Hemp vs. Marijuana - What's the difference? | HERBLIZ Hemp vs. Marijuana - What's the difference? | HERBLIZ
CBD & hemp knowledge & lifestyle | 16.06.2020

Hemp vs. Marijuana - What's the difference?

The misuse of terms such as hemp, marijuana, cannabis, hash or dope in the past as well as the general hysteria in connection to the use of drugs were constantly leading to underestimating the value of the cannabis plant as a natural remedy. 

While it is true that some ingredients of the plant can cause psychoactive effects, unfortunately, all kinds of false statements and wrong classifications are still persisting. Trust us - Cannabis has so much more to offer than just a state of intoxication.

Let's shed some light

Since science has regained interest in the plants - especially in the ingredient cannabidiol (CBD) - the hype about the available cannabis products is growing. However, there is still uncertainty. Questions may arise like: 

We made it our mission not only to produce CBD products of high quality but also to report, explain and inform you about the world of hemp and especially CBD. But now let us take you by the hand by being your personal CBD and hemp guide. 

Today, we will discover differences and similarities together to get a basic understanding of the terms hemp and marijuana.

Let's have an overview of the main terms

To overcome the uncertainty, you need to understand the different terms being used in this topic. 

Both hemp and marijuana, are terms that describe the cannabis plant - or parts of it. Nowadays they are many more classifications for different usage and effects of the ingredients of cannabis. But let's start from the beginning. 

Firstly: What is Cannabis?

Cannabis is a plant species of the family 'Cannabaceae', which can be divided into three subspecies:

  • Cannabis Sativa
  • Cannabis Indica 
  • Cannabis Ruderalis

So if we want to define the plant correctly, we have to speak of cannabis as a generic term for the plant. This term comes from Latin and besides cannabis, the English language is using the word hemp as well. That means when we are talking about the Cannabaceae or the cannabis plant we talking about the hemp plant too.

Hemp had been cultivated as a plant for thousands of years. Findings going back a long time even before Christ's were born. Evidence about the use of hemp in textiles, as material for building and paper were had been discovered. 

While hemp simply is the translation for cannabis, a different picture has been painted making it difficult to get rid of the hippie and drug-related image

By the way

Hops also belong to the Cannabaceae family - the most important raw ingredient of beer. 


What is modern Hemp described as?

But that's not it. Nowadays, hemp got an additional meaning in colloquial language. It stands for every cannabis plant that contains no or only a very low quantity of THC. As you may know, THC is the ingredient that can cause the feeling of being high. Yes exactly, that's the stuff most people are thinking of when hearing the term cannabis.

However, modern hemp or industrial hemp is containing less than 0.2% THC. It legally has to otherwise it is forbidden by law. At least in most of the countries worldwide. (By the status of October 2021)

Therefore for the production of CBD products and especially oils, only industrial hemp can and is being used. Only cannabis plants with a very low amount of THC, always under 0.2% and oftentimes even less may be used as raw materials for CBD products.

So what is Marijuana then? 

These days the term marijuana is commonly used to describe cannabis plants with more than 0.2% of THC. But this is not perfectly correct either. 

The definition of marijuana came up mainly through American history. Now please don't get too confused, but initially, it just had been another translation of the word cannabis. The word Marijuana itself comes from Mexican Spanish. To be more precise, cannabis had been called 'Maria Juana'. After a while, it then became 'Marijuana' in English. 

There is no evidence that the word marijuana existed before 1894. Until that time, only the terms cannabis or hemp were known in America. 

A brief look back at history

Between 1910 and 1920 there had been immigration of large scale to the USA. Mexican people wanted to escape the revolution. Those immigrants were accused of bringing the 'dangerous herb"' into the country. This could also be a result of some Americans searching for reasons to get rid of the immigrants. Even propaganda campaigns against the dangerous marijuana brought by Mexicans were made. Basically, it is said that those who were anti-marijuana didn't have a friendly attitude towards immigrants either. And so it happened for the first time that marijuana got a rather negative connotation. 

You might want to use alternative words

These days, marijuana usually refers to the dried flowers of the female cannabis plant. Many people nowadays are refusing to use the word. The reference to Mexican American history including racism is just too painful to remember. You might also have heard marijuana being referred to as weed, pot or Mary Jane. Considering the fact that racism played a major role in how marijuana is perceived it is desirable for many people to use these alternative terms instead. 

The biggest differences between Hemp & Marijuana

Now that you got a picture of how the words marijuana and hemp were evolving let us explain what makes them different. And just like the whole topic, it's just not that easy again to provide one accurate answer. There are two, one for the older understanding of the words and one for the modern point of view:

  1. The older perspective wouldn't make any difference to it. As you just learned both words were seen as a simple translation for cannabis.
  2. Our understanding nowadays, on the other hand, is pointing out one major difference. While hemp contains less than 0,2% THC, marijuana can be the whole opposite. Or, in other words: Marijuana gets you high and hemp does not.

