Hemp and Marijuana

Hemp and Marijuana: Understanding Their Differences

You have probably heard about marijuana and hemp while searching about cannabinoids. You might have also encountered the misconception that they’re from different kinds of plants. However, the truth is, they are technically from the same plant, the Cannabis sativa.

Although they’re the same, one crucial aspect differentiating hemp from marijuana is the law. In this case, the law focuses on the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content of the plant.

THC is just one of the many cannabinoids that can be seen in the Cannabis sativa plant. THC is what’s responsible for the high feeling that users get from cannabis.

With that said, this article will determine and discuss the differences between hemp and marijuana, which can help clear up the confusion regarding the two substances.

What Is the Difference Between Hemp and Marijuana?

As mentioned, hemp and marijuana are just from the same species, the Cannabis sativa. However, their difference came from specific growth habits. Aside from that, marijuana has a thicker and stickier resin than hemp.

This is notable since the resin is where most THC, CBD, CBG, and other cannabinoids are produced. Another difference is that hemp typically contains around 0.3 percent THC or less. Meanwhile, marijuana strains typically contain more than 0.3 percent THC by their dry weight.

Lastly, another notable difference is that marijuana can be from Cannabis sativa and other related species, such as the Cannabis indica. On the other hand, hemp solely belongs to the family of Cannabis sativa.

What Is Hemp?

Due to the popularity of CBD today, the demand for hemp has increased as well. As mentioned, hemp is a type of cannabis that contains only 0.3 percent THC at most by its dry weight.

However, before the 2018 Farm Bill differentiated it from marijuana and legalized its use, hemp was also considered illegal and considered the same as marijuana.

Yet, thanks to the said bill, hemp can now be legally cultivated and harvested in the United States. However, back in the days before hemp was prohibited, it was already grown in the USA and is considered a cash crop because it provides raw materials for food, medicine, biodiesel, etc.

Ernest Small first proposed the 0.3 percent content in 1979 to address the problem of distinguishing marijuana from hemp. However, Small himself also acknowledged that the 0.3 limit he proposed is simply an arbitrary number and only a “possible” solution.

Nevertheless, today, the 0.3 percent limit is used as the basis in several laws in the United States, such as the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018.

What Is Marijuana?

The term marijuana is used interchangeably with the term “weed” and other related terms. In this case, you can typically define marijuana as cannabis with a high concentration of psychoactive compounds that can make people high.

Legally speaking, marijuana refers to the cannabis plant that typically contains a THC level of more than 0.3 percent by dry weight. However, the exact amount of THC can vary among different marijuana strains, with some having higher or lower THC content than others.

The Confusion Presented by Hemp vs. Marijuana

Based on the characteristics that define hemp and marijuana, the two differ from just a single factor – its THC content.

However, the confusion between hemp and marijuana comes from categorizing these two based on one characteristic. This presents a skewed depiction of cannabis, which can prevent users from truly and fully understanding its diversity aside from its legality.Hemp vs marijuana

Key Differences Between Hemp and Marijuana

Here are some of the key differences that can help you further distinguish hemp from marijuana.

  • Composition

As stated above, the key difference between hemp and marijuana is in their THC content. However, both types of plants can also produce other cannabinoids, such as CBD, which is famous for its numerous benefits to the human body.

Yet, most cannabidiol product manufacturers prefer sourcing their CBD from hemp than marijuana since the former usually contains only 0.3 percent or less THC. This is true even when it has a higher concentration of CBD.

On the other hand, marijuana often contains higher concentrations of THC, with some strains having up to 30% THC content. To clarify, the average marijuana strain contains somewhere around 5 to 20% of THC and only around less than 1% CBD.

Of course, some strains have a 1:1 ratio when it comes to their cannabinoid content. However, these tend to be rare since marijuana strains often have more THC concentration than CBD.

  • Legality

In 1937, all forms of cannabis were banned, including marijuana and hemp. However, after the government passed the 2018 Farm Bill, hemp was removed from the Controlled Substances Act and can now be legally cultivated.

However, its legality is still on a state-by-state basis. Therefore, it still depends on the state’s jurisdiction if they will allow hemp cultivation based on the Farm Bill’s guidelines. In general, numerous states have already created an agricultural law permitting licensed hemp growers. In contrast, others still do not allow it at all.

Besides this, marijuana is still generally considered illegal under the Controlled Substance Act. However, over thirty states now allow the usage of marijuana, but this is only strictly for medical purposes.

You should also note that medicinal marijuana requires proof that the patient is qualified to use medicinal marijuana, such as a doctor’s recommendation.

  • Cultivation

Even though they are from the same species, hemp and marijuana tend to have different growing habits.

In this case, marijuana requires careful monitoring of its humidity levels and temperature. It also needs to be pruned during every stage. Marijuana cultivators should also carefully monitor the plant’s nutrient intake.

On the other hand, hemp is considered easier to cultivate. After all, they can be grown closely together and easily withstand any type of growing condition. Hemp also doesn’t require careful monitoring, unlike marijuana, so growers can easily cultivate the plant.

  • Usage

Marijuana’s usage is typically more limited compared to hemp. For example, you can only use marijuana products medically or recreationally through edibles or smoke. Moreover, the state strictly regulates these activities through stringent laws.

On the other hand, hemp products are considered more versatile since you can use them in various ways, such as ingesting them or applying them topically. Moreover, the hemp plant is also multipurpose since you can even use it as raw material for ropes and clothing.

Hemp-Derived CBD vs. Marijuana-Derived CBD

Marijuana and hemp both contain CBD that can be used to produce tinctures. However, extracting CBD from hemp tends to be simpler than extracting from marijuana because hemp contains more CBD.

Nevertheless, manufacturers can use either plant for making tinctures. In this case, the tincture derived from hemp is called CBD oil, while the tincture made from cannabis is called cannabis oil. This distinction in the name recognizes the specific cannabinoids in the tinctures because most tinctures derived from marijuana also usually contain THC.

However, it would be best to keep in mind that cannabis oil is only permitted in the USA for recreational use. So, it’s still safer and better to stick with a CBD oil derived from hemp because this means you only get less than 0.3% THC content.


Although hemp and marijuana can come from the same plant, they have notable differences that can help you distinguish one from the other. Understanding their differences is essential since their legal statuses keep on changing.

For example, although hemp is considered legal throughout the US, not all states permit its cultivation and use. Likewise, marijuana is also considered legal in some states. However, it’s still widely considered illegal according to the Controlled Substances Act.

With that said, hopefully, this article has helped you understand the differences between the two, so you can easily comply with any laws and regulations.


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