The differences between cannabis, hemp and marijuana

What are the differences between hemp and marijuana

With CBD (Cannabidiol) being a popular topic of discussion in the UK, we’ve seen a lot of confusion regarding the differences between cannabis, hemp and marijuana.

Unfortunately, misinformation has caused the distinction between these 3 terms to become unclear and so they’re often used interchangeably.

So we’ve written this easy guide to clear up any misconceptions and answer any questions you might have about the distinctive differences between hemp and marijuana.

What is Cannabis?

Cannabis is a natural flowering plant that has two species; Cannabis Sativa and Cannabis Indica.

What is hemp?

Hemp, or industrial hemp, is a variety of the Cannabis Sativa plant species. It tends to be found in the northern hemisphere and is grown specifically to make products to be used industrially.

Hemp naturally contains high levels of CBD but only trace amounts of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol - the psychoactive cannabinoid that makes people feel "high").

Hemp is used for a wide variety of applications that marijuana couldn’t be used for including food supplements, clothes, skin products and jewellery. 

Most CBD products on the market tend to use CBD that’s been extracted from hemp rather than marijuana. This is because it naturally contains only trace amounts of THC and laws allow for the legal cultivation, processing and selling of hemp and hemp products.

What is marijuana?

Marijuana is a variety of both the Cannabis Sativa and Cannabis Indica plant species.

Marijuana contains high levels of THC and CBD so it tends to be used for recreational and medicinal purposes.

The key differences between hemp and marijuana

Hemp Marijuana
Is it cannabis? Yes Yes
Chemical makeup High CBD and Low THC (<0.2%) High CBD and High THC (5%-30%)
Is it pychoactive? No Yes
Is it legal in the UK? Yes No
Cultivation Grown outside and is adaptable to most climates Typically grown inside and requires a carefully controlled environment
Applications Food, jewellery, shoes, plastic, skin products, paper, clothes, and thousands of other applications Recreational and medical use only

The difference in appearance between hemp and marijuana

Whilst both plants might look fairly similar upon first glance, there are some significant differences to their appearance that become clear when you compare them side by side.

Marijuana has broad leaves, dense buds and has a short, bushy appearance. Whereas, hemp has skinny leaves that are concentrated at the top of the plant, few branches beneath its upper portion, and grows taller and skinnier than marijuana.

The difference in chemical makeup between hemp and marijuana

The significant difference between the two plant’s chemical makeup is the amount of THC that’s present.

Marijuana tends to have anywhere from 5-30% THC content depending on the strain and quality. In contrast, hemp only contains a maximum of 0.2% THC content.

It’s impossible to experience any psychoactive effects from hemp because the THC levels are so minimal and because hemp contains high levels of CBD that is well known to counteract the psychoactive effects of THC.

The different uses of hemp and marijuana

Hemp is used to make a wide variety of products including food supplements, rope, shoes, clothes, paper, plastic, biofuel, jewellery, beauty products and insulation.

Due to its high THC content, and thus psychoactive properties, marijuana is only used for recreational and medicinal purposes. Marijuana can be smoked, inhaled, and ingested through various methods and products including edibles, capsules, and vaporisers.

The difference in farming hemp and marijuana

Marijuana and hemp require very different cultivation environments to grow successfully.

Hemp is grown outside in large lots spanning multiple acres. The plants are grown close together (approximately 4 inches apart) and can grow up to 20ft. Its growing cycle tends to last between 108-120 days.   

On the other hand, marijuana tends to be grown inside because it requires a controlled and carefully regulated environment to survive. Marijuana grown specifically for medicinal purposes can’t be too close to other marijuana plants so they are grown approximately 6 feet apart. Its growing cycle tends to last between 60-90 days.   

Marijuana can’t be grown with or near hemp plants because the pollen from the hemp would dilute the levels of THC present, ruining the psychoactive properties of marijuana.

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