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What is the Difference Between Hemp and Cannabis (A.K.A. Marijuana)?

Hemp and marijuana are two terms that are often used interchangeably, but they are not the same thing. The appropriate term to use in place of marijuana is Cannabis. Many people avoid the term Marijuana given its bigoted connotations due to anti-cannabis activists tying its use to immigrants to drive political momentum behind the war on drugs. While both plants belong to the same species, Cannabis sativa L., they have different properties and uses. In this blog post, we will explore the differences between Hemp and Cannabis.

Composition and Appearance

Hemp and Cannabis differ in their chemical composition and physical appearance. Cannabis is a plant that contains high levels of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the psychoactive compound responsible for the "high" experience associated with Cannabis use. On the other hand, Hemp contains very low levels of THC and high levels of CBD (cannabidiol), a non-psychoactive compound that has been shown to have potential therapeutic benefits without the “high”.

In terms of appearance, Cannabis plants are typically short, bushy, and have broad leaves. The buds of the plant are often covered in sticky resin and can vary in color from green to purple. In contrast, hemp plants are tall, with thin leaves and skinny stems. Hemp plants are often grown for their fiber, which can be used to make textiles, paper, and building materials.


Cannabis is primarily used for recreational and medicinal purposes. The high THC content of the plant is responsible for its psychoactive effects, which can produce a range of physical and psychological effects. Cannabis is often smoked or vaporized, but it can also be consumed in edibles or applied topically in the form of creams and lotions.

Hemp, on the other hand, has a wide range of uses beyond its potential therapeutic benefits. Hemp fiber is commonly used to make clothing, rope, paper, and building materials. Hemp seeds are a rich source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids and can be used in food products. CBD, which is extracted from hemp, has been shown to have potential therapeutic benefits and is used in a range of products such as oils, tinctures, and capsules.

Legal Status

The legal status of Hemp and Cannabis varies depending on the country and jurisdiction. In the United States, hemp was legalized for cultivation under the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018, also known as the 2018 Farm Bill. This bill removed hemp from the list of controlled substances and made it legal to grow and process hemp as long as it contains less than 0.3% THC.

Cannabis, on the other hand, is still considered a Schedule I controlled substance by the federal government, making it illegal to cultivate, distribute, or possess under federal law. However, several states have legalized it for medicinal and/or recreational use, and this trend is expected to continue in the coming years.

In summary, Hemp and Cannabis are two varieties of the Cannabis sativa L. plant that differ in their chemical composition, physical appearance, use cases, and legal status. Hemp contains low levels of THC and high levels of CBD and is primarily used for industrial purposes such as textiles, paper, and building materials. Cannabis, on the other hand, contains high levels of THC and is primarily used for recreational and medicinal purposes. Understanding the difference between these two plants is important for individuals who want to use cannabis products for specific purposes or for industries looking to incorporate hemp into their products.


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