Hemp vs. Marijuana: Know the Differences


There are still a lot of people who don’t know the difference between hemp and marijuana. While both came from the cannabis family, there are a lot of differences if you take a closer look at the two. As the demand for CBD rises, the industry has developed into a market that is independent and yet the controversies surrounding this drug is still evident. In order to avoid confusion, this article will help shed light on the subject for readers like you so you can understand the difference between marijuana and hemp and how both relate to cannabis.

What is Hemp?

The word “hemp” is a term used to classify different varieties of Cannabis that only has 0.3% or even lesser THC level. It is generally used to describe non-toxic cannabis which is harvested mainly for the industrial use of the products derived from it. According to history, hemp was discovered about 10,000 years ago and was believed to be the first crop that was cultivated by humans.

Hemp has the capability to produce different kinds of resources like food, clothing, paper, rope, materials for building, and many others. Many believe that hemp is one of man’s earliest innovations. In fact, hemp has been known to have 50,000 uses and can be used in many ways.

What is Marijuana?

Marijuana is a variety of cannabis that contains more than 0.3% THC and is known for inducing euphoric/psychotropic effects to the person using. The term “marijuana” became widespread in the American culture which also became a misrepresentation of cannabis. In fact, people who believe in the power of cannabis and those who are in the cannabis industry refuse to use the term marijuana as it is believed to be a “racist” term.

During the earlier years in American history, marijuana did not exist and the term widely used to classify the plant as cannabis. During the 1910s to 1920s when the US became a refuge to millions of Mexicans after the Mexican Revolution, an anti-Mexican campaign rose up and the term “marijuana” became a negative association to the Mexican immigrants. Many people were warned about the dangers of this drug or as they call it then as the “locoweed” or Mexican cannabis. It was also during this time that cannabis was regulated more by the government and in 1927, 11 states were able to pass and approve anti-marijuana laws. It was in the 1930s, the propaganda against marijuana began and took a full swing as the fear of this drug became more apparent.

Difference by Chemical Composition

In the US, marijuana is a Cannabis Sativa plant that has more than 0.3% THC, which is short for tetrahydrocannabinol. THC is the primary compound in cannabis that causes psychotropic side effects. The more THC you consume or use, the “higher” you become. In short, THC changes your cognitive perception and, at the same time, how you feel.

Hemp, on the other hand, has far lesser THC. It has been found that hemp has lesser than 0.3% THC, which basically means it does not affect the user the way marijuana does. In fact, any plant that does not classify as marijuana but has 0.4% THC in it can be considered a cannabis plant. That being said, hemp does not get the user high or have the same effect as marijuana.

Laws Regarding Hemp and Marijuana

Before the 1930s, cannabis was used by many people however, this was the time when the stigma around it was not known yet. However, in 1937 a bill was passed and was called the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937. The bill instated the first-ever restriction on cannabis. In the 1970s, this drug became illegal as well as other products derived from the cannabis plant as listed under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. Even farming of cannabis was restricted in America and people were no longer allowed to grow their own plants whether it be for medicinal uses or industrial uses.

After decades, the Farm Bill of 2014 came into view following the restrictions placed in latter years. Under this bill, hemp plants were defined as plants with 0.3% less THC and were allowed to be grown on a limited basis. The passing of the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, hemp products and other agricultural products derived from it became legal in all 50 states of the United States. Because of this legality, the availability of hemp-derived CBD oil surfaced in the market.

While hemp became more accepted by people in the US, marijuana is still under the Schedule 1 drug category. This means that any product derived from this plant is still illegal under federal law. In some states, however, recreational and medicinal marijuana is legal but under a controlled amount only. That is why there are only a few selected states in the US today that are able to use this drug.


Hemp and marijuana are grown, harvested, and used differently. There are plenty of marijuana varieties that can be grown in selected and controlled environments. These environments are designed for growing a specific variety of marijuana. Some people are even known to breed the characteristics of the plant and at the same time produce female plants that can grow budding flowers.

In order to cultivate marijuana, growers must pay attention the plant during each cycle of its life. They must know how to maintain the conditions needed by the plant so they can grow properly under the right climate, lighting, and temperature.

Contrary to marijuana, hemp can be grown according to its maximum size and capabilities. Hemp can be grown outdoors and does not need a lot of attention or control of the environment the way that marijuana plants do.

Hemp Oil vs. Marijuana Oil

Industrial hemp-derived CBD oil is popular among many people and is used to relieve anxiety, chronic pain, and insomnia. However, many also believe that industrial hemp is not as good as the ones extracted from the cannabis plant. This is because high-resin cannabis plants have the components (upregulated genes) for cannabinoid synthesis which means that marijuana plants are more diverse compared to hemp.

Final Thoughts

Marijuana is still classified as an illicit substance in some regions, for good reason. The drug can easily become abused and people do get addicted to it. However, the hemp plant has been wrongfully viewed as the same thing. Hemp has far more practical uses than marijuana does and it is not addictive. It is important for people to educate themselves on cannabis plants so they can see the difference between marijuana and hemp.