Hemp vs. Marijuana vs. Cannabis Explained


The growing popularity of the CBD, Hemp, and Marijuana have brought attention to the cannabis plant. With many different products, figuring out the difference between the words hemp, marijuana, and cannabis can get rather confusing.

What exactly is Cannabis? Are Marijuana and hemp the same thing? What about CBD, do both hemp and marijuana have CBD in them, what about THC?

If you want to get a better understanding of the differences between hemp, marijuana, and cannabis keep reading – we will explain it all in plain English.

Cannabis, Hemp, and Marijuana Compared

No, Hemp and Marijuana are not all the same, but they do come from the same plant, cannabis. Hemp and Marijuana are two varieties of cannabis that look similar, but have varying levels of THC and CBD. Much like lemon and lime trees, telling the cannabis varieties apart can be difficult at first.

When you’re talking about cannabis-related products, there are going to be some key differences depending on whether the item is made from hemp or marijuana. Here are the major differences between the three:


Cannabis is the name of the plant that hemp and marijuana both come from. In fact, there are two identified species of cannabis and one that is still up for debate. These three are C. indica, C. sativa, and possibly C. ruderalis. Saying a product is made from cannabis can be a blanket term, and you should investigate the ingredients further.


Hemp comes from only the C. sativa and has a low concentration of THC, less than .03%. Hemp is generally legal to cultivate in the USA, and has become incredibly popular over the last years. Hemp does contain large quantities of CBD, and hemp fibers are great for making products such as rope. It’s also legal nationwide.


Marijuana also isn’t made from the whole marijuana plant. Marijuana comes from the flower, stem, and leaves of the marijuana plant and needs to have over .03% THC to not be considered hemp. While marijuana is used for recreational use, it doesn’t have quite the product range that hemp does. In most places in the United States, marijuana for recreational and medicinal use is illegal, at least for now.

Hemp vs. Marijuana in History

Even history has strong proof that hemp and marijuana are different plants with different uses. Below we take a look at both hemp and marijuana’s individual history. Both of the plants used to be grown all over the world and had various uses to our ancestors.

The History of Hemp

Hemp is actually debated to be the very first crop that was grown by early man. We know that hemp has been grown and used for both food and tools for over 10,000 years. Evidence has proven that hemp was used from around 8,000 BC onwards. In America, hemp was heavily cultivated and used to produce basic necessities, such as clothes for the colonists. Even the first president George Washington was involved with growing the plant. We were even forced by Britain to up hemp productions when America was still a colony.

The History of Marijuana

The original purpose of Marijuana was as a medicinal herb, and its recreational effects weren’t discovered until later on. Records have shown that the use of marijuana likely began sometime around 500 BC. There is also evidence that marijuana was commonly used in religious ceremonies since ancient times. It wasn’t until 800 AD that the plant was documented to be commonly used for recreation. By the 1800s, some doctors found that Marijuana could help people with various issues, and the plant began to be sold in pharmacies.

When Did History Collide?

While the crops have always looked similar to some people, they have had many different uses throughout history. From what we can tell, after discovering that hemp had some recreational use, the crops was crossbred to give you a stronger high. When the pot prohibition era hit, the plants started to be looked at under the same light, even though they are two completely different varieties. The anti-cannabis movement didn’t distinguish between hemp and marijuana, eventually getting both crops outlawed later on.

The Legal History of Marijuana and Hemp

Believe it or not, the legal troubles of cannabis didn’t start until the 1930s. Anti-cannabis campaigns caused strict regulations to be put in place in the 1930s, and eventually, a heavy tax was put on the plant. In 1970 it was determined the plant wasn’t legally taxable, but instead of allowing the continued sale of cannabis, the Controlled Substance Act completely banned the plant. Since both hemp and marijuana were banned in America, the plants became grouped together in many people’s minds.

The ban made it hard to grow hemp as well, by 1973 though, the first states had already started to decriminalize marijuana switching jail time for a fee. Eventually, in 2012, Colorado and Washington legalized cannabis. Following this, in 2014, the nation’s capital Washington D.C. along with two other states, legalized recreational use. A farmer’s act was also passed that year that allowed for small amounts of hemp to be grown. In order for the plant to be classified as hemp, the crop should contain no more than 0.3% THC.

