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Difference Between Cannabis and Hemp

March 20, 2019 0 Comments

Difference Between Cannabis and Hemp

CBD is now an extremely popular health supplement; it’s gone from being a completely unknown substance to one that is projected to drive a $22 billion market by 2022. However, what few folks realize is that there is actually a difference between hemp and cannabis and the types of CBD products that can be made from each.

In most places around the world, cannabis is illegal. It is used illegally as a recreational drug because smoking marijuana, or consuming it through another method, can get you high. Here in the United States, cannabis remains federally illegal. However, many states have legalized the plant for medicinal use, and several others have also legalized recreational use.

If CBD comes from cannabis, then how is it legal throughout the United States when cannabis is not? Well, if you have ever shopped for CBD, you’ll probably have noticed that some CBD products come from hemp, not marijuana.

This is where things get complicated.

Hemp and marijuana are two terms used to describe slightly different variations of the cannabis plant. The terms ‘cannabis’ and ‘marijuana’ are often used interchangeably to refer to the same thing, and this causes a lot of confusion. In reality, ‘cannabis’ refers to a whole family of plants, including both marijuana and hemp.

Confused? We’re not surprised. Luckily, we can help you to understand the key differences between marijuana and hemp so that you can feel completely comfortable buying legal CBD products. First, let’s take a look at what these terms actually mean.

Are Cannabis and Hemp Different Things?

As we have just said, ‘cannabis’ actually describes a family of plants. Marijuana is one member of the family, and is notorious for its psychoactive effects when consumed. Confusingly, marijuana is often referred to as cannabis, which is what has led people to believe that all cannabis plants can be used as drugs.

In reality, this is not the case. Hemp, which you have probably also heard of, is another member of the cannabis family – a cousin to marijuana. However, hemp contains very little of the mind-altering chemical (THC) found in marijuana, meaning it is completely non-psychoactive.

There are plenty of substantial differences between marijuana and hemp, and those differences are the focus of this article. Please note that, for the purpose of this article, we will be using ‘cannabis’ to refer to marijuana, and not the plant family as a whole.

Cannabis vs Hemp: Appearance

Just looking at a cannabis (marijuana) plant and a hemp plant will reveal some obvious differences. To the untrained eye, it might not seem like much, but an expert would be able to spot the difference quite easily.

Marijuana tends to have broad leaves and tight buds, which look like little nuggets with orange-colored hairs. It also tends to be shorter and bushier. Hemp, on the other hand, has narrower leaves that grow closer to the top of the plant, with a bare section at the lower part of the stem. It is generally a skinnier and taller plant than marijuana; sometimes it appears like a taller ditch weed.

Cannabis vs Hemp: Chemical Makeup

All members of the cannabis family contain compounds called cannabinoids. These evolved way back in the plants’ history, developing as a means to protect the plant from predators and help it to grow and survive. It just so happens that cannabinoids have an impact on a system in the human body called the endocannabinoid system, which is why CBD and THC are able to interact with our bodies.

Hemp and cannabis have a significant difference in their cannabinoid levels. Marijuana is very high in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). This is the psychoactive compound which causes a high. Marijuana can have a 5-20% THC content, and even higher in some rare cases – up to 30%! On the contrary, most strains have relatively low levels of CBD.

On the other hand, hemp has a maximum THC content of just 0.03%. In other words, this means it’s impossible to get high using hemp. As you’ll see however, some strains of hemp have been bred to contain high CBD levels.

Cannabis vs Hemp: Growing Environment

One major difference that you might not expect is the environment in which marijuana and hemp are cultivated. Marijuana can be extremely difficult to grow, and often requires very specific conditions. The individual plants are usually grown quite far apart, as opposed to industrial hemp which can be grown as close as 4 inches apart.

Marijuana typically takes 8-10 weeks to flower. It can only be grown in a warm and humid climate, where the environment is carefully controlled. Growers of marijuana have to be very careful with everything right down to the level of specific nutrients in the soil.

Hemp is different. It can grow just about anywhere, but it takes much longer to grow. Usually, it takes 108-120 days to reach maturity. Hemp is a very hardy plant that doesn’t need much tending to. It can grow in most any form of soil, including toxic and polluted soil. In fact, hemp sucks up toxins from the soil and can clean it up, so it is often proposed as a solution in areas where the soil has been poisoned.

Of course, this means that cultivators growing hemp for consumption purposes have to be very careful. This hemp must be grown in very clean soil to avoid contamination.

Various Uses of Cannabis vs Hemp

Marijuana has pretty limited use. It has been used for centuries by various civilisations, either for medicinal purposes or for recreational use. When marijuana is smoked or ingested, it causes a psychoactive high; this is why it has been used as a drug. It is also the reason cannabis is banned at all.

Now, though, people are waking up to the potential medical benefits of marijuana, accepting that both CBD and THC may be able to assist in relieving the symptoms of a number of conditions. Unfortunately, it still remains illegal in much of the world.

Common Uses of Hemp

Hemp has a much more varied range of uses. Different parts of the plant can be used for different things. The seeds are incredibly useful as a nutritional supplement, providing an array of nutrients including tons of protein and essential fatty acids.

The seeds can be eaten just as they are, or they can be made into a plant-based milk. Cold-pressing the seeds produces hemp oil, which can be used in cooking and beauty products.

Furthermore, the stalks and leaves of the hemp plant are very fibrous. These fibers can be used in textiles, insulation, and construction. Hemp can actually be made into paper – maybe it can be a planet-friendly alternative in the future!

Finally, hemp can be used in the creation of CBD oil. Technically, marijuana could also be used to harvest CBD, but there is one key issue in the way here: Legality.

Legal Differences Between Cannabis and Hemp

Cannabis is federally illegal, and this dates back for decades now. It was criminalized in the 1930s, before which it was completely legal. In the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937, hemp sales became heavily taxed; of course, marijuana and hemp were all grouped together under the cannabis umbrella at this point.

In the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, both marijuana and hemp were made fully illegal as a Schedule 1 drug. This refers to a drug with high abuse potential and no medical benefit. Now, we obviously know that this is not true of hemp.

In more recent decades, hemp has been imported from other countries. It is consumed in the form of hemp seed oil and hemp seeds, which are obviously not illegal. It has been a very confusing situation, with hemp being illegal to grow but legal to consume. CBD oil was also generally allowed.

Finally, in 2018, this was recognized by the US government. The distinction between hemp and marijuana was finally written into law. The Hemp Farming Act of 2018 has made hemp legal to grow, de-scheduling hemp from the Controlled Substances Act for the first time.

This means that now, while marijuana remains mostly illegal, hemp is legal throughout the country (though it is still a regulated crop, and permits must be obtained in order to grow it commercialy).

Final Thoughts on the Differences Between Hemp and Marijuana

At this point, you might be wondering where the CBD in your CBD oil comes from. Since it can be found in both marijuana and hemp, you could technically get CBD from either plant.

Rest assured, the majority of CBD products (including ours) come from industrial hemp containing very little THC. This ensures that you can take them without getting high, and you won’t be pulled up during a drug test at work.

All in all, we hope that this article on the differences between hemp and marijuana has been helpful and informative for you. Hemp is an extremely versatile plant, and it obviously has great benefits for your health. It’s wonderful that, finally, it has been separated from marijuana to be recognized as a beneficial plant.


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