What is the Difference in Hemp and Marijuana?
You might notice a lot of marijuana leaves on our website, or at least it might appear that way. Hemp and marijuana look almost identical to the untrained eye and both are from the same plant family but very different. In this blog I will explain the differences between the two and give a little history lesson. Both hemp and marijuana contain CBD (cannabidiol). CBD has analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and anti-anxiety properties without any psychoactive effects.
What is Hemp?“Hemp” is a term used to classify varieties of Cannabis that contain 0.3% or less THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) content by dry weight. While the legal definition described above had not been legitimized until The Hemp Farming Act of 2018 had passed, “hemp” has generally been used to describe non-intoxicating Cannabis that is harvested for the industrial use of its derived products. With evidence of its use recorded throughout history, including the discovery of material made from hemp over 10,000 years ago, many believe that hemp was the first crop ever cultivated by mankind. With the capabilities to produce crucial resources such as food, rope, clothing, paper, housing material, and more, hemp has been the catalyst for man’s earliest innovations.
What is Marijuana?“Marijuana” is a term used to classify varieties of Cannabis that contain more than 0.3% THC by dry weight and can induce psychotropic or euphoric effects on the user. While the use of this term is widespread throughout American culture, it presents a grossly inadequate misrepresentation of Cannabis. Most informed individuals and organizations in the Cannabis industry refuse to use the term and some consider it to be “racist.” Let me explain. In early American history, the term “marijuana” was non-existent and “cannabis” was the primary term used to classify the plant. Between 1910 and 1920, nearly a million Mexicans migrated into the United States seeking refuge from the Mexican Revolution. During this time, anti-Mexican sentiment had begun to steep and the term “marijuana” arose as a negative correlation of its use by Mexican immigrants. Soon after, rumors began to surface, warning Americans of the “dangerous and homicidal tendencies” caused by using “Mexican cannabis” or “locoweed,” which lead to an even greater rise in anti-Mexican sentiment. As the negative perception of cannabis intensified, the government began regulating cannabis more aggressively. By 1927, 11 states had passed anti-marijuana laws and by the 1930s anti-marijuana propaganda and the fear of “Reefer Madness” was in full swing. After the passing of The Marihuana Tax Act of 1937, which imposed heavy, unrealistic taxes on the possession, sale, and transportation of the plant, the federal government had effectively banned “marijuana,” paving the way for the next 80 years of cannabis prohibition.
The Confusion Presented by Hemp vs Marijuana
Based on the context used to describe Hemp and Marijuana, the defining characteristic between the two is based on a single factor––the amount of THC in the plant––or rather whether it will get the user high. Hemp and marijuana are, taxonomically speaking, the same plant; they are different names for the same genus (Cannabis) and species. In other words, Cannabis plants with 0.3 percent or less of THC are hemp, and Cannabis plants with more than 0.3 percent THC are marijuana. While the intoxicating properties of each plant is an important factor to consider, categorizing Cannabis as either hemp or marijuana based on a single characteristic presents a skewed portrayal of Cannabis which prevents users from fully understanding its diversity. Categorizing Cannabis as either hemp or marijuana is akin to classifying all fruits in the citrus genus as either sweet or sour, without acknowledging the diverse characteristics of each fruit. In addition, hemp and marijuana can often appear indistinguishable from one another, which adds to the confusion factor. This has already led to numerous issues of law enforcement officers making arrests and seizing hemp that is 100% legal because it looks exactly like “marijuana.” The classification of hemp and marijuana absent of a true understanding of Cannabis presents a clear issue of function. The obvious solution is for these words to have never existed; however, now that these terms have become deeply ingrained in our society, this problem will be difficult to reverse. The only realistic solution is to re-educate our society over time. To understand just how different these two are, consider these 4 key differences between hemp and marijuana; Composition, CBD and THC Content, Legality, and Cultivation.
1. Composition The defining characteristic between hemp and marijuana is the chemical composition contained within each plant. Both hemp and marijuana can produce high amounts of CBD, the non-intoxicating cannabis compound; however, THC is produced at very different levels.
2. CBD and THC Content While hemp can contain no more than 0.3% THC by dry weight, marijuana can contain up to 30% THC content.
3. Legality Due to the difference between their levels of THC, hemp and marijuana are regulated very differently under the law. While hemp was previously regulated as an illegal substance under the Controlled Substance Act of 1970, it was removed as an illegal substance under the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018, which federally legalized hemp and hemp-derived products that contain no more than 0.3% THC. Marijuana, on the other hand, is still treated as a controlled substance and is federally illegal under the Controlled Substance Act.
4. Cultivation Hemp and marijuana are harvested for different purposes so, naturally, they require different growing conditions. Marijuana varieties are selectively bred in controlled environments which are designed to optimize the breed’s characteristics and produce female plants that yield budding flowers. To properly cultivate a marijuana or cannabis plant, a grower must pay close attention to the plant at each stage of its life cycle and maintain exact conditions in its environment, such as proper temperature, lighting, and humidity. In contrast, hemp is grown to maximize its size and yield. To achieve this, hemp is typically grown outdoors and does not require the level of control and attention that is necessary to grow marijuana.
Despite the dysfunctional use of the terms “hemp” and “marijuana,” these terms have become deeply ingrained in our culture and society. There is definitely a need to re-educate America about Hemp and Marijuana, but to reverse this issue, it will have to take time. While the subject can be a bit complex and quite confusing, I hope to have shed some light on this important subject and properly explain the difference between hemp and marijuana.