Hemp vs. Marijuana: What’s the Difference?

Contrary to popular belief, hemp and marijuana are not two separate plant species. They aren’t even a separate species, in actuality. The cannabis plant, a kind of flowering plant in the Cannabaceae family, is known by two different names. The law distinguishes between “hemp” and “marijuana,” although science does not. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content is the primary distinction between the two in terms of legality.

One of the numerous cannabinoids or substances, present in the cannabis plant is THC. It is the one that is mostly in charge of giving cannabis users a “high.”

What is hemp?

Cannabis with a THC level of 0.3 percent or less by dry weight is referred to as “hemp.”

Why just 0.3%? In the 1979 publication “The Species Problem in Cannabis: Science & Semantics,” this term was first put out. Ernest Small, the author of the book, discusses how there is no real taxonomical distinction between hemp and cannabis, making it challenging to distinguish between the two.

Hemp vs. Marijuana:

Small suggested the 0.3 percent rule as a potential fix, though he admitted it’s an arbitrary amount. In accordance with the Agricultural Act of 2018 and other US legislation, this quantity was utilized to define hemp legally. Hemp’s low THC content makes it unlikely to cause intoxication.

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What is marijuana?

Typically, when people refer to “marijuana,” they mean cannabis that gives you a high. The phrase is synonymous with “weed” and several other words. Cannabis that contains more than 0.3 percent THC by dry weight is referred to as “marijuana” legally. Each cannabis plant has a unique level of THC. Different strains are cultivated to have different THC content levels. Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, or a hybrid are the three types of cannabis plants. Although science has not yet been able to confirm it, each of them has its own claimed properties and consequences.

History and racism

Due to its historically racist roots, the term “marijuana” is very contentious.

Due to the Mexican Revolution, a large number of Mexicans emigrated to the United States in the early 20th century. As a result, racism and anti-immigrant sentiment increased in the US. Cannabis was currently a permitted cross-border import. Prior to it, the term “marijuana” wasn’t frequently used. In contrast, “cannabis” was far more frequently used than the scientific name. However, during the 1910s and 1920s, Mexicans—who were viewed as frequent cannabis users—became linked to the name “marijuana.”

Hemp vs. Marijuana:

To perpetuate the link between marijuana and Mexican immigrants, the U.S. government utilized the term “marijuana” in anti-cannabis propaganda. This anti-cannabis marketing reinforced racist prejudices while disseminating several cannabis falsehoods. This propaganda remained throughout the 1930s and had a significant role in making cannabis illegal. It’s still up for contention what exactly qualifies as “marijuana” today.

Marijuana is a word that many in the business no longer use, preferring to only use the word “cannabis” instead, as it is associated with racist and anti-cannabis propaganda.

Because hemp is a member of the Cannabis species, this can be confusing.

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Cannabis flowers, leaves, and stalks have higher cannabinoid contents than seeds, which are entirely devoid of cannabinoids.
Cannabis flower, which may be used to make tinctures and edibles as well as smoked cannabis, is frequently the first choice for people seeking out cannabis’ therapeutic effects.
THC-rich cannabis strains have both the potential to get users euphoric and to treat conditions like pain. While they won’t get you high, strains high in cannabinoids like cannabidiol (CBD) but low in THC may also have positive effects. Other items that can be made from hemp, or cannabis with less than 0.3 percent THC, include:

  • paper
  • clothing
  • textiles
  • animal chow
  • plastic

Among the food items made from hemp are hemp seed, hemp milk, hemp protein powder, and hemp oil.

It is thought that using hemp to produce goods like paper and textiles is more sustainable because it grows more quickly than trees and other crops.

Given that it contains a complete protein and a lot of fiber, hemp seed is highly nutrient-dense.


There is one other distinction between hemp and marijuana besides THC concentration, and that is legality.

The 2018 Farm Bill made it OK to cultivate hemp, or cannabis with less than 0.3 percent THC, all across the US. It also made CBD products made from hemp lawful on a national level. Cannabis with a THC content of more than 0.3 percent, or marijuana, is illegal at the federal level. various state laws. It is legal to use both therapeutically and recreationally in various states. It is only permitted for medicinal usage in other states. And it’s still entirely prohibited in several states.

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Since federally legalizing hemp, the cannabinoid known as cannabidiol (CBD) has gained popularity. Due to the multiple health benefits that CBD is supposed to provide, many people use CBD products.

Hemp vs. Marijuana:

All cannabis plants contain CBD in varying amounts. That implies that it can be produced using either hemp or marijuana. Federal law, however, only permits the sale of CBD products made from hemp that have a THC content of less than 0.3 percent.


The same species of plant grows both hemp and marijuana.

Legally speaking, hemp is a cannabis plant with a THC content of less than 0.3 percent, whereas marijuana is a cannabis plant with a THC content greater than 0.3 percent.
Both hemp and marijuana plants can yield CBD.