By 2016 4 more states had legalized cannabis, and voters became more favorable of the plant’s legalization across the United States. In 2018 the limits on hemp growth were finally lifted nationwide and farmers began growing the plant everywhere. More hemp growth made way for hemp-based products to pop-up all over the US and for CBD products to become cheaper, better, and easier to find.

Differences Between Marijuana and Hemp

Marijuana and hemp can easily be told apart with some research. The plant’s appearance, compositions, and even where and how they are grown can be a giveaway.

Do They Look Different?

Yes, hemp and marijuana are actually different in appearance. Though they can look similar at first glance, especially after being harvested, there are several key differences between the crops. Here is how to tell whether you have found a marijuana or hemp farm.

Marijuana is easy to spot when being grown thanks to it’s stubby, more bush-like appearance. In contrast, the hemp plant will be tall and skinny. The leaves of the hemp plant are generally shiny, while marijuana plants have broader leaves and tight buds. Marijuana may also have tiny hairs or what looks to be crystal growing on it. If seen in a field, you will notice that hemp is grown closely together while marijuana is more spaced out.

What Are They Used Marijuana and Hemp Used For?

Marijuana and hemp are both used for very different types of products. For thousands of years, both hemp and marijuana plants have been used for crafting and other purposes. Here is a list of what each crop is generally made into:

Hemp: Soap, Paper, Rope, Clothing Carpet, Canvas, Shampoo, Lotion, Oil, Powder, Supplements, Cosmetics, Paint, Insulation, and Fuel.

Marijuana: Oils, Recreational Products

Keep in mind that hemp has over 50,000 uses that we couldn’t possibly list. Marijuana, on the other hand, is more suited for recreational use or being used to treat certain health conditions. Likewise, Marijuana has been used for years to help patients suffering from pain.

Hemp Farming

Hemp is easy to grow in large amounts. Hemp crops can be placed four inches from each other in large fields. They don’t take much effort to grow, and simply need to be watered and planted in fertile soil. Many hemp farms will be several acres in size. Hemp is treated a bit different during the growth and harvesting process depending on what product it is being grown to make. You will generally see hemp farms begin growing between the months of March and May. Most Hemp plants will finish maturing within three to four months’ time or 108 to 120 days. Hemp is generally harvested at a weight of 1000 pounds per acre. Hemp doesn’t need to be in a special environment to grow either. The plant will happily grow in most areas, other than deserts. Hemp may also have trouble growing in wetlands or areas with a high amount of rainfall. Hemp does seem to have trouble growing if a high amount of weeds are present in or near the field.

Marijuana Farming

Growing marijuana is much more difficult than growing hemp and will require more of an investment from the farmer. To start with, marijuana can only be grown in a specific environment or inside. Most often, marijuana can only naturally be grown in warm moist environments like found in South America. Due to the plant’s special needs, you won’t see as big of a harvest from marijuana plants. Marijuana is mostly selectively bred, as well, to ensure high recreational and medicinal value.

In order to properly grow marijuana, you will need to control the humidity of the room and administer special care to the plant at all times. The goal is to grow female plants with large flowers. The room you grow the crop in also requires specialized temperature control and lighting to stimulate the plant’s growth. To make things harder, marijuana plants, especially medicinal ones, can’t be grown close together. It takes about 60 to 90 days for each harvest, but the crop can be grown at anytime since it’s cultivated indoors.

What Are The Genetic Differences?

There actually aren’t many differences between the genetic make-up of the two plants. The biggest difference, in fact, is the THC content. Generally, marijuana plants are high in THC and low in CBD, and hemp plants offer the opposite.

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These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. The Information on this website is for informational purposes only and not medical advice. Consult your healthcare provider if you or your pet have any medical condition or nursing, pregnant, or taking medication. Not for use or sale to people under the age of 21. For sale only where legal. Check your local laws. Products may contain trace amounts of THC. We cannot guarantee that you pass a drug test, please use with discretion. Any research referenced on this website is for informational purposes but unrelated to our specific products.