Having a controversial reputation and including shifting legalities, hemp vs marijuana is a topic that is often subject to improper explanation. As the demand for hemp and CBD continues to skyrocket with the legalization of hemp, the confusion creates complications for public and potential users. So, this post is all about answering the question what is the difference between hemp and marijuana?
Hemp is a term that classifies varieties of Cannabis plant that contain 0.3% or less THC content (by dry weight). On the other hand, Marijuana classifies the varieties of Cannabis containing more than 0.3% THC (by dry weight). It is also capable of producing psychotropic or euphoric effects on the user.
Difference between Hemp and Marijuana: Hemp vs Marijuana
Both hemp and marijuana come from the same family of a plant; Cannabis. It is a genus of flowering plants in the Cannabaceae family consisting of three primary species. Cannabis sativa is one of the species that both hemp and marijuana belong to. Both variations are simply broad classifications of Cannabis.
Belonging to the same plant species, hemp and marijuana share several similarities and even appear and smell quite the same. However, both have different effects, usages as well as contrasting legal regulations. The difference between both depends on a single characteristic which is the amount of the THC in the plant or whether it will get the user high.
In terms of appearance, there are many factors which can help to differentiate the two with an acute eye. Marijuana carries broad leaves plus tight buds while hemp leaves are quite thinner and are more concentrated towards the top. Hemp is also taller while marijuana is shorter in comparison if you look from a distance.
What is Hemp and Why it is Different from Marijuana?
Hemp or industrial hemp belongs to the Cannabis sativa plant species which is grown for the industrial uses of hemp-derived products. Hemp’s use dates back to 10,000 years and is one of the fastest-growing plants on earth. the plant has also been the catalyst for mankind’s earliest innovations. Hemp carries many nutritional benefits. Its seeds also carry many nutritious compounds. They are rich in healthy fatty acids such as omega-3s and omega-6s, fiber protein and vitamins.
Hemp has capabilities to produce crucial resources such as food, clothing, paper, rope, housing material, and more. The plant’s sturdy fiber helps to produce textiles, rope, and paper. You can use its skincare products and also wear hemp clothes. Hemp seeds and seed-oil are a highly nutritious food source for both humans and animals. Companies also use hemp to make furniture and while processed hemp fuel can power automobiles.
Hemp is different from marijuana because of the low level of THC or the high level of CBD (Cannabidiol). CBD is the antagonist to THC, it is a naturally occurring chemical compound in hemp. Its strength in hemp varies from harvest to harvest. There is a wide variety available of different CBD potencies. You can also find CBD content ranging from 14% to 30% and more. It is non-psychoactive and is an increasingly popular ingredient in therapeutic oils and alternative medicines as it shows promising results in treating anxiety, pain, cognition, and movement disorders. CBD also has the ability to and renders the small amount of THC in hemp useless. So, you cannot get high on hemp.
What is Marijuana and Why it is Different from Hemp?
Marijuana, also known as weed and pot among other names, is a psychoactive drug from the cannabis plant. Its use is common for limited medical and prominently for recreational drives. Marijuana is notorious for being the most commonly abused illegal substance in the world due to its intoxicating effects and health concerns.
Tetrahydrocannabinol or THC is the compound that classifies marijuana as a drug. THC is a psychoactive, mind-altering ingredient that produces euphoric effects on the user. It is a powerful psychoactive agent that can directly bind to the CB1 and CB2 receptors in the Endocannabinoid System, inducing the euphoric effects commonly we refer to as being “high.”
Unlike THC, the plant also contains CBD, the non-psychoactive ingredient. However, the amount of THC in marijuana ranges from 5 to 20 percent which is much higher than CBD. Therefore, it is the main reason why marijuana is different from hemp.
Hemp vs Marijuana Composition
Hemp and marijuana are both strains from the plant species Cannabis sativa L. The low-intoxicant, non-drug, or fiber types plants are hemp while the high-intoxicant plants cultivated for drug production are described marijuana.
Both plants have some clear and distinct genetic structures across the genome and also differ with their cannabinoid biosynthesis capacity. Hemp contains BD allele for cannabidiolic acid synthase while marijuana contains a BT allele which codes for tetrahydrocannabinolic acid synthase.
The two components on which they are basically classified are cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). The difference between hemp and marijuana bases on the ratio of THC to CBD or the overall amount of THC. Non-drug ones produce relatively low levels of THC and significantly high levels of CBD, while drug plants produce vice-versa.
The regulatory bodies separate hemp and marijuana by the percentage of THC present in the top third of the plant; with less than 0.3% concentration, the plant is considered hemp and is legal for cultivation while marijuana can contain up to 30% THC content.
Hemp vs Marijuana Legality
Hemp does not cause a high effect but hemp and Marijuana were both illegal in the U.S for a long time and recently became legal. The 2014 Farm Bill allowed states to have Industrial Hemp Pilot Research Programs, under which any part of the hemp plant could be produced by a licensed grower.
