Marijuana might be the most popular part of the cannabis industry, but the cannabis industry extends far beyond just marijuana. One of the other parts of the cannabis industry is the cultivation of hemp.

There are some major, and some minor, differences between marijuana and hemp that most people have no idea even exist. However, the misconceptions and false information that surrounds the two cause even more confusion in the already confusing cannabis industry.

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Knowing the difference between hemp and marijuana will help your understanding of the cannabis industry, which at times can be very confusing as it is a quickly emerging industry. The following article is written with the intent of clearing up some of the confusion and misconceptions. It will briefly go over marijuana and hemp separately. Then it will compare the two next to each other to show the small, but important, differences between the two.

Marijuana Explained

Marijuana, in the United States, refers to the Cannabis sativa and Cannabis Indica plant. More specifically it refers to the buds from the flower of the plant. These two types of cannabis plants contain a high concentration of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the chemical compound that causes psychoactive effects otherwise known as “getting high.”

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Marijuana plants are mostly grown with the primary purpose of cultivating and selling flower buds that have a high THC content. The higher the concentration of THC, then the more psychoactive effects consumption will cause. Marijuana is generally well understood by the public as a plant that produces a recreational drug used for human consumption because most people have some form of exposure to marijuana. This exposure can be from personal experience, friends, or the media.

Hemp Explained

Hemp is on the more mysterious side of the cannabis industry with good reason. The substance has been illegal to produce without a permit from the United States government since 1970. This moratorium on hemp has caused a severe lack of understanding about hemp.

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The hemp industry used to be a booming industry in the early days of America. In fact, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, and most of the Founding Fathers grew hemp on their farms. Hemp has no psychoactive effects, and the Founding Fathers never smoked marijuana according to historians.

Anyway, the term “hemp” refers to a specific sub-species of the Cannabis sativa plant. This sub-species has a much lower THC content than the Cannabis sativa plant grown for recreational purposes known as marijuana. Instead, hemp plants have a higher concentration of cannabidiol (CBD), which has no psychoactive effects. CBD is actually used for medicinal purposes, such as reducing anxiety, because of the lack of psychoactive effects.

Hemp, however, is cultivated for industrial purposes but the buds are not cultivated like the buds of a marijuana plant. Instead, the fibers from the stalk are used for industrial purposes. The hemp plant will have a much longer and thicker stalk than a more standard marijuana stalk. This different stalk has been bred into the plant throughout history. These fibers from the stalk can be used in a variety of industrial applications ranging from textiles, plastic, paper, rope, and biofuel.

The historical uses for hemp generally revolved around using the fibers to create clothing and rope. In fact, hemp was first used to create clothing over 10,000 years ago.

The current primary use of hemp is for the seeds despite hemp fibers as the primary use throughout history. The United Kingdom recognizes hemp as a non-food crop but allows the importation or growth of hemp seeds for human consumption as long as the THC concentration remains under 0.2%. The hemp seeds can be eaten in a manner similar to sunflower seeds.

However, hemp seeds are more often used as animal feed for farmers. In fact, over 90% of the hemp seed sold in the European Union is used as animal feed.

Marijuana vs. Hemp: Not that different

The difference between marijuana and hemp is not particularly significant. Both come from the Cannabis sativa plant. Both contain THC and CBD with the only difference in the amount of THC and CBD that they each contain. The primary difference is that marijuana has recreational uses because of the psychoactive properties, but always is used as a product for consumption. Hemp is just a slightly different species of the Cannabis sativa plant and is grown for mostly industrial purposes.

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Marijuana and hemp are so similar that many financial companies make no distinction between marijuana and hemp. This means that companies specializing in hemp have limited access to financial institutions despite the legality of hemp.

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Finally, the United States government made the cultivation of hemp illegal to grow without a permit in 1970 because of the similarity between marijuana and hemp.

The laws in states have slowly changed, and now hemp is legal to produce, with restrictions, in 34 states. However, resistance from the federal government makes cultivation of hemp a very limited industry.

Final Thoughts

Overall, the differences between hemp and marijuana are not that great. The primary difference is the concentration of THC found between the two plants and the size of the stalk. Hemp has a relatively insignificant amount of THC and has no psychoactive effects.

Hemp also has a much larger, taller, and thicker stalk that can be pulled apart for its fibers. The fibers are then used for industrial purposes that include the production of rope, clothing, and paper. Hemp also has some food uses, but mostly as animal feed and not for human consumption.

Marijuana on the other hand has a much higher concentration of THC, which causes the psychoactive side effects. The stalk on marijuana also tends to be thinner and is of no use for any type of industrial purpose. The psychoactive effects of marijuana have resulted in the banning of marijuana in most countries in the world. Confusion between marijuana and hemp has resulted in the banning of hemp in most countries despite the fact that hemp has no psychoactive effects.