Hemp vs Marijuana 

is there a difference?
hemp vs Marijuana
On This Page:

Hemp vs Marijuana: Similar, But Not the Same

Hemp and marijuana are both strains of Cannabis Sativa plant. But, while there are an abundance of similarities, there are also significant differences. We'll discuss...
scales of justice pictured on court room desk

Marijuana Contains More THC than Hemp

One important difference between hemp and marijuana has significant legal ramifications. Hemp is defined as cannabis containing less than 0.3 percent of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and has no (psychoactive) effects. In other words, hemp can't get you high. Conversely, marijuana is defined by law as cannabis containing more than 0.3 percent THC. This simple description makes it fairly cut and dry from a legal perspective.

The 2018 Farm Bill cleared the path allowing for hemp's removal from the controlled substance list. This departure from past prohibition policy legalizes hemp nationwide. The sale of marijuana has been legalized in many but not all states. transporting marijuana into states where it has not been legalized is still a crime.

Hemp Contains More CBD than Marijuana  

Cannabidiol (CBD) is frequently used to help ease anxiety or pain. Like THC, it is found in both marijuana and hemp. But, while marijuana has more THC, hemp contains more CBD. In and of itself, CBD's have no intoxicating effects and are widely viewed as safe and effective. It's important to note, CBD derived from marijuana must contain less than 0.3 percent THC. Higher amounts will fail to meet federal standards. All hemp, by its legal definition, inherently meets this requirement.

Hemp vs Marijuana: Differences in Appearance

At first glance, hemp and marijuana look quite similar. A closer inspection reveals some subtle, but tell-tale visual differences. Yet, the only way to 100% confirm the identity of either is to test THC levels in a lab. Even trained professionals sometimes have trouble  telling hemp from marijuana visually. A truck driver in Texas spent a month in jail after being arrested for allegedly transporting a large cargo of marijuana. As it turns out, the contents in the truck were 3,350 pounds of legal hemp. While lab testing is the definitive way to identify hemp from marijuana, we've listed some typical visual differences. 
hemp growing tall on farm

Hemp Plant Appearance 

Hemp plants are bred to grow tall and thin. This results in longer stalks from which valuable industrial fibers are obtained. Hemp typically has thinner leaves and smaller buds than marijuana. While there are differences, sometimes, it is still hard to differentiate one from another.
marijuana crop growing on farm

Marijuana Plant Appearance 

Marijuana grows shorter with bushier foliage than hemp. Of course, wider, fuller leaves offer a more bountiful harvest for this crop. Marijuana buds are typically larger than those on hemp. While buds on both plants are predominantly green, hemp buds will often have small shades of red or purple .

Marijuana vs Hemp: What are They Used For?

While marijuana and hemp come from the same cannabis species, they are used for vastly different purposes. This is primarily due to THC and CBD levels contained in either plant. Hemps stalks also add an extra layer to their marketability. They provide strong durable fibers used in a variety of industries. We'll break down how each plant is used today.

What is Marijuana used for? 

Marijuana usage can be broken down into two main categories, recreational and medical. As of November 2023, only Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma do not have any type of cannabis access program. 24 states regulate cannabis for recreational use. 38 states have provisions for medical use of cannabis products. As restrictions loosen and public perception changes, expect these numbers to increase.
  • Recreational Marijuana - Those partaking in recreational marijuana report feeling relaxed, more creative and even happier when under the influence. Yet, negative side effects like anxiety or confusion are also known to occur. Marijuana can be smoked, eaten or even brewed as tea. But, no matter your preference, marijuana usage should be limited to responsible adults.  
  • Medical Marijuana - Laws regarding medical marijuana usage vary by state. Many have special provisions for qualifying conditions like Glaucoma, Alzheimer's disease or chronic pain. While medical marijuana is still in its infancy, early results show great promise and warrant more research.

What is Hemp used for?

The Federal decriminalization of hemp has jump started a nationwide industry trend. Unlike marijuana, hemp is no waste crop. The entire plant is used for a wide range of eco-friendly products.
  • Industrial Hemp - The outer portion of hemp stalks are used to produce building products, fabrics, paper and eco friendly plastic substitutes. The soft inner portion is often used for biofuel. 
  • Cosmetic Industry - Hemp seeds are used to manufacture soaps, shampoos and moisturizers. Some skin creams made from hemp seeds are also believed to benefit eczema, dermatitis and dry skin conditions.
  • CBD Products - Cannabidiol, AKA CBD, contains no THC and has no psychoactive effects. CBD extracted from hemp is used to treat chronic pain, anxiety and inflammation. Popular methods of utilizing CBD products include gummies, oils and topical creams. Consult a physician before using CBD products. While generally considered safe and effective, CBD's are known to react negatively with some prescription medicines.
linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram