Hemp and Marijuana: How are They Different? | Growers Choice Seeds

Hemp and Marijuana: How are They Different?

Nope, it is not just you. The difference between hemp and marijuana has stumped many over the years. The confusion likely dates back to 1970, when political leaders decided to group all forms of cannabis as a Schedule I Drug, thereby including hemp in the banning of these substances under the Controlled Substances Act. (source 1)

However, hemp is not the same as marijuana.

Let’s take a deeper dive into their many differences…

Uses for Marijuana Versus Hemp

As most of us probably know, marijuana is psychoactive cannabis that can be used for either recreational or medicinal purposes. Some states have legalized marijuana, but it remains illegal federally. 

Hemp, on the other hand, became legal in the US in 2018, through an amendment to the 2018 Farm Bill. (source 2) Hemp actually has a huge range of uses that are very different from marijuana’s uses, and this handy substance can also be purchased not only online, but also in many grocery stores and other businesses. Of hemp’s known 25,000 possible applications, (source 3) some of the uses that the average person might be more familiar with include:

  • Supplements
  • Clothing
  • Accessories
  • Skin Products
  • And many others

Despite these many (and in some cases quite obvious) differences, the government itself sometimes has trouble keeping hemp and cannabis straight, so it is no wonder that there continues to be a great deal of confusion on the issue.

Does Hemp Have Psychoactive Effects?

Lately, some people have actually started smoking pre-rolled cigarettes that contain hemp or purchasing buds of hemp that resemble buds of marijuana. While some find that hemp flower has the ability to give them an added boost of relaxation, smoking hemp will definitely deliver any psychoactive effects. CBD is present in hemp, but hemp has an extremely low amount of THC within it, which is the component of cannabis that gives off that “high” or potent psychoactive effect. (source 4)

Distinguishing Hemp from Marijuana

We’ve established that hemp and marijuana are different substances, though they were once grouped together and collectively banned. There are many different ways to distinguish between hemp and marijuana, including their appearance, their cultivation, and their chemical makeup.

Hemp and Marijuana: Chemical Makeup

Scientifically speaking, the main distinction between hemp and marijuana is in the composition of their chemicals, particularly in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). While most marijuana plants contain between five and twenty percent THC (with some as high as 25 to 30 percent), the maximum amount of THC that you’ll find in a hemp plant is 0.3%, which is why it is pretty much impossible to “get high” off of hemp. (source 5) And, as previously mentioned, hemp does contain CBD, which is responsible for some of its many benefits.

Hemp and Marijuana: Appearance

Appearance-wise, marijuana often does look quite a bit different from hemp. Hemp tends to have much skinnier leaves that often concentrate near the top of the plant. Marijuana, on the other hand, has broader leaves and a tight bud. When you look at both plants from a distance, marijuana can resemble a short, stout bush, while hemp can be skinny and get as tall as 20 feet!

Hemp and Marijuana: Cultivation

If you were to visit a marijuana farm and then a hemp farm, you would definitely be able to observe a large difference. Their growing environments are distinct, with hemp being grown as close together as four inches apart. Hemp is also grown in many different varieties, based on what the hemp is going to be used for, be it seed, fiber, or CBD. Marijuana, especially medical marijuana, is grown much further apart (as much as six feet between plants) and has a much shorter cycle of growth (60 to 90 days versus hemp’s 108 to 120 days). It is also worth noting that hemp and marijuana cannot be grown together.

Conclusion: Clearing up the confusion

Though they were once categorized in the same grouping of illegal substances, hemp is now legal in the United States and is very different from some forms of cannabis (particularly those that are extremely high in THC). Hopefully, this post has helped to clear up some of the confusion that has surrounded the difference between hemp and marijuana for decades. Growers Choice Seeds is a proud supplier of ungerminated cannabis seeds, many of which are also high in CBD, as well as others that are high in THC, and everything in between.


External References

  1. University of Southern California (USC). (2018). Overview of the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. Retrieved from the USC Environmental Health and Safety website.
  2. U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). (2018). 2018 Farm Bill. Retrieved from the USDA website.
  3. U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). (1995). Industrial Hemp in the United States. Retrieved from the USDA website.
  4. Mayo Clinic. (2022). “What are the benefits of CBD — and is it safe to use?” Retrieved from the Mayo Clinic website.
  5. U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA). (2024). Marijuana and cannabinoids. Retrieved from the USADA website.

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