One of the major differences between hemp and marijuana is the THC level. THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is the component found in the cannabis plant that causes the state of euphoria, or “high,” after consuming marijuana. Hemp contains less than .3% of THC. Any cannabis plant that has .3% THC level and higher is considered marijuana. This means that hemp cannot get you high. Hemp plants produce more CBD (cannabidiol) than THC, while marijuana produces more THC than CBD. CBD is the component found in cannabis that is most used for medicinal purposes, like reducing swelling and nausea within the body. CBD actually counteracts the psychoactive effects of THC, which makes the distinction between hemp and marijuana even more transparent.
Due to its different genetic makeup, hemp and marijuana are generally used for different purposes, which leads us to #2 on our list.
Industrial vs. Recreational
Hemp is used for industrial and medicinal purposes, while marijuana is used more for recreational use. Hemp can be processed into many different products, such as: paper & cardboard products, clothing and fabrics, plastic and building materials, fuel, and nutrition. Hemp can also be processed into CBD products due to the higher level of CBD found within the plant. Marijuana is generally consumed to obtain that state of being “high.” Due to marijuana’s high level of THC, it is used for recreational purposes, such as hanging out with friends and lighting a doobie to chill out, or hitting the bong after a long day of work to blow off some steam.
Because hemp and marijuana are grown for different purposes, they require different growing conditions, which leads us to #3 on our list.
Hemp plants are primarily male, meaning they do not produce flowering buds at any stage in their life cycle. Hemp is grown tall and thin as a single main stalk with few leaves and branches, and it is densely planted to avoid flowering. Marijuana, on the other hand, is grown short, clustered, and bushy with many flowering buds and is planted with plenty of space between each plant.
Hemp has more sturdy and fibrous stalks, which is why it is ideal for producing industrial materials. Hemp is grown outdoors and planted very close together for max cultivation, unlike marijuana which is grown indoors to achieve maximum levels of THC. Marijuana is specifically bred to have high levels of THC. Growing marijuana in order to reach high levels of THC requires close attention to grow-room conditions. In order to achieve this, it is necessary to maintain stable light, temperature, humidity, CO2 and oxygen levels.
Although there are many differences between hemp and marijuana, one thing is certain—both plants have (and will) continue to change the world.