Hemp and marijuana, two types often misconstrued in the public eye, are distinct in their fiber content, benefits, and production methods. Hemp serves as a primary source for food and fiber production due to its low psychoactive substance content compared to marijuana. On the other hand, marijuana is primarily recognized for its high levels of this same substance which gives it a different legal status and use cases.
The key differences between these two types lie not only in their physical characteristics but also in their societal perception and legal implications.
Legally speaking, the key difference when considering hemp vs marijuana is the marijuana plant and its derivative products contain over 0.3% of the psychoactive compound THC. Conversely, hemp is bred to contain less than 0.3% THC and is the plant used in the manufacture of over the counter CBD products.
Origins of Hemp and Marijuana
Hemp and marijuana are two plants from the cannabis family that have a long history dating back thousands of years. Archaeologists suggest that hemp was primarily used in agriculture and was one of the first crops cultivated by early humans. Over time, people discovered its versatile nature as it could be turned into textiles, paper, and food products.
In contrast to hemp’s practical usage in everyday life, marijuana held a different position in history. Many people used marijuana for medicinal purposes and spiritual rituals around the world. Its psychoactive properties were valued in various cultures throughout time.
Changing Societal Perceptions
Societal perceptions of both plants have significantly shifted over time. Throughout much of their history, both hemp and marijuana were seen as beneficial due to their diverse uses in industry and medicine. However, during the early 20th century in the United States, societal views began to change drastically.
A lot of misinformation, much of it propagated by hemp industry competitors, led many people to associate hemp with marijuana. This association resulted in a negative stigma around these plants that still impacts perceptions today.
Legislation Surrounding Hemp and Marijuana
The changing perception towards these plants also influenced historical legislation surrounding hemp and marijuana. In the United States for example:
- The Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 imposed heavy taxes on farmers growing cannabis.
- The Controlled Substances Act of 1970 classified all forms of cannabis as a Schedule I drug.
- More recently though, the Agricultural Improvement Act (Farm Bill) of 2018 removed hemp from the list of controlled substances.
These laws reflect how societal views on these plants have shaped their legal status over years.
Throughout this journey through history, it’s clear that societal perceptions and legislative control have played significant roles in shaping our understanding about hemp vs marijuana today.
Identifying Differences in Hemp, Marijuana Plants
To the average person, hemp and marijuana look much the same. Generally speaking however, there is a way to spot the difference by examining the physical attributes of both hemp and marijuana plants.
- Hemp plants: Industrial hemp plants are typically tall and slim, with skinny leaves concentrated towards the top. The plant structure is akin to bamboo with its long stalks and few branches or leaves along the lower part of the plant.
- Marijuana Plants: In contrast, cannabis plants have a bushier appearance. They are shorter and broader than hemp plants, with broad leaves spread throughout the plant.
One key difference between hemp and marijuana lies in their chemical composition:
- Hemp Plant: The defining characteristic of hemp is its low THC content (0.3% or less). Instead, it has a higher concentration of CBD which does not cause intoxicating effects.
- Marijuana Plant: Conversely, marijuana contains a higher level of THC (5% to 35%), responsible for causing psychoactive effects.
Exploring CBD and THC
In today’s world, when we talk about marijuana and hemp, we are often discussing different types of products.
CBD oil is one popular type of product produced from hemp and sold over the counter throughout the United States. It is used for its health benefits without eliciting an intoxicating effect.
THC oil, vapes and edibles, on the other hand, are sourced from marijuana plants and used for their psychoactive effects, especially in state where THC has been recreationally legalized.
Comparing CBD Concentration in Hemp and Cannabis
Hemp and cannabis (often referred to as marijuana) are both varieties of the Cannabis sativa plant species but they differ significantly when it comes to their CBD content:
- Hemp: Industrial hemp typically contains high levels of CBD and very low levels (less than 0.3%) of THC. This makes hemp products such as hemp oil an ideal source for people seeking the benefits of CBD without the psychoactive effects commonly associated with cannabis. It also makes products sourced from hemp legal to sell throughout the United States. Cannabidiol products known as broad spectrum CBD blends take things a step further to ensure that 0% THC is present.
- Cannabis: In contrast, most strains of cannabis contain higher levels of THC and lower amounts of CBD although this can vary depending on the specific strain (Cannabis indica or Cannabis sativa). Some states have allowed the sale and use of cannabis products for medicial purposes and states like California, Oregon and Washington have legalized it for recreational use.
Both, hemp and marijuana, possess beneficial properties. But each has its own unique mechanisms of action, health uses, and legal definitions.