The Difference Between Marijuana and Hemp

While marijuana is becoming more mainstream, hemp is also steadily elevating in popularity. Since the demand for hemp is increasing in the market, it’s important to know more about it and why it’s not the same as marijuana. Although hemp is a type of cannabis plant just like marijuana, there are distinct differences between the two. Hemp and marijuana have been grown for different purposes over the years, resulting in notable genetic differences, which have also contributed to distinctions in their research and legality.

1.    They’re physiologically different.

Since hemp and marijuana are basically cousins, they have common genetic ancestry. Research reveals that both marijuana and hemp plants are variations of cannabis sativa. However, because of their different uses, cultivation has led the plants to different in physical appearance and chemical makeup.

Physically, marijuana plants are short and wide while hemp plants are tall and thin. This is because hemp is used primarily for its stalks and seeds, but marijuana is used for its flowers. Perhaps the most important difference in hemp and marijuana, however, is the THC content. Hemp, by legal definition and by natural cultivation, contains no more than 0.3 percent of THC. Consequently, using hemp cannot create a psychoactive effect, or high, like marijuana can. Marijuana, on the other hand, contains anywhere from 5 to 35 percent THC.

Despite the low THC content in hemp, its benefits are derived from cannabidiol (CBD). Cannabidiol is another type of cannabinoid that interacts with various bodily functions to maintain homeostasis and regulate physiological systems. 

2.    They’re cultivated differently.

cannabis-infographic-copyAs alluded to earlier, the process of growing hemp is drastically different from the process of growing marijuana. Hemp’s seeds, oil, and fiber are used for everything from dietary supplements, paper, detergents, baking additives, and beer. Since its uses are so varied, hemp does not have to be cultivated in a strict environment and can be easily processed when allowed to grow on its own. However, hemp farms usually grow the plants about four inches apart and spread out over multiple acres.

Since marijuana is grown solely for medicinal and recreational use, it is cultivated in a highly controlled environment. To flourish, marijuana plants must be grown in a warm and humid atmosphere, and they are usually grown at least 6 feet apart. This is to ensure the plant’s THC content remains potent and concentrated. Interestingly, hemp cannot be grown close to a marijuana plant because hemp’s pollen could dilute marijuana’s THC content.

3.    They are classified differently under the law.

The sale of hemp products in the United States is completely legal; however, it is illegal to cultivate hemp on U.S. soil. Therefore, hemp products are imported from other countries. In fact, hemp cultivation is legalized in at least 30 other countries. Furthermore, a 2014 farm bill allows hemp to be grown in the United States for research purposes only. And it appears that we may see an updated Farm Bill in 2018 finally re-legalizing the cultivation of hemp in the United States.

Marijuana, on the other hand, is still illegal in most states and even illegal in most countries. This includes the production, sale and use of marijuana. Although some states have legalized the use of marijuana and other jurisdictions have decriminalized it, many regions have classified it as a controlled substance because of its psychoactive effects. The psychoactive effects of marijuana caused it to be illegal in the first place.

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