That being said let's have a look at further dissimilarities.

1. The chemical composition of Hemp vs Marijuana

Hemp plants and marijuana plants are looking very similar. To some people, they might even appear completely identical. Therefore, it can be quite difficult to tell the plants apart. And because of that, you might be stunned by the fact that they differ only in one single atom.

While all of the cannabis plants are able to produce high amounts of CBD this single atom is responsible for the extremely low levels of THC in industrial hemp. 

2. Legality - Hemp vs Marijuana 

As you might already figured out the legal differences are determined by the level of THC. Additionally, it depends on the country you are in. While European law is considering industrial hemp as legal, marijuana most of the time isn't at all. In Germany, marijuana has been completely banned since 1929 under the Narcotics Act (BtMG). However, since March 2017 it has been possible to obtain medical cannabis legally on prescription in Germany. 

On the other hand, some countries, such as some states of the USA and Portugal for example were changing the law, making even marijuana sometimes (and under strict regulations) legal. In Canada and Uruguay, cannabis had been legalized completely.

Please inform yourself!

Please make sure that the country you are in has legalized CBD whenever you want to buy a Cannabidiol product. Laws around the world are different and also changing frequently.

3. The Cultivation of Hemp & Marijuana 

Hemp and marijuana are handled similarly to other plants when it comes to cultivation. But it is much more complicated to grow marijuana than industrial hemp.

It is difficult to grow Marijuana

Growing marijuana plants requires a very high amount of attention and care. What growers want to achieve here is to produce the most potent "high" possible. Therefore the producer has to focus on the production of THC. 

The plants have to be observed constantly and need the exact setting for: 

  • light
  • temperature
  • humidity

Cannabis has different cycle phases of growth bringing different needs with them. In order to obtain the flowers that carry the desired amount of THC, the grower has to spend a lot of time and energy on growing each individual plant.

The cultivation of Hemp

Industrial Hemp, on the other hand, is usually grown outside requiring far less attention. Because it is naturally low in THC, the hemp plant is producing CBD and the other cannabinoids completely natural as well. 

Furthermore, hemp is one of those plants that doesn't need herbicides or pesticides at all due to its strong defence mechanism. That's also why modern hemp can be produced very sustainably and eco-friendly compared to other plants.

Very important!

You are allowed to grow neither marijuana nor hemp as a private person in most countries.

4. Usage of Hemp vs Marijuana 

Finally, we are here having reached the last main difference between those two. Let's stick to it by starting with marijuana first.

Which body reactions is marijuana causing?

The THC in marijuana is directly affecting your body's endocannabinoid system. It acts via CB1 and CB2 receptors ensuring the release of dopamine. This can put the applier into a state of 'being high' where either a feeling of euphoria or deep relaxation might set in. 

Since marijuana has a psychoactive and intoxicating effect, thus it also can happen that it affects your: mental health negatively, your thinking may get distorted, your brain impaired (mainly through early and excessive usage in the teens) and that it is hooking you. A lot of those bad side effects can be oftentimes lead back to poor quality of the weed, the misuse of the drug and already existing mental problems.

But then again, marijuana nowadays is also used for medical and therapeutic purposes. For this purpose medical cannabis is cultivated under the strictest conditions. THC levels as well as other compounds of the plant are precisely determined in cultivation. Also, your doctor will be able to provide you with detailed instructions on how and how much to use.

(Modern) Hemp is multifunctional

On the contrary to marijuana, hemp isn't causing any state of intoxication. It rather may cause a state of relaxation and increased well-being in general by one of the main components: CBD.

There aren't any major side effects known from the application of CBD. However, some people had been reporting light drowsiness, loss of appetite or diarrhoea when slightly overdosing.

Just like thousands of years ago, industrial hemp is still used to produce building materials, clothes, paper and even plastic. In the food sector hemp oil, hemp flour or even hemp seeds can be found on supermarket shelves. 

For some time now, more and more CBD products are appearing. From CBD wellness products to CBD and hemp cosmetics, the range of products is wide.

The modern image

The topic of cannabis, hemp, marijuana and CBD products clearly is complex. The misuse of the given terms was creating a stereotypical picture of the dangerous herb only being consumed by lazy or crazy people.

In the future or now already, the terms will most certainly rearrange themselves. Even if it will take some time to provide a bigger picture of a plant that got so many benefits to offer. The progress in research on cannabinoids and the cannabis plant itself is a fast developing one that is constantly providing us with new valuable insights on the trending topic.

So here you are, making your first steps into a world where hemp is full of potentially positive effects for us humans. Thanks again, mother nature.

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