Hemp vs. Marijuana: What’s the difference?


Cannabis is a natural plant that has been growing around the world for thousands of years, used for food, textiles, and even medicinally since as early as 2737 B.C. (Time, 2009)

Scientifically speaking, cannabis refers to both hemp and marijuana.

Cannabis, just like many other plants, has a variety of species — each with a slightly different chemical makeup. The terms marijuana and hemp are, essentially, two names that we have assigned to distinguish a particular plant’s cannabinoid profile from another. (Read about the history of the word marijuana on Leafly.com) 

Cannabinoids are the compound abundantly found in cannabis that supports our endocannabinoid systems. While there are over 100 different therapeutic cannabinoids found in cannabis, THC is the compound responsible for producing the “high” we hear so much about.

Every cannabis plant is likely to have some amount of all cannabinoids, but what distinguishes hemp from marijuana is its level of THC. In order to be defined as hemp by our government, the plant must contain less than .3% THC — making it impossible to get “high” from it  (National Conference of State Legislatures, 2017). As a point of reference, marijuana typically contains between 5-10% THC.

While it’s been legal to import hemp products from other countries for years, The Farm Bill (2014) made it legal for states to set up their own hemp cultivation laws in the United States. 

Both marijuana and hemp have been used therapeutically.

While new research (US News, 2017) is uncovering an array of health benefits of THC, we are also finding that CBD, a completely non-intoxicating cannabinoid found in both hemp and marijuana, has benefits as well. 


Since CBD is found in hemp, there are many companies now creating CBD products that have been extracted from hemp grown for medicinal purposes.

While the FDA prohibits these companies from making health claims, there is a growing collection of testimonials from individuals who have experienced the benefits of CBD first-hand, many reporting that it has helped them with chronic pain, anxiety, epilepsy, drug withdrawals, cancer, and more (Medical News Today, 2017).

Learn more about the differences between THC and CBD here.


This article was first published on Hempsley

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