Hemp vs. Marijuana

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Hemp and marijuana are often mistaken for one another. While they are both apart of the cannabis family, they are drastically different. The major differences are present in the biological structure, composition, application, and legality.

Biological Structure and Cultivation

Hemp and marijuana may seem similar to the untrained eye, but do have significant distinctions. Hemp is a skinnier, taller plant with a higher concentration of skinny leaves and flowers towards the top of the plant. Marijuana grows shorter, bushier along with broader leaves and dense buds.


Cultivation for the two plants is also very different. Hemp is grown close together in larger areas. It can be grown in numerous different climates and geographies, and is much simpler to cultivate when compared to marijuana. Hemp also has pest-resistant qualities that don’t require genetic modification while also making organic farming practices much more achievable. Marijuana needs a very controlled environment and is much more fickle than hemp cultivation. Indoor growing has become a popular means for marijuana cultivation in order to bypass seasonal, geographic, and climate restraints.



One of the biggest differences between hemp and marijuana is the chemical composition of each plant. Hemp is naturally low in THC with rates occurring at 0.3% or less. Hemp has a naturally higher rate of CBD when compared to marijuana. Marijuana can contain 15% to 40% of THC. Since CBD has been growing in popularity, CBD-dominant strains of marijuana are now being grown more. Due to the chemical composition of these two plants, hemp is has been grown primarily for industrial needs while marijuana is cultivated for medicinal and recreational purposes.


Hemp has over 25,000 known applications offering a variety of commercial items ranging from paper to clothing, textiles, building materials, biodegradable plastics, insulation, biofuel, food, animal feed, and paint. The hemp-derived CBD industry has provided numerous treatment options for a wide scope of health conditions as well. Marijuana only has two applications: recreational and medicinal use.

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The 2018 Farm Bill has made hemp a legal commodity at the federal level. It can now be cultivated in all 50 states. Marijuana is not federally legal and cannot be cultivated in all 50 states. States have varying levels of marijuana legality as well: recreational, medical, limited access laws, and different THC restrictions.

Hemp-Derived CBD vs. Marijuana-Derived CBD

CBD does have the same chemical compounds and benefits despite where it is derived from. The difference lies between the other available cannabinoids in the product. Research has found that the entourage effect to offer optimized therapeutic and medicinal benefits due to all the cannabinoids working harmoniously together. Marijuana-derived CBD will have higher THC content which can have better benefits for certain conditions. Since marijuana-derived CBD may not be available in your state, does affect drug testing, and has mind-altering effects, it may not provide the best option for you. Hemp-derived CBD can include full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, and isolate products. Full-spectrum is recommended due to the entourage effect and mimics the cannabinoid profile of hemp plants. Full-spectrum products aren’t recommended for those anticipating drug testing.  


CBD and THC do have both overlapping and exclusive benefits, making it important for interesting consumers to research their own conditions to find the best cannabinoid therapy route. While scientifically marijuana-derived CBD may be a better option for many, the availability and psychoactivity are limiting. Hemp-derived CBD still offers the many health benefits that consumers are looking for without the high or legal issues.

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