Talking about hemp and marijuana as if they were one in the same is the equivalent of saying that you and your cousin should have identical eye colors, blood types, and thought processes.

Many people tend to use the terms hemp and marijuana interchangeably. However, they are two distinct plants with unique compounds that have individual reactions when introduced to the body. The only valid explanation for this seamless association is the fact that they both belong to the same botanical family.

Like you and your cousin, hemp and marijuana are individuals.

There are major differences between hemp and marijuana from a scientific and a legal standpoint. Before explaining just what those difference are, it is important to get an understanding as to where the plants came from, and how they came to be the hemp and marijuana we use in present day.


Hemp and marijuana are both derivatives of the Cannabis sativa plant family. One of the oldest domesticated crops in human civilization, all Cannabis sativa plants were used for a variety of reasons. Due to the crop’s sturdy texture it was suitable for fabric and rope. As time passed, other plants with similar characteristics were bred with Cannabis sativa, making the plant known today as hemp.

With the advent of cooking with fire, Cannabis sativa plants were heated, changing the composition of the plant. It was through this monumental breakthrough in the evolution of humans that early civilizations began to use Cannabis sativa plants to create oils that were used for cooking, as well as medicinally.

Through the growing use of Cannabis sativa, early ancestors to the human race began to notice that some strains of Cannabis sativa had psychoactive elements. Upon realization of Cannabis sativa’s euphoric effects, many early civilizations began to use these derivatives of Cannabis sativa for religious purposes, as well as some medical. Through breeding, the form of cannabis known today as marijuana was born.



What makes hemp and marijuana so closely related is their high levels of CBD (cannabinoids). There are over 60 different cannabinoid compounds that have been discovered by researchers. One of the most well-known is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

As early ancestors found, some strains of Cannabis sativa contain psychoactive properties. What gives the plant such unique qualities is the THC compound. The most remarkable difference between cannabis plants, hemp and marijuana, is the THC levels within the plants.

Due to early breeding practices implemented during the genesis of the hemp plant, there is a very small concentration of THC present in hemp. This is in thanks to early forms of what is now known as hemp being paired selectively with strands of Cannabis sativa that shared similar qualities.

Plants where THC is the main active cannabinoids are classified as marijuana. Typically, the concentration of THC in marijuana ranges from 5-20%, with premium blends maxing out upwards of 30%.

When all the other CBDs outnumber the THC levels in a strand of Cannabis sativa, they begin to lower the plant’s psychoactive ability. That serves as another stark difference between hemp and marijuana. Continued marijuana use amplifies the THC into the bloodstream, whereas hemp oils can actually lower THC levels in the system.


Although medical marijuana has become legal in many states throughout America, it is still illegal on a federal level. Therefore, in most states it is illegal to produce any form of cannabis. Due to concerns over THC levels, both hemp and marijuana are listed as Schedule I drugs in the Controlled Substances Act.
The growth of hemp was once outlawed within the United States. Now, 31 states allow hemp cultivation or have hemp pilot programs.

As slow of a journey as hemp production legalization has been in the United States, more than 30 countries cultivate the plant. Of these 30, China, Chile, and the European Union (EU) are the largest exporters of the crop. Although you cannot grow hemp yourself in every state of America, you are allowed to import hemp products into the country.

This is where THC levels come into play. Depending on the country’s limit on THC levels, hemp may become classified as marijuana in the eyes of a law. For instance, Canada puts a THC restriction of 0.3% on all hemp imports. Anything higher is considered marijuana.

This is a big difference between hemp and marijuana. While the importing of hemp is lax in a lot of other countries, the importation of marijuana is illegal in almost all. With the exception of a few countries, including Canada and Israel, medical marijuana is not widely recognized as a viable form of medicine due to its classification as a narcotic.


The last major difference between hemp and marijuana is how the plants are cultivated. Much like earlier generations went through extensive experimentations to create the strains of hemp and marijuana we are accustomed to today, this practice is still done to keep the two family member’s identities separate.
Hemp plants are primarily a male species. In order to breed the plants sans the flowering buds, hemp plants must be kept in areas that allow for tall, fast-growing plants that yield high stalks. That is why hemp is normally grown outdoors over acres of land.

Typically, hemp is grown close to other hemp plants, maxing out at about four inches apart. Hemp plants are versatile and can grow in a variety of climates over a 108-120 day period.

Cultivating marijuana is a far more meticulous endeavor than hemp. To create marijuana from a Cannabis sativa plant, you want to leave room for as much THC growth as possible over a 60-90 day cycle. During this time period, to grow medical marijuana, you must maintain stable lighting, humidity, and temperature.


You must also pay close attention to carbon dioxide and oxygen levels of the plant. Unlike hemp, marijuana does not benefit from being planted close together. For optimal results, try planting medical marijuana plants about six feet apart.

During this time period, it is important to keep hemp away from marijuana. As mentioned earlier, higher traces of CBD can negate the effects of THC. Therefore, hemp plants may hinder the growth of marijuana plants.

CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta – “Weed”

How To – “Grow Like a Pro”

Deep Purple – “Smoke On The Water”


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