• Meredith Gray

Cannabis Confusion

Are hemp and marijuana one and the same? What is Cannabis? What plant does my CBD come from?

Questions like these are piling up in our inbox constantly, and I'll admit, finding upfront answers can sometimes be like finding a needle in a haystack. Search these questions on google and you may spend hours piecing together various responses from conflicting sources to get your answer.

In order to educate and empower consumers everywhere, we've gotta clear up this confusion and provide you with some basic facts!

The photo above shows two different plants that look a heck of a lot alike. You'd probably bet they're of the same species- and they are- but one is federally compliant hemp and the other, what most would refer to as a "marijuana" plant. Can you guess which is which?

The hemp plant is pictured on the left and the "marijuana" plant, on the right. These two plants are quite different! However, both are varieties of the same plant genus- Cannabis- and species- Cannabis Sativa L. There are two subspecies- Cannabis Indica and Cannabis Ruderalis- what we refer to as "marijuana" can be either Sativa, Indica, or a hybrid. Hemp, on the other hand, is solely a member of the Sativa species.

Although "marijuana" is not a technical term, it is the term I'll use in this article to refer to Cannabis plants that are not classified as hemp.

Chemical Composition

Perhaps the largest difference between the hemp plant and the marijuana plant is the chemical makeup found in each plant. If you've been following our blog postings, you'll be familiar with the term "phytocannabinoids". These are compounds are found in the cannabis plant- two of which are CBD (cannabidiol) and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). Both hemp plants and marijuana plants can produce CBD and THC, but the difference is that they produce these phytocannabinoids at different concentrations.

Hemp is defined as any varieties of the Cannabis plant that contain 0.3% or less THC content by dry weight. Marijuana is what we define as varieties of the Cannabis plant that contain more than 0.3% THC.

THC is the phytocannabinoid famously responsible for the "high" that is associated with marijuana. So, the effects experienced from the use of these two plants will be quite different. Although levels of CBD will also differ in the two plants (both plants are capable of producing high CBD levels), the levels of THC are a more defining characteristic here.


Another difference between the hemp and marijuana plant has to do with the cultivation of the crop itself. Although we've seen just how similar the flowers can look, there are also a few key differences. Hemp is extremely sturdy and has an abundance of uses ranging from industrial (paper, clothes, building material) to food (hemp seeds, flour) and as we already know, medicinal purposes. Because of the sturdiness of this crop, it can be more densely planted and thrives easier outdoors. Marijuana, on the other hand, is typically grown indoors under very close supervision. It appears shorter and bushier while hemp appears taller and more branched out. When it comes to growing marijuana, usually the male plants are removed from the grow to prevent pollination and seed set. This is because unfertilized female marijuana plants produce more THC- a compound important to medical and recreational users. These are just some basic differences in the cultivation of the two crops. Let's look at one more important variance- are they legal??


Under the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, commonly known as the 2018 Farm Bill, hemp and hemp-derived products have been removed from the Controlled Substances Act and are now federally legal. Marijuana, or Cannabis plants and derived products containing more than 0.3% THC are still federally illegal underneath the Controlled Substances Act. This means that compliant CBD products are legal. Earlier I mentioned that CBD can be extracted from marijuana plants. The catch here is that this marijuana-derived CBD is not federally legal. Only "hemp-derived" products are legal under current legislation.

But, if you're in a state that allows medical and recreational use of marijuana and you stroll into a dispensary, all of the products contained inside will be marijuana-derived.

So, both plants are "Cannabis", and they're the same species, but there are notable differences between the two that are important to be aware of. If searching for a hemp-derived CBD product, you'll want to be careful and choosy when making your decision. In an unregulated industry, there are so many ingenuine products floating around. Knowledge is power!

As always- feel free to drop your comments/questions/opinions.

Credits to Industrial Hemp Farms for the crazy hemp photo!

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