10 Key Differences between Hemp and Marijuana

difference between hemp and marijuana

The cannabis plant is a diverse species which has introduced a wide variety of different benefits to the world. The plant has been found to have dozens of medicinal uses and millions of different applications for the fibers and seeds. With that in mind, the two different applications of cannabis call for a completely different style of cultivation and production. Further, there is a huge difference between these species of cannabis known as marijuana and hemp. The largest distinction between these cannabis species can be seen from the farm-style hemp and the psychoactive drug known in pop culture as marijuana.

hemp and marijuana

Hemp for Victory

Although for many years, cannabis and hemp were treated as the same, we’ve seen examples where the need for hemp and it’s utility triumphed over cannabis prohibition. The best example is during world war II when the United States created a marketing campaign known as “Hemp for Victory” to promote the production of hemp for soldier’s uniforms, rope, and other utility. It was a short-lived moment for hemp as the government banned it again shortly after world war II.

21st Century

Decades later and with legalization sweeping across the country in the 21st century, the difference has become more important than ever. With many states legalizing hemp for production while keeping cannabis illegal, it creates a patchy regulatory framework to operate a business within. The law often differentiates the two cannabis-species based upon the percentage levels of THC in the plant. According to the government, cannabis with less than 1% THC present in its flowers constitutes hemp. The differences do not stop there either. With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at 10 key differences between hemp and marijuana.

marijuana and hemp

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1. Genetics

Genetically speaking there are three main types of cannabis today. The two most well-known types are the psychoactive ones known as cannabis indica or cannabis sativa. Hemp is a third type of cannabis which is referred to scientifically as cannabis ruderalis. Cannabis ruderalis will be higher in fiber and seed, as these are two of the main goods harvested from the ruderalis plant. Whereas, the psychoactive forms of cannabis are often grown especially for their flower or resin production. The psychoactive version of cannabis also stresses the absence of seeds from the final consumer-ready product.

2. THC Content

The actual difference between hemp and marijuana comes from the levels of THC in the plant. Many states and municipalities define hemp as a cannabis plant which has less than 1% THC in it. With these low levels of THC, regulators are simply not worried about the illegal consumption since the psychoactive component is so low. This can be a great benefit for producers who operate in a state which restricts cannabis but perhaps allows the industrial hemp to be grown instead.

3. Harvest

The cannabis varieties of indica and sativa often are harvested with extreme care. Usually, this entails a high amount of manpower to perfect the flowers before they go to a store for consumers. Hemp, on the other hand, can be produced and harvested with the use of machines in a more traditional agricultural manner. The hemp plants are not any more durable than their psychoactive cousins but the end product is not damaged with heavy machinery and therefore the cost savings harvest technique is justified.

4. Regulatory

As noted above, many localities restrict the production of cannabis indica or sativa through the continued drug war and prohibition of marijuana. Yet, in the United States, we’ve seen the rise in CBD oil, hemp oil, and other hemp products. There are also localities which allow for the production of hemp while still restricting traditional and psychoactive cannabis production. This creates odd opportunities in typically farm-oriented states to produce hemp for the many industrial applications it has.

5. Usage

The applications of hemp vary greatly with the hemp fibers being a great input for textiles. Further, the hemp seed has a plethora of nutritional value which can be added to different foods. Hemp can also produce the popular CBD oil. Although there are some benefits to hemp oil or CBD oil, the majority of the thought in the cannabis industry is that medical marijuana should have a decent amount of THC in it. This depends upon the ailment and patient but as a broad rule. These different applications are some of the best ways to compare the two species of cannabis and separate them from one another.

6. Portability

As with the production limitations placed on both hemp and more so the psychoactive cannabis plant, there are also limitations on the amount a person may carry with them. For hemp, this is almost non-existent since many of the applications of hemp rely on heavy industrial equipment to process them. On the other hand, cannabis sativa and indica though are both restricted in many parts of the country where they are legal to only a single ounce per user. Furthermore, cannabis sativa and indica remain illicit in many parts of the world, restricting the drug in any amount.

7. Growing Methods

The growing methods, similar in tune to the harvesting methods, stress the important functions of each plant in a post-harvest environment. Since hemp is grown for industrial use, that often means the plant will be processed into a finer good and thus the grow-cycle is not as important as the psychoactive forms of cannabis. With cannabis indica or sativa, the main goal is to produce a beautiful and trichomes packed flower or nugget. To make this happen growers will spend far more time, energy, and money to produce the psychoactive cannabis plants versus the non-psychoactive cousin, hemp.

8. Research

Both the hemp and cannabis indica and sativa varieties have all been heavily tested by researchers. Although most testing is restricted at the federal level for the plants, even federal cannabis research is starting to find its way into studies as legalization spreads around the country. Both varieties of cannabis still need more research to be completed as they come out of prohibition and into a regulated adult-use or medical marketplace.

9. Medical Benefits

CBD oil can be produced from both hemp or THC packed cannabis, both forms can provide medical value for patients depending upon their condition. There has to be more research on this topic in particular. However, there are promising signs for both industrial hemp and the psychoactive cannabis varieties of CBD oil. Either form of CBD oil may provide therapeutic value to patients suffering from a wide range of conditions. With this, we should expect to see more buzz around CBD oil and hemp oil as legalization spreads around the globe.

10. Availability

While the psychoactive form of cannabis remains illegal in many parts of the country and world, hemp is not impaired politically nearly as much as marijuana. You can find hemp products in your local grocery store with the hemp seed being packed with a high amount of vitamins to provide your body a healthy boost. While cannabis in it’s psychoactive form remains heavily regulated and illegal in nearly all countries around the world for even medical use. All and all creating a far more available product with regards to hemp compared to its cousin marijuana.

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