differences between hemp and marijuana as following:

Composition of Hemp and Marijuana 

They both contain CBD and THC. CBD is the non-intoxicating chemical compound and it’s present in large amount in both marijuana and hemp. You won’t get high using hemp due to its low THC. The magnitude of the difference is in fact in THC with hemp containing up to 0.3% THC, whereas marijuana has up to 30% THC, which is able to get you very high.

Legality of Hemp and Marijuana 

Their legalities are actually based on the amount of THC mentioned above. Between the years 1970 to 2018, hemp was considered as illegal based on controlled Substance Act. Later in 2018 thanks to Agricultural Improvement Act, hemp and its derivatives and extracts that contain no more than 0.3% THC became legal to be used.

Cultivation of Hemp and Marijuana 

Marijuana has broad leaves and thick flowers but hemp has thinner leaves and is taller ( up to 20 feet tall) and will be mature in 60 days but hemp needs from 90 to 120 days.

Marijuana needs about 4 to 7 feet apart for each plant to reduce the risk of bacteria and mold spread whereas hemp needs less space in which in 4 to 7 feet, 40 to 60 plants are close together. Hemp is a rotational crop; since hemp is prone to the same risks as marijuana, cultivars plant some other crops so as to gain soil nutrients and prevent bacteria and other organisms to appear. Hemp grows more quickly and is taller compared to marijuana which needs a controlled environment to grow.

As they are harvested for different goals, their conditions of growth are different from one another. Marijuana plants are cultivated in controlled conditions in order to get the utmost functions and also yield buds by female plants. In contrast, hemp is grown outdoors and doesn’t require a precise, strict and controlled environment and the purpose of its cultivation is to increase its size. 

Usage of Hemp and Marijuana

Based on their compositions they each have their unique way of usage. Getting high is achieved by consuming THC which causes euphoria. Although both hemp and marijuana contain CBD, the amount in each is different. In addition, according to scientists CBD molecule is the same whether it’s derived from hemp or marijuana. 

Variety of studies have shown that marijuana can be applied in therapy effective for mental disorders as well as pain discomforts besides its recreational use though this claim still requires more scientific research to be proved. Hemp, on the other hand, is harvested for sundry products such as those used in CBD oil topicals for therapeutic applications, clothing, cosmetic substances, and weed repellent as well as building materials and even plastic and biofuel!

Final Thoughts

It’s a bit confusing to find out which one is which; what’s more, there has been a dysfunctional use of the terms “marijuana” and “hemp” in our social and cultural communities, specially when you want to relate it to cannabis and use it legally. In fact what people commonly believe is that cannabis is a female plant and a drug but hemp is the male and not a drug., which is obviously not the case and there is a whole different story about each of them. As a result, re-education is deeply needed which will take quite a lot of time.

Last but not least, marijuana is neither legal for recreational use nor in medicinal forms. However, marijuana advocates state that for entourage and therapeutic effect to take place THC and CBD should both be present and work synergistically.

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