What Is the Difference Between Hemp and Marijuana? A Helpful Guide

What Is the Difference Between Hemp and Marijuana? A Helpful Guide

With medical marijuana now legal in 33 states and CBD legal in the remaining states, marijuana is now talk of the town. You’ll notice it on social media, magazines, online articles, and even in the news. Given the hype of CBD and marijuana, everyone who uses both, even once, is suddenly a marijuana enthusiast.

However, one simple question separates the chaff and the grain and lays it all out bare. The question is, “what is the difference between hemp and marijuana?” Don’t know the answer? Well, don’t worry, you’re not alone.

Only a handful of “marijuana enthusiasts” know the difference, but today is an ideal day to learn the difference between the two.

In this post, we’ll be highlighting the differences between hemp and marijuana.

What Is the Difference Between Hemp and Marijuana?

What makes hemp and marijuana so confusing for most people is the fact that they are derived from the same plant species. Both hemp and marijuana come from the Cannabis Sativa family, which is why most people use the terms interchangeably.

The confusion between hemp and marijuana has blurred the legality of both plants in some states. For instance, in states where medical marijuana is legal, few can tell whether the same also applies to “medical hemp.” This confusion has landed lots of people in trouble, but luckily you won’t be on one of them.

Here are a few aspects of hemp and marijuana that make them so different from each other.

The Chemical Composition

The most notable difference between hemp and marijuana is the chemical composition. Marijuana is described as any Cannabis Sativa plant with more than 0.3% THC. Anything less than that is basically hemp.

THC abbreviates tetrahydrocannabinol and is the psychoactive chemical found in the cannabis plant. In much simpler terms, THC is the chemical part of cannabis that gets you “high”. That means the more the THC, the “higher” you’ll feel.

Due to the low THC content in hemp, it won’t get you high. However, THC content just slightly higher than 0.3% will make you high. This means that not every cannabis plant that qualifies as marijuana causes psychoactive effects.

The Appearance

The two plants have notable differences in their appearances. However, the physical differences don’t apply across the board because of the various selective breeding instances that have, over time altered the appearance of both.

Generally, marijuana plants are bushier and shorter than hemp plants. That’s because a lot of the THC in cannabis plants is found in the flowers. Since marijuana has more THC than hemp, it has more flowers and hence the bushier appearance.

Most farmers and manufacturers until recently bred hemp for their fibers and not the THC. Over time, hemp became much taller than marijuana and less bushy than marijuana.

The Laws regarding Hemp and Marijuana

Before the 1930s, everyone was free to use both marijuana and hemp the way they wanted to. People used hemp widely as fiber for paper and cloth production and even rope.  They also used it for recreation but on a much smaller scale.

An unfounded smear campaign led to the prohibition of marijuana in 1937, and full restriction in the 1970s. This restriction has been in place until recently when the beneficial effects of marijuana were discovered.

The Farm Bill of 2014 gave hemp farmers the green light to plant large scale hemp for various markets. It’s from this bill that we now describe hemp as cannabis with less than 0.3% THC. The bill also allowed research into the hemp plant, which paved the way for further legalization.

The government introduced the 2018 agricultural improvement act that made hemp agriculture legal and bolstered hemp growing in all 50 states.  The bill also led to the legality of CBD-derived products spearheaded by the widely-touted CBD oil. Nowadays, CBD products have diversified from plain oil to all manner of food, snacks, and topicals.

Marijuana, on the other hand, was and is still a Schedule 1 drug in most states. This means that under federal law, possession, use, and distribution of marijuana is still illegal in most states. Only a handful of states have approved the use of marijuana for both medical and recreational purposes.

Their Uses

The selective breeding of cannabis dates back to 6000 BC, which is the earliest recorded instance of cannabis. Thousands of years later and cannabis is still a hit with humanity. This selective breeding aims to harness a particular feature of the plant for a specific use.

Some people breed cannabis for their fiber, which they used for pulp, clothing, and even other purposes. Others breed them for their seeds, which they distribute to farmers across the country. Other breed them for their psychoactive and physiological effects.

For hundreds of years, hemp has been used for its fiber, which is popular with the textile and paper industry. On the other hand, farmers grow marijuana for recreational or medicinal use.

Cannabis vs. CBD Oils

There’s also much confusion between the various oils derived from the cannabis plant. That’s because you’ll find oils with labels like ‘CBD oil,’ hemp oil,’ and lastly, ‘cannabis oil.’

Oil from hemp is known as hemp oil, CBD oil, or CBD hemp oil. Cannabis oil is a special oil derived from select varieties of the cannabis plant.

Marijuana Is Not Hemp

Hopefully, we’ve made it clear enough that marijuana is not interchangeable with hemp. You should now give a straightforward answer when someone asks, “What is the difference between hemp and marijuana?”

Maybe give CBD-oil a whirl and see how it works for you. Also, check out the other pieces on the site for more informative and enticing reads.

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