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Cannabis Leaf

Takeaway: Cannabis can be found in three major types, Cannabis Sativa, Cannabis Indica and Cannabis Ruderalis. Although all of these contain about 100+ cannabinoid compounds, two have gathered the most attention i.e. THC and CBD. Hemp (Cannabis Sativa) plants have thin leaves and they are tall where as Marijuana (Cannabis Indica) plants have broad leaves and they are shorter and bushier in appearance. In chemical composition, Marijuana can contain anywhere between 5 to 30% THC, where as the legal Hemp can only produce 0.3% THC.

There are two kinds of people in the world: One who thinks that marijuana and hemp are the same things. The second who have lived their whole lives telling people both of them are entirely different. In any case, neither the former ones are alone, neither the latter ones.

It is one of the most puzzling questions out there. The credit goes to the misinformation and ignorance surrounding both of them. Some people even go as far as to think that cannabis is the same as hemp and marijuana.

That is not the case. All three are very different, and by the end of this article, you will be able to tell the difference between hemp and marijuana. Do keep in mind that this is a complicated topic to explain, but we will try to explain this in the most straightforward words possible. Let’s start

What is Cannabis?

What is Cannabis

To understand the difference between hemp and marijuana, we need to understand what Cannabis is first- considering industrial hemp and marijuana comes from the sub-family of plants of cannabis. Cannabis refers to a group of three plants.  

All three of them have psychoactive properties. They are Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, and Cannabis ruderalis. As cannabis is gaining popularity in the medical field, the name is continually evolving. Some call it the weed; some call it pot and some call it marijuana.

People take cannabis for relaxing effects. In some states in the U.S., doctors prescribe it to help people with several medical issues. Cannabis includes 120 compounds. As knowing about each one of them is still a challenging thing to do, there are two of them that are most popular. They are CBD and THC.

Hemp vs. Marijuana, their appearance:

A lot of people would not be able to tell the difference between hemp and marijuana after looking at it. But if you ask an expert to tell the difference between the two, he will do it within seconds. First of all, the leaves of marijuana are broad.

Its buds are dense, and it has a short and bushy appearance. Hemp, on the other hand, has thin leaves that are concentrated at the top. They grow taller and skinnier than marijuana — a few of its branches under its upper portion.

One will be able to tell the difference clearly when they compare them side by side. Both are not only different when it comes to appearances, but also because of their chemical composition.

Hemp vs. Marijuana, their chemical composition:

The significant difference between both of their chemical composition is a compound called tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, in short. The psychological effects that a person experiences after consuming marijuana, it is because of THC.

On average, a batch of marijuana contains THC, which can be anywhere between 5 to 20%. Other premium marijuana can contain THC contents between 25-30%. When it comes to hemp, the maximum THC content it can contain is 0.3%.

It is impossible for a person to get high after consuming hemp considering it won’t produce the psychoactive effects. It is precisely because of this that a lot of countries have deemed hemp legal for medicinal and recreational purposes. Hemp also contains CBD or cannabidiol. Consider it as an antagonist. It makes the effects of THC useless.

Hemp vs. Marijuana: How people cultivate them:

One of the significant differences between hemp and marijuana is how people grow marijuana, especially the environment. Farmers grow hemp very close to each other, sometimes the distance between them is only 4 inches. It is produced in large multi-acre plots. All climates suit it, and it can take up to 108-120 days to grow completely.

Marijuana, on the other hand, requires a particular climate to grow. It needs a carefully managed, humid and warm atmosphere for right growth. If the environment is suitable, it can complete its growth in only 60-90 days.

People grow both marijuana and hemp separately. If, for instance, someone is growing marijuana close to a hemp’s field, it could destroy the field of marijuana. Hemp’s pollen directly interacts with marijuana and thus, rendering it is psychoactive part diluted.

Hemp vs. Marijuana, how people can use them:

Since marijuana has a higher percentage of THC, it is popular due to its psychoactive properties. It can be recreational or medicinal. People can smoke it, inhale it, ingest it and even inject it directly into their bodies.

Sometimes, people extract THC from the plant, and it is then consumed in a variety of methods- in the form of vaporizers, capsules, edibles and more.

The only reason scientists and doctors use hemp is for industrial purposes. People can use them to produce many crucial resources such as paper, clothing, building material, food products and more. And now, since the amazing medical properties of CBD have come out, it is also used to produce products that are THC-free.

Hemp benefits:

The most common way people are using hemp is for their wellbeing. There are a lot of benefits including nutritional and health that are  associated with hemp, and they are:

  • It provides protein to the body
  • It contains omega-3 fatty acids
  • It contains fiber
  • It protects the brain
  • It boosts heart health
  • It reduces inflammation
  • It improves skin conditions

Is hemp legal?

THC plays a vital role in not only how hemp and marijuana are used, but also in deciding whether the plants are legal or not. Different states or countries have different laws regarding usage, sales, transportation and how farmers cultivate it.

It all depends on the THC. Across the United States, the only way for THC-containing hemp to be legal is if it contains 0.3% of THC. In other countries of the world, that limit is 0.2%. Since hemp contains very few amounts of THC, it is legal in most parts of the world, and even if it is not, the legal matters that come with it are negligible.


The bottom line is- no, hemp and marijuana are not the same, but yes, both of them come from the same plant. But that is the only similarity they have. They are entirely different when it comes to how they appear, what their chemical composition is, how people use them and what type of atmosphere farmers grow them in.  

Hemp has a lot of benefits which includes providing enough nutrition to the body and other health benefits. Since more and more people are slowly turning towards it to treat medical conditions which require people to spend a lot of energy and money, hemp seems like a great alternative.


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