A majority of people, especially in countries where all forms of cannabis are illegal, have a hard time differentiating between the terms cannabis, marijuana and hemp, so much so that they almost use them interchangeably. Of course, this isn’t really the case. Thus, we have jotted down all the differences between these confusing terms so that you never make the mistake of using the wrong term again.
Cannabis vs Marijuana vs Hemp
Cannabis is a family of plants, comprising of two major classifications viz. Indica and Sativa.
Marijuana can be derived from either of the two but hemp can only be obtained from the Sativa plant. This implies that both marijuana and hemp can be derived from the Sativa plant. So they share similar properties; however, owing to each plant’s biological structure, they have a few very distinct and crucial differences.
How to differentiate between Marijuana and Hemp with the naked eye
Hemp and marijuana may look similar to a novice. However, once you learn what to look for, you are good to go.
Marijuana boasts broad leaves, dense buds and a short, bushy appearance. In striking contrast, hemp features skinny leaves that are concentrated towards the top of the plant. The latter also grows taller and skinnier than Marijuana, with few branches underneath its upper portion.
Differences in composition
Cannabis contains over 85 confirmed and around 30 not-so-certain cannabinoids. However, of this enormous list, the two that have been studied in detail and are already a part of the medical industry are- cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
CBD, the ‘protagonist’ of the medical cannabis industry, is the one with non-psychoactive properties and numerous health benefits. This compound is in fact not just limited to medicines as it can now be found everywhere from food to drinks.
THC, on the other hand, is the cannabinoid that makes you ‘high’ every time you smoke a joint.
While marijuana is abundant in THC, with concentrations ranging between 6%-30%, hemp contains as low as 0.3% THC. This low quantity of THC in hemp makes it the ideal choice for industrial purposes.
Notably, marijuana with high quantities of THC is also known as Skunk, especially in the United Kingdom.
These days, a lot of marijuana is grown indoors in a controlled environment- stable light, temperature, humidity, CO2 and oxygen levels. The indoor yield ensures easy, high THC percentages.
Hemp, on the other hand, is generally grown outdoors.
Legal aspects of Marijuana and Hemp
THC is the component that widely decides the legality of cannabis across the globe. Each state, country or region has varying laws in terms of the usage, transportation, sales and cultivation of marijuana and hemp.
In the United States, the quantity of THC for hemp to be legal is set at 0.3%. However, in most of the other parts of the globe, the bar is set at 0.2%. Since hemp is very low in THC, its possession doesn’t bring harsh legal consequences in most parts of the world.
Marijuana is a different story altogether owing to its high THC content. In the United States, marijuana is federally illegal. However, despite that, as many as 33 states and District of Columbia (DC) have legalized it for medical purposes and 10 states allow it for recreational use. But the marijuana that is medically prescribed is more about CBD and less about THC. Though the THC may be varied depending on the kind and severity of the condition it is being prescribed for.
Uses & Ways of consumption
Marijuana is, of course, cultivated because of its psychoactive properties irrespective of whether it is supposed to be used medically or recreationally. It can be consumed via a number of ways- smoking, vaping, ingesting, injecting, etc.
Hemp, though, can’t come in handy when it comes to recreation. Therefore, it is primarily used in industries, as it is capable of producing hundreds of crucial resources, like paper, building materials, food, clothing, biofuel, products, oils, etc.
Don’t think that hemp is just limited to industries. It can also be used for medical purposes, say for manufacturing a wide variety of THC-free CBD products.
How Hemp got grouped with Marijuana
It all started in the year 1970 when the then President of the United States, Richard Nixon, declared a war against drugs. As a result, the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 was signed into law and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) was brought into force.
The Controlled Substances Act clubbed marijuana with all types of cannabis and was made illegal to grow in the US. So, the law unintentionally outlawed hemp, which is often regarded as one of the world’s oldest domesticated crop. This didn’t only ‘kill’ hemp, but also led to a widespread misconception about the plant.
So there you have it! We hope that now you’ll wisely choose the term when talking about the cannabis family and its members.