Hemp vs Marijuana: Is There a Difference?

Over the last couple of years, CBD has hit the mainstream. You hear about from your health-savvy friends, the nightly news, and in magazine ads. You may have even noticed it on the shelves of your local supermarket or in your chiropractor’s office.


In 2016 Australia legalised the consumption of hemp. Now you will notice hemp derived products in your local markets and shops. The Hemp plant is rich in Phyto-Cannabinoids and the most widely known cannabinoid is Cannabidiol (CBD).


Why are hemp and marijuana treated in such different ways? It all comes down to one thing: marijuana can get you “high,” while hemp cannot.


With such an obvious distinction between marijuana and hemp, many people mistakenly assume that they are separate species. In fact, hemp and marijuana belong to the same genus and species, Cannabis sativa.

What Is Hemp and How Is it Different from Marijuana?


Even though hemp and marijuana are both the same species of plant, there are important ways in which they differ. Understanding these can help you navigate the cannabis market.

Chemical Composition: Hemp Won’t Get You High


In the United States, marijuana is defined as any Cannabis sativa plant that has greater than 0.3 percent THC. THC, short for tetrahydrocannabinol, is the primary psychoactive compound in cannabis. The more THC you consume, the more changes you will notice in your cognition and how you feel. In essence, THC gets you “high.”


Hemp plants are defined as any cannabis plant that has 0.3 percent or less THC. Even a plant with 0.4 percent THC would be classified as a marijuana plant, in spite of the fact that 0.4 percent isn’t going to have a noticeable psychoactive effect.



Legality: Thanks to the Hemp Act in Australia, Hemp Is Legal


Prior to the 1930s, there was no national stigma against the use of cannabis, and people used it in whatever ways they pleased. It was commonly used for the production of paper, clothing, and rope, as a herbal medicine, and as a recreational drug.


But following a pernicious smear campaign in the 1930s, public opinion began to change. This led to the passing of the Marihuana Tax Act in 1937, the first legal restriction of cannabis. In 1970, all cannabis plants and products became illegal under the Controlled Substances act of 1970 in America.


These restrictions killed cannabis agriculture in the United States. People were no longer able to grow cannabis plants for their fiber or medicinal benefits.


It wasn’t until the passing of the Farm Bill of 2014 in America that changes began to happen for hemp plants. This bill defined hemp plants as those with 0.3 percent or less THC and allowed for limited industrial hemp growth and research. However, it wasn’t until the passing of the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, also known as the 2018 Farm Bill, that hemp agriculture and products became legal in all 50 states. This increased legality is largely to thank for the rapid acceleration in diversity and availability of hemp-derived CBD oil.


Marijuana, on the other hand, is still categorized as a Schedule 1 drug. This means that any marijuana-derived product is considered illegal under federal law. However, states have the ability to legalize medical marijuana and recreational marijuana, which is why people who live in certain states have access to the therapeutic benefits of the marijuana plant, while those in other states do not.


What Are Hemp and Marijuana Used For?



For many thousands of years, humans have been selectively breeding cannabis plants. Some of these plants were bred for their medicinal and psychoactive potential. These are the plants now known as marijuana plants, or drug plants, thanks to their naturally-high THC content.


Other cannabis plants were bred for their fiber or seeds to be used for things like fabric and textiles, food, supplements, and body products. These cannabis plants are now classified as industrial hemp plants so long as their THC levels are low enough. Today, hemp is well-known for its use in the creation of CBD products.


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