Is Hemp the Same Thing as Marijuana?


As both hemp and marijuana increasingly become part of our nation’s dialog, misunderstandings and misrepresentations of the two are growing equally as common. Of course, we’re not completely at a loss for why that’s the case; for decades, US policies have conflated hemp and marijuana as one in the same, treating both as Schedule 1 drugs that face severe punishments. As the conversation about marijuana begins to change, many have also begun to turn to hemp for its many benefits, as well.

But, the question remains: Are marijuana and hemp the same?

In short, no. Even though marijuana and hemp are quite different in both effect and usage, they’ve been categorized together for so long that it’s easy to see the inherent confusion.

In this article, we’ll try to point out the key differences between hemp and marijuana, what each is, and why it’s important that hemp gradually sheds its unfairly negative association with marijuana and begins to shine according to its own benefits.

Hemp vs. Marijuana

What Is Hemp?

Firstly, hemp comes from the Cannabaceae plant family, which is the same as that of marijuana. But, hemp is different in that all recognized, legal hemp products contain less than 0.3 percent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is one of the cannabinoid chemicals and is responsible for giving users the classic “high” associated with marijuana.

Because hemp has such low THC levels, its uses vary wildly from those of marijuana. Hemp has, historically, been a vital ingredient for rope, clothing, food, and many other products across several industries. Beginning with the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937, hemp production (which used to be required of farmers in the decades before) decreased dramatically as its association alongside marijuana grew. This eventually culminated into the Controlled Substances Act in 1970, which classified both hemp and marijuana as Schedule 1 drugs. This effectively further damaged hemp’s reputation within the US, even as hemp’s usefulness was still recognized.

But, just late last year, President Trump signed into law the 2018 Farm Bill, which federally legalized hemp and hemp products’ cultivation, transportation, and distribution (again, as long as products contain less than 0.3 percent THC). At this point, we anticipate that the dialog surrounding hemp will once again change, but hopefully it’ll change for the better this time.

What Is Marijuana?

On the other hand, marijuana and the laws surrounding it are a bit more complex. It also comes from the Cannabaceae plant family, and some estimates suggest that there are thousands of varieties and strains (indica, sativa, or hybrids) of marijuana. Though the marijuana plant is similar to that of the hemp plant, because of its traditionally high levels of THC, most of its uses are reserved for medical or recreational purposes as opposed to textile or industrial functions.

Though THC levels in marijuana can vary significantly, it’s usually somewhere between five and 30 percent. It is precisely this THC quantity that produces the psychoactive effects often associated with “getting high.” But this is also often (and, erroneously, we might add) associated with all products from the cannabis family. Only those that have high enough quantities of THC produce these effects, which includes marijuana but does not include hemp.

Currently, there are about 38 states that have legalized marijuana in some capacity (whether medicinal, recreational, or both), with more considering laws in the future. At present, marijuana is still illegal on a federal level.

How Are They Similar?

In essence, the only similarity that hemp and marijuana have is that they both originate from the same plant family, Cannabaceae. But, their chemical makeup differs enough that comparing hemp and marijuana is like comparing oranges to lemons. These fruits may be similar, but they have numerous distinct qualities that make comparing them difficult; the same can be said regarding marijuana and hemp.

How Are They Different?

Obviously, the most noteworthy difference between hemp and marijuana is that hemp, containing THC levels lower than 0.3 percent (i.e., what federal law considers legal hemp), has no psychoactive effects on users at all. Marijuana, on the other hand – which often has much higher levels of THC – does produce psychoactive effects.

Because of this key distinction, hemp is mostly used for industrial purposes, which changes the way it’s cultivated. Marijuana, contrarily, is largely used for medicinal and recreational consumption, which means that its cultivation necessitates much more precision and conditioning.


Why It’s Important to Know the Difference

As we’ve pointed out, hemp and marijuana – despite having some similarities and belonging to the same plant family – are, indeed, very different. Confounding the two as one in the same is not only overly simplistic and unfortunate, but it’s also dangerous. Here’s why:

Hemp Has Many More Uses

When we regard hemp as the same as marijuana, we may miss out on some of the benefits that it can provide. Hemp products – which have been estimated to number over 20,000 – have a myriad of uses; by disallowing all hemp from the market or misjudging it for something it’s not, we may miss out on those benefits.

Hemp Does Not Give a “High”

Surely one of the most polarizing aspects of marijuana, despite its many useful effects, is the “high” that users feel. Again, this high is directly tied to THC and other cannabinoid chemicals’ interacting in the human body. This means that products not containing THC do not give the user any psychoactive effects. When we assume that hemp does this, it creates a layer of animosity that should not exist.

Currently, the Laws Are Different

At the moment, hemp is legal federally – provided that it falls under the 0.3 percent THC requirement.

Conversely, marijuana is only legal in select states and remains illegal federally. Understanding that hemp is viewed and treated differently under the law than marijuana is important, as possession of one or the other has different repercussions.

Additionally, now that hemp has been legalized federally, we expect there to be a growth in hemp cultivation and use in products around the nation. As a consumer, it’s wise to understand that hemp and marijuana have very distinct uses in this sense.

Interested in Learning More about Hemp?

If you’re interested in learning more about hemp and what its products might be able to bring into your life, look no further than The Hemp Doctor.

At The Hemp Doctor, we promise to provide only the best, safest, and purest hemp and CBD products available on the market. If you’re interested in learning more about hemp, how it differs from marijuana, and how you can use it in a variety of ways, contact us online today.