Hemp Vs. Marijuana: What’s the Difference?

Hemp vs Marijuana

discussions regarding their use and benefits as well as legality. The truth is that people often confuse these two plants and even use them interchangeably. Hemp and marijuana are not the same. So, to set everything clear, here is an overview of hemp vs marijuana.

What Is Hemp?

You have probably heard about hemp and its benefits. Well, with the rapid use of cannabidiol products, you are bound to come across this term often. Hemp is a cannabis variety that contains less than 0.3 percent of THC. It’s a non-intoxicating form of the cannabis plant. Industrially, hemp is cultivated because of its numerous medicinal benefits. Clinical evidence suggests that it can help to manage symptoms of various diseases.

What Is Marijuana?

Marijuana is a cannabis variety that has more than 0.3 percent of THC. There are some varieties that have up to 30% THC. It normally produces a euphoric or psychotropic effect. Marijuana is mostly used for fun and entertainment. However, it may also provide users with therapeutic effects. Marijuana is available in many forms including the indica and sativa varieties.

Differences between Hemp and Marijuana

Now you know the difference between hemp and marijuana, right? Well, there are still other factors that make them different. Below is an overview of the legality, appearance, and composition of hemp vs marijuana.


The legality of hemp and marijuana is highly confusing. But whether you are a newbie or a veteran user, you need to understand these laws to be on the safe side. What makes it challenging is that these two plants belong to the cannabis family.

But let’s make everything clear. These two plants have different THC levels hence they are different laws that apply to them. For instance, marijuana is still a controlled substance. This means that under the Controlled Substance Act, it’s federally illegal. However, each state has different laws on marijuana. There are states where marijuana is legal for medicinal usage. Additionally, there are others where it’s legal for both medicinal and recreational use. Lastly, there are states where using marijuana is still illegal. But regardless of the state laws, it’s still a controlled substance federally.

Although hemp was previously illegal, it is now legal. This is after the Controlled Substance Act of 1970 that was applied to it was removed. Under the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018, hemp is now legal federally. However, it needs to have less than 0.3 percent of THC. But even with its federal status, this doesn’t mean that hemp products are legal in all the 50 states. Not all states have outlawed the use of hemp.


These two plants don’t have the same appearance. Marijuana plants are bushier and shorter. Well, what causes this is the high amount of THC. Readers need to know that high amounts of THC usually accumulate near the flowers of marijuana plants.

On the other hand, industrial hemp definitely has low amounts of THC. Most people cultivate it for its fiber that is mainly found in the stalks. So, hemp plants are usually taller and skinnier.

Chemical Makeup

Both marijuana and hemp are cannabis plants. But this doesn’t mean that they have the same chemical composition. As a matter of fact, their chemical makeup is completely different. Marijuana is THC-rich cannabis. It is said that marijuana has around 5 to 20 percent THC. But there are still other strains that have up to 30 percent THC content.

Meanwhile, hemp has only trace THC content. This amount is usually less than 0.3%. The chemical makeup of hemp indicates that it has high CBD content. Comparing it to CBD, it’s not uncommon to find that marijuana plants have less than 1% THC. With its less THC content, it’s not possible for hemp to get you high.

It should be noted that the chemical composition of hemp vs marijuana determines their effects. It’s important to state that most hemp plants mostly belong to the cannabis indica variety. On the other hand, marijuana plants belong to the Cannabis sativa variety. As a sativa, marijuana’s effects are usually uplifting and energetic. Meanwhile, the effects of indica are relaxing and calming.


We understand that both hemp and marijuana have different chemical components. This means that they are also grown differently. For starters, cultivating marijuana successfully is a demanding process. This is because the plants normally need a stable and well-controlled climate.

Marijuana needs a humid atmosphere and a generally warmer environment. This plant, however, has a much shorter growth circle. It normally takes between 60 and 90 days for it to mature, depending on the strain. These short and bushy plants need to be grown at least 6 feet apart.

Meanwhile, hemp plants can thrive in various climatic conditions. However, the plants usually have longer growth circles compared to marijuana. This usually ranges between 108 days and 120 days. The ability of hemp to grow in multiple climatic conditions is the numerous varieties. Note that there is hemp for fiber, seed, and CBD.

What are Hemp and Marijuana Used For?

Due to its nature, marijuana has a limited usage. It’s mainly used for recreational activities. This is because it produces high feeling. However, there are those that use it medicinally. This is because marijuana has potential therapeutic benefits.

On the other hand, hemp has lots of uses. Previously, people use its fibers to make sails for ships. Besides that, the fibers were also great in making clothes. Seeds from the hemp plant are rich in nutrients. This means that you can use them to enhance general wellness.


Both CBD (cannabidiol) and THC (Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) come from cannabis sativa plants. Although these two compounds are the most popular, they have different characteristics. THC, for instance, is psychoactive. This means that it has the ability to produce a high feeling. THC normally alters the way the mind functions. Meanwhile, CBD is nonpsychoactive. It doesn’t alter the way the mind function and it has lots of medical properties.

RELATED: CBD vs THC: What’s the Difference?

Hemp-Derived CBD vs. Marijuana-Derived CBD

There is a big difference between hemp-derived and marijuana-derived CBD. For instance, CBD from hemp plant usually contains a lower level of THC. In addition to that, the hemp plant usually has higher quantities of CBD. On the other hand, CBD from marijuana has high amounts of THC. It’s for this reason that it’s sometimes called cannabis oil.

Final Thoughts

From the above overview, it’s clear that hemp and marijuana are distinct plants. Marijuana has high THC content and low amounts of THC. The vice-versa applies to the hemp plant. It’s also worth noting that their legality can be confusing. If you want to use either hemp or marijuana, then simply make sure that you understand the federal laws as well as state laws in regards to their use.



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