Hemp vs. Marijuana – What’s the Difference?

With the recent popularity of the cannabinoid called “CBD” (cannabidiol), many consumers are confused about its origins. What is the difference between the plant known as “hemp” versus “marijuana?”

For starters, understand that both hemp and marijuana are cannabis plants, just as Granny Smith and Red Delicious are both apples. They might look different (green vs. red) and have different tastes (tart vs. sweet), but they’re both still apples.

The crucial difference between hemp and marijuana has to do with another cannabinoid called “THC” (tetrahydrocannabinol). That’s the compound that produces the psychoactive effect associated with marijuana.

Under federal law, cannabis plants testing at less than three-one-thousandths (0.3%) of THC by dry weight are (legal) hemp. Anything over that amount of THC is (illegal) marijuana. Most states abide by the federal definition of hemp – with the notable exception of Idaho, which considers any cannabis product with any THC in it to be (illegal) marijuana.

Another difference between hemp and marijuana has been the way it has been cultivated. Marijuana has been cultivated as short bushy plants with seedless THC-producing flowers. Hemp was generally cultivated as tall thin plants with thick, strong stalks for fiber and with seeds for flour and oil. However, since medical CBD has become popular, some hemp is being cultivated to produce short bushy plants with seedless CBD-producing flowers.

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