Difference Between Hemp and Marijuana

What are the Differences Between Hemp & Marijuana?

Are you confused about hemp vs. marijuana? You’re not the only one. The two plants share more characteristics than differences. However, what they don’t have in common is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol or THC. Keep reading to learn more about the two popular plants.

Are Hemp and Marijuana the Same?

Hemp and marijuana are biologically the same plants. Hemp is a variety of cannabis sativa L. Both serve a wide range of purposes. But only one is non-intoxicating and federally legal—Hemp. 

The history of the plant goes back over 10,000 years. It’s one of the oldest cash crops in the world. Archeologists found evidence of people smoking cannabis sativa L. in the first millennium BCE in western China. Clearly, they were using hemp for more than fiber and nutrients. 


Before the 2018 Farm Bill passed, the only available hemp plants were imported and labeled for industrial use. Even the few states that allowed cultivation under the 2014 legislation grew industrial varieties. These plants didn’t resemble cannabis plants. 

With more individuals, farms, and brands growing premium hemp, the appearance has evolved with the products. Both plants produce large, round dense, or puffy flowers and emit strong aromas. The fragrances resemble marijuana because the botanicals share the same aromatic compounds, better known as terpenes, that produce various scents, flavors, and wellness benefits. 

That’s not all they have in common. The two plants have the same phytocannabinoids, terpenes, and chemical structures. What they don’t share is significant levels of THC.

Hemp Vs. Marijuana: THC Levels

The only difference between the two is how much THC and CBD each plant contains. Both have trichomes, which are microscopic hair-like growths on the stalk, stems, leaves, and flowers of the plants filled with cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, and other important phytonutrients.

Among the different phytocannabinoids are cannabidiol and delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or CBD and THC. These are the two most studied compounds in the hemp and cannabis plants. One’s known for the high it produces in significant quantities, and the other is nonintoxicating and safe for consumers at any life stage. 

Hemp contains a small amount of THC. Federal law requires the plant to have 0.3% THC or less. This is legal because it’s not enough to produce intoxicating results. Instead, hemp is a CBD-dominant plant. Most plants have between 13% and 24% CBD. Marijuana, on the other hand, is THC-dominant. Over the years, breeders have developed strains that yield as much as 30% THC. Over 100 years ago, when hemp and cannabis were relatively the same, scientists estimate the plants had less than 5% THC.

Uses for Hemp

Hemp is a multipurpose plant that offers dozens of uses. Historically, people have been using industrial-grade hemp for over 10,000 years to make clothing, linens, twine, paper, fuel, and building materials. In the 1500s, ships were dependent on hemp rope. It’s stronger than any other material, cheap to cultivate, and mold-and-mildew resistant.

King Henry VIII issued an official act requiring landowners to grow 1/4 acre of hemp. The plant was the most common material for clothing in Europe through the 1920s. When England colonized North America, hemp was also a required crop. It continued to be one of the most important cash crops on the continent until 1937, lumped with marijuana and criminalized.

Hemp is also a nutritious plant. The seeds, which contain no phytocannabinoids, terpenes, or flavonoids, are packed full of nutrients. Hemp seeds are nonintoxicating and don’t interact with the endocannabinoid system in the body, like phytocannabinoids.

They are ideal for increasing protein and fiber intake. It contains as much protein as soybeans or nearly 10 grams for every three tablespoons of seeds. The shells contain most of the seed’s fiber. Three tablespoons equal 1.2 grams of fiber. The seeds also offer all nine essential amino acids.

A significant nutrient in the seeds is essential fatty acids. They have an excellent balance of omega-3 and omega-6s. Additional benefits include the many minerals and vitamins hemp seeds contain. The seeds consist of

  • Vitamin E
  • Vitamin B
  • Potassium
  • Magnesium
  • Phosphorous
  • Iron
  • Zinc

The seeds do share one characteristic with phytocannabinoids. They have antioxidant effects. Many botanicals provide a defense against free radicals, which are responsible for illnesses and aging. Other benefits of hemp seeds include:

  • Nueroprotectant
  • Promote cardiovascular health
  • Encourage an anti-inflammatory response

You can add these to your diet legally. Many health food stores sell hemp hearts, which are deshelled seeds, and unprocessed seeds.

Uses for Cannabis

Cannabis offers many of the same uses as cannabis. There are only two main differences between the plants. Marijuana has intoxicating levels of THC, and hemp doesn’t. Hemp has significant CBD quantities, whereas 95% of cannabis strains (cultivars) have less than 1% CBD.

Patients with a medical recommendation use marijuana legally for certain conditions, such as potentially relieving nausea from chemotherapy and alleviating pain from cancer treatment, Parkinson’s disease, and other chronic pain conditions.

Little studies are available on cannabis seeds. However, because both plants are part of the Cannabis sativa L. variety, it’s a good guess they share the same characteristics. Seeds for both contain zero cannabinoids but plenty of nutritional value.

The legality of Hemp in the U.S.

Hemp and cannabis have two very different levels of legality in America. But that wasn’t always the case. Both were widely used and legal until 1937. The U.S. criminalized the plants in 1937 under the Marijuana Tax Act. It took nearly 82 years to overturn the discriminatory law. In 2018, Congress updated the Farm Bill. The 2018 Farm Bill explicitly covers all compounds in the hemp plant, including CBD.

“The term `hemp’ means the plant Cannabis sativa L. and any part of that plant, including the seeds thereof and all derivatives, extracts, cannabinoids, isomers, acids, salts, and salts of isomers, whether growing or not, with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis.”

Although states can enact legislation to regulate further or ban hemp and CBD, most see the potential for the all-natural products and allow the cultivation, distribution, sale, and use of the popular and legal botanical extracts.

Choose 100% federally legal hemp to improve your mood, lower stress levels naturally, soothe sore muscles and sleep better. American Hemp Oil offers premium hemp extracts infused in oils, gummies, capsules, and creams. Each product is cultivated carefully in nutrient-rich soil without harmful pesticides or synthetic fertilizers. American Hemp Oil infused items are the ideal addition to any wellness routine. 

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