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Hemp vs Marijuana: What Is The Difference

Updated: Jul 14, 2020

Do you think that Hemp and Marijuana are the same? Or are you one of the individuals out there who have pushed to highlight their major differences? Either way, you are not alone. This is one of the most confusing subject matters out there. To understand the difference between hemp and miarjuana, you need to understand what Cannabis is, considering industrial hemp and marijuana come from the sub-family of plants of cannabis. You need to also go back in history to know that the term marijuana was non-existent, and that not until the name came about, did the confusion and misrepresentation of cannabis began.

Hemp and Marijuana History

cbd hemp

The history of hemp goes back thousands of years. In fact, the Cannabis plant is actually one of the world's oldest cultivated crops, with its origin going all the way back to the development of agriculture itself. Hemp was one of the first plants to be spun into a fiber. Evidence of this dates back 10,000 years to what is now known as Taiwan. Around 6000 BC, the Chinese began using hemp seed and its oil for food and progression to 200 BC saw rope made of hemp commonly used. As the Chinese were not content with stopping at making rope and cloth, they invented hemp paper. Soon, the Arabs learned this technique as well.

Archeologists believe marijuana's use goes back at least 12,000 years, originating in the area now known as Mongolia. However, seeds dating back to 3000 BC have also been found in Siberia and Parts of China. The oldest record of marijuana's medical use is said to be 4000 BC when the plant was used for its anesthetic properties. By 1000 BC, cannabis had made its way to the Middle East and India, where it was prized for its medicinal benefits.

"The Confusion"

As we experience historical events happening in the US and around the world today, it is quite fitting to acknowledge how hemp and marijuana are claiming their place in history once again. They share a common factor but they are different. Becuase of their common factor, they are again presented with controversial reputations and shifting legalities. it is important to understand the difference between hemp vs marijuana and their relation to the Cannabis plant family. Presenting the facts about the two and their differences can terminate the confusion and complications that this presents for users.

The intoxicating properties or non-intoxicating properties of each plant is important 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.

Let's consider the taxonomic hierarchy of fruits in the citrus species to give you a comparison.

Lemon, Lime, Orange, and Grapefruit are all Citrus (Genus) fruits. These citrus fruits are all from the same Rutaceae (Family). Even though they are from the same family and are all citrus, they are not the same fruity. Being all Citrus, lemon and limes are sour, oranges are sweet and grapefruits are tangy.

The same is the case in the classification of the hemp and marijuana plant. Hemp and Marijuana are both Cannabis (Genus) plants from the same cannabaceae (family), but they are different. Hemp has a high CBD content, while Marijuana typically has a high THC content.

To categorize Cannabis as either Hemp or Marijuana is to classify all fruits in the citrus genus as either sweet or sour, without acknowledging the diverse characteristics of each fruit. The classification of hemp or marijuana absent of a true understanding of cannabis presents a clear issue of function and has also led to issues with law enforcement due to the two appearing indistinguishable from one another in many instances. Examining the two in more depth would uncover the fact that the differences between the two are more profound than just their appearance.

One might say that it might have been better if these words were non-existent, however, they do exist and are deeply rooted in our society. At this point, it's about getting past the misinformation and ignorance, and moving forward to re-educate society about the two.

Key Difference Between Hemp and Marijuana

cbd hemp

Hemp and marijuana are varieties of the same plant species, however, they are very different. To understand their difference, consider these factors about them. Their appearance, cultivation, composition, and their uses.


It is difficult for many people to tell the difference between hemp vs marijuana after taking a quick glance. But if you take a closer look, you can notice the difference in the appearance of the two.

Hemp has thin leaves that are concentrated at the top. They grow tall and skinny with a few of its branches under its upper portion. Marijuana in comparison has broad leaves. Its buds are dense and the plant is short and bushy. If compared next to each other, their appearance would clearly set them apart.


One of the most significant differences between hemp and marijuana is the way they are cultivated, especially the environment. Hemp is grown very close to each other. So close that the distance between them is only four inches. It is produced in large multi-acre plots. With minimal care, it can take up to 15 weeks to 17 weeks to grow completely and is suited for all climates.

In comparison, a particular climate is needed for marijuana to grow. It requires a humid and warm atmosphere that is carefully managed for its growth to be "right". In a suitable environment, its growth can be completed in 9 to 13 weeks. Marijuana plants mature quicker.


The characteristic that defines hemp and marijuana is the chemical composition contained within each plant. Both can produce high amounts of CBD (the non-intoxicating compound), however, THC is produced at very different levels. To be classified as hemp, the plant cannot contain more than 0.3% THC by dry weight, whereas, marijuana can contain up to 30% THC content. Their composition makes them what they are.

Think of the plants like male and female. Hemp being male and marijuana being female. Both genders have testosterone and estrogen in their genetic composition. The difference in these levels is what causes one to grow male characteristics like facial hair or female characteristics like breast tissue growth.

In hemp vs marijuana plants, instead of testosterone or estrogen, their molecular structure depends on the ratio of CBD versus THC.


Hemp and Marijuana each offer usages which are unique to their composition.

Marijuana has a high THC content and gets its popularity due to its psychoactive effect. As a powerful psychoactive agent, THC can directly bind to the receptors in the brain, inducing the mind-altering, euphoric effects referred to as being high. While marijuana is recognized for its recreational uses, it also has medicinal uses.

In comparison, hemp is harvested to produce many crucial resources, including but not limited to:

cbd hemp

- Industrial products such as clothing, paper, and building material

- Food products such as cooking oil, hemp seed oil, and hemp flour

- Medicinal products such as CBD oil tincture, CBD gummies, and CBD topical products

Concluding Hemp Vs. Marijuana

The subject of Hemp vs Marijuana can be a bit complex and confusing. The intent of this writing is to explain the difference between the two. Hemp and marijuana are both different varieties fo the same plant, Cannabis Sativa L. But that is the only similarity they have. They are entirely different when it comes to their appearance, their chemical composition, what type of atmosphere they are grown in and how people use them.

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