But, it was the 2018 Farm Bill that legalized the extraction of CBD from the flower moving the plant oversight from the DEA to U.S. Department of Agriculture for hemp including all its derivatives and extracts. It also allowed CBD that is produced by licensed producers of industrial hemp. However, the laws regarding CBD were, and are, complex and do not share a mutual agreement by states or cannabis lawyers.
However, hemp and marijuana are subject to different regulations under the law due to the difference between their levels of THC. While hemp is removed as an illegal substance under the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018, federally legalizing hemp and its derived products containing no more than 0.3% THC. hMarijuana, on the other end, is still listed as a controlled substance and is federally illicit under the Controlled Substance Act.
Why there is Confusion between Hemp and Marijuana
There is often a lot of confusion between the names Hemp, Cannabis, and Marijuana. It is because both hemp and marijuana belong to the same family of plant and recently became legal in the U.S. Therefore, most people tend to relate them in terms of usage and effects. People believe that hemp will offer a sense of peace and well-being and will bring a change in the mood minus the mind-altering effects of marijuana.
What most people don’t understand, is that they are completely different when it comes to their use, properties, and effects. Plus, both are not legal nationwide or federally, it is only the hemp that is legal throughout the country. In fact, the government treats hemp as an agricultural crop while marijuana still lists as a drug. However, marijuana is legal in many U.S. states for medical use in some form. However, it only has permission by the FDA for the treatment of two rare and severe forms of epilepsy, Dravet syndrome, and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome.
Hemp vs Marijuana: Cultivation
Marijuana and Hemp, both are harvested for different purposes. So, they require different growing conditions.
Hemp is a fast-growing plant; it is grown until its maximize size and yield. Farmers typically grow them outdoors and harvest multiple crops in a season. As hemp is naturally resistant to most pests, it can grow without the need for pesticides. Growers generally plant both male and female hemp plants close together in order to encourage seed production through wind pollination.
In contrast, Marijuana varieties are selectively bred in controlled environments typically indoors, which are designed to optimize its characteristics. Growers usually remove male plants and keep the female plants to yield budding flowers. Marijuana grows more slowly, typically taking a full 3-5 months to grow before being ready for harvest. Marijuana harvest requires pesticides to protect the plants from pests. To properly cultivate marijuana, close attention to the plant must at each period of its life cycle and maintain exact conditions in its environment, such as proper temperature, lighting, humidity, and the PH of soil.
Marijuana Derived CBD vs Hemp-Derived CBD
CBD can be derived from both hemp and marijuana. However, many people think CBD derived from each plant might be different in some way due to the different characteristics. But, it is not the case. According to medical research, the CBD molecule and its associating pharmacology are the same, whether it comes from the hemp or marijuana. So, CBD is CBD, regardless of its origin of derivation.
So, CBD should be legal regardless of its source as long as it contains THC below 0.3% because it is same at the molecular level. However, it is also not the case. Under the Agricultural Act of 2018, only hemp and hemp-derived products, inclusive of hemp-derived CBD, were legalized. If you think that the 2018 Farm Bill legalized CBD regardless of its sources, you are wrong. It is because CBD is still a Schedule I controlled substance under the guidance of DEA. Only the CBD derived from hemp containing below 0.3% THC is federally legal. So, the 2018 Farm Bill only applies to hemp and its derivative products.
So, even if the marijuana-derived CBD carries 0.0% THC, it is still illegal under the 2018 Farm Bill.
Usage of Hemp vs Marijuana
Both plants offer a range of different usages, unique to their composition. Industrial hemp has many potential uses. Its fibers are useful for textiles or industrial processes. Hemp can help produce industrial products such as paper, clothing, building materials, and plastic as well as food products such as cooking oil, hemp flour, and hemp seed-based products.
Hemp can also be a source for grain while its flowers are often a source for cannabidiol or CBD. The substance has the potential for addressing many chronic pains, mental disorders, and other illnesses. You can find medicinal products such as CBD oil, tinctures and CBD-infused topicals anywhere now.
Hemp can also help produce a range of building materials including wood replacements, biodegradable plastics, and hempcrete. You can also fuse hemp in body care products, paints, cosmetics, chemical cleanup, and packaging. The plant also has used in newsprint, printing, clothing, shoes, handbags, carpeting, canvas, insulation, netting, tarps, and much more.
Marijuana, on the other hand, people commonly use for its recreational uses mostly. Though studies show its potential in a variety of therapeutic applications, it does not have a significant place in medical use as of now.
Final Thoughts on Hemp vs Marijuana
While the subject is quite complex and is confusing for many, both terms hemp and marijuana have become significantly important in our culture and society. Plus, their changing legal and industrial situation makes it crucial to re-educate the public about hemp and marijuana.
Obviously, it will take time. However, this article is an effort to explain the matter including what are these plants and how they’re different. The article also tends to explain how these relate to cannabis. So, you can understand your rights, stay clear of potential legal complications and health concerns when using hemp or CBD products.
In conclusion, hemp and marijuana are the same plant but cultivated for different purposes due to varying levels of THC.