Hemp vs. Marijuana

Discover the differences and similarities between hemp and marijuana plants.


There are a lot of misconceptions between hemp and marijuana. Hemp and marijuana plants are similar to cousins– belonging to the same family but are completely different. These plants differ in terms of appearance, application, chemical makeup, cultivation, and legality.

Discovering the Difference Between Hemp and Marijuana

The Appearance of Hemp vs. Marijuana

Hemp and marijuana can appear to look similar to those with an untrained eye, but there are clear distinctions among their appearance. Hemp grows taller in stature with skinny leaves and more concentrations on top of the plant. Marijuana plants are bushier and shorter in stature when compared to hemp. With broader leaves and dense buds, marijuana plants have drastically different flowers than the hemp plant.

The Application and Function of Hemp vs. Marijuana

Did you know that hemp has up to 50,000 possible applications? The hemp plant is used in various applications ranging from clothing to dietary supplements, plastic, automobiles, and more. This versatile medium is actually superior to cotton in numerous ways when it comes to efficiency, water sustainability, durability, and more. Marijuana can only be used for medicinal and recreational purposes.

The Chemical Makeup of Hemp vs. Marijuana

One of the major differences between hemp and marijuana is the chemical makeup. Hemp naturally has low rates of THC, occurring at less than 0.3%. Hemp also has higher CBD content than marijuana. This high rate of CBD actually mitigates the psychoactivity of the low THC content, making the minimal amount of THC’s psychoactivity impossible. Levels of 0.3% of THC or less inherently have no mind-altering effects on patients. Marijuