What's The Difference Between Hemp And Marijuana? | CBDNerds.com

CBDNerds Staff
Authored: Sep 28, 2018
Updated: Feb 27, 2020
The Difference Between Hemp And Marijuana?

The difference between hemp and marijuana may seem minor, but this technicality has been the driving force that restricts marijuana and hemp production in the United States. Unfortunately, hemp has suffered the consequences of the “War on Drugs” by being so closely related to the traditional psychoactive marijuana plant.


After a confusing on-again-off-again relationship with hemp production during the 20th century, the United States government has chosen to ignore the facts. The reality is that hemp and marijuana are variations of the same plant species, Cannabis Sativa. Apart from that similarity, hemp and marijuana are cultivated and used in entirely different ways. 



The History of Hemp and Marijuana

Hemp has been used in ancient cultures dating back as far as 8,000 BCE in modern-day Taiwan. Used to make rope, fabric, and ceramics, hemp proved to be a versatile raw material for a multitude of uses. Eventually, extracted forms of the plant were developed into hashish for its intoxicating effects.


Ever since, hemp and marijuana have belonged to the same species of plant, but have been used for different purposes: hemp for commercial use, marijuana for medical and recreational uses. Because of this fine distinction in plant classification, marijuana and hemp have been seen as one and the same. Here’s a quick run-down of laws regarding hemp and marijuana.


1937 - Marijuana Tax Act places a tax on all marijuana sales, including hemp products.


1970 - Controlled Substances Act designates all cannabis species as Schedule I Drugs


2014 - President Obama signed the Farm Bill to begin a pilot research program on hemp.


The Difference Between Hemp And Marijuana

Generally, marijuana is used for its potent therapeutic effects it derives from its chemical compounds known as cannabinoids. Hemp, on the other hand, is used for thousands of industrial purposes favored for its sustainability and versatility in use. Hemp products available for purchase include:


  • Protein powder
  • Oil
  • Seed
  • Soap
  • Clothing


difference between hemp and marijuana


Commercial Use of Hemp

From its seeds to its stalk, hemp has been used in a variety of products. Seeds can be hulled to produce powders and milks or cold-pressed to be made into oils and paints. A thick outer layer called the bast fiber is a famously durable and renewable product that is used to make construction materials and apparel.


The inner layer, called the hurd, is a soft and wooden stem that is plentiful in cellulose, a plant fiber that is used to create industrial raw materials. Its acoustic and thermal characteristics can be made into biodegradable paper, concrete, and plastic.


Medical and Recreational Use of Marijuana

Marijuana plants have broad leaves and flower buds that are covered in sticky, resinous trichomes. They may only look like white hairs, but these glands contain cannabinoids and terpenes that give a marijuana strain’s its unique aroma and effects. Marijuana nugs may also have orange, red, or brown hairs, known as pistils, that catch pollen.


Hemp, however, has thinner leaves that rise to the top of the long stalk. Since they are cultivated for industrial use, hemp tends to grow closer together than marijuana plants that need room to grow short and bushy. Marijuana plants are primarily grown to produce a high concentration of cannabinoids to produce psychoactive and therapeutic effects.


Smoking Hemp Won’t Get You High

Hemp contains very small amounts of the chemical compound, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is responsible for the cerebral and hallucinogenic effects. Instead, hemp contains a high concentration of cannabidiol (CBD) a chemical compound that complements THC by tempering its psychoactive effects rendering it inactive.


Marijuana, on the other hand, has been specifically bred for insane amounts of THC, up to 35 percent in some flower strains. That means that smoking or consuming hemp products can’t possibly get you high. Hemp’s high CBD content has shown to provide similar anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and anti-anxiety effects to THC, without the mind buzz.


How is Hemp and Marijuana Cultivated?

Grown closely packed together, as far as four inches apart from each other, hemp takes over acre upon acre of farmland. Hemp is a resilient plant that can grow in multiple climates and environments. A fully mature hemp plant that’s ready for production can take well over 100 days to grow.


Marijuana is a much more finicky plant requiring moderate and warm climates. Flowering times can range between 60 and 90 days depending on strain and growing conditions. Cannabis plants require enough space to fan out their leaves to grow flower buds. Plants can be grown up to six feet apart and away from hemp, which can pollinate and ruin a marijuana crop.


The Chemicals in Hemp and Marijuana

The most widely recognized chemical compound found in marijuana is tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC for short. THC is a cannabinoid chemical compound that produces psychoactive effects that can improve your mood, reduce pain, and relieve inflammation. Cannabis flower strains can have anywhere between five to 30 percent THC, and beyond.


Hemp end-products, however, have less than 0.3 percent THC but are rich in cannabidiol (CBD). Consuming these small amounts of THC does not produce cerebral effects like THC. The high concentration of CBD can indirectly promote homeostasis, or balance, in bodily functions that regulate appetite, sleep, mood, and movement.


Many medical users are consuming marijuana and/or hemp products to reap their suspected anti-inflammatory, pain-relieving, and anti-anxiety properties. Many CBD products, however, aren’t regulated for quality or chemical content, so you must be wary when purchasing CBD oil online.


Marijuana Sativa vs. Indica Strains

In the 18th century, plant classifications divided marijuana into sativa and indica species. Sativas were found in Eastern Europe, grew tall, had loosely spaced branched, and long, thin leaves. This modern-variety of hemp was used for commercial and non-hallucinogenic effects.


Indica strains came from India and were bred not just for industrial use, but also to produce the intoxicating hashish. In recent years, crossbreeding these variations in cannabis has developed strains with potent effects. Today, sativa and indica categories provide a rough classification of strains that have energetic or sedative effects, respectively.


The Legality of Hemp and Marijuana

With all the confusion surrounding the legality of cannabis and hemp, consumers are left scrambling for high-quality products. As an end-product, hemp is legal to purchase. Under current federal law, it is only illegal to grow hemp in the United States.


States have passed legislation to allow hemp farmers to grow to produce hemp goods. Still, the clashing state and federal laws put farmers in the U.S. in a tough legal position. For this reason, most raw hemp and products are imported.


While cannabis is still illegal under federal law, medical and recreational patients have been able to buy cannabis and hemp products freely at brick and mortar shops or online. Not all sources offer the same quality hemp product.


One must do diligent research before choosing a trusted source and product. In its natural growing environment, hemp is effective at absorbing soil contaminants like microorganisms and heavy metals. When concentrated into an oil, hemp can remove CBD and also toxins. Independent third-party lab testing ensures you are purchasing a pure product.

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