Differences between Marijuana and Hemp

Marijuana Leaf

Hemp and CBD is a hot topic at a current, and it's important to have a clear understanding of the differences between hemp and marijuana.

Both hemp & marijuana are members of the same genus, Cannabis, and the same species, Cannabis sativa.
We first need to take a look at the cultivars (subtypes) of the cannabis plant. Cultivars are types of plant species that are bred for different purposes. There are three types of cannabis cultivars, namely:

  1. Cultivars grown mainly for industrial usage, with larger stems and fewer branches
  2. Cultivars grown mainly for seeds, which can be eaten raw or pressed into hemp oil
  3. Cultivars grown mainly for the active cannabinoids in their buds, to be used either for medicinal or recreational purposes

So, are the first two hemp, and the third cannabis? Not quite.

What Is The True Distinction Between Hemp And Cannabis?

Legally defined, it's all about the THC concentration present in the plant. In North America, hemp is defined as cannabis plant with THC levels of lower than 0.3%. In the EU, hemp is defined as cannabis with lower than 0.2% THC & even 0.05% THC in a few countries. European Industrial Hemp Association (EIHA) has called for these rates to be standardised to ensure fair competition.

So basically, hemp is just cannabis with less THC? Unfortunately, it's a bit more complicated than that.

Let's have a look at the differences.

Hemp Plants

Hemp Plant

Hemp plants, especially those grown for industrial purposes, tend to be taller with skinny leaves, thick stems and fewer branches. Industrial hemp can be grown close together, with some varieties as close as 10 cm, over their growth cycle of 108 - 120 days. The plant tends to be grown in large, austere industrial plots.

Marijuana Plants

Marijuana Plant

Marijuana plants tends to be short and 'stalky' with a lot of branches and a profusion of small leaves and heavy buds. It's a higher maintenance plant than hemp and requires a more gentle touch. Marijuana tends to be grown in a warm and carefully controlled environment, where each plant gets at least a metre of space. The growth cycle of marijuana tends to be 45 - 90 days. If a marijuana plot is exposed to hemp pollen, the whole crop could be destroyed.

So, Where Does CBD Come In?

Well, once again we need to recognise the word 'hemp'. Technically, cannabis bred to produce high-CBD flowers for medicinal use would be considered hemp if its THC levels are kept below the legal limits. Yet, these plants would show far more resemblance towards marijuana plants than they would to industrial hemp. 

As CBD recently became a hype, some industrial hemp producers are extracting CBD from leftover material and label it 'CBD oil'. These products are generally considered to be of lower quality- with reduced concentrations, and higher risk of contamination- than CBD oil harvested from plants specifically grown for medicinal use.

So, What's The Difference Between CBD Oil & Hemp Oil?

Is hemp oil the same as CBD oil? No.
Oil from hemp is cold-pressed from cannabis seeds, while CBD oil must be extracted from the flowers. Hemp oil does not contain CBD, but still does contain a lot important health benefits & vitamins- such as a high amount of vitamin E, which has been shown to have anti-ageing properties.

A great way of combining multiple benefits of the cannabis plant is to try out CBD-infused hemp oil.

Why Is It Important To Know The Difference Between Marijuana And Hemp?

It all comes down to politics. Historically, hemp has been criminalized due to its association with marijuana, even though it lacks the psycho-activity for which marijuana was prohibited. Criminalizing marijuana for making people high was an absurd decision, but criminalizing hemp was downright illogical.

Fortunately, as people are becoming aware cannabis is advancing at a paid pace across the world. It's just a matter of time to happen globally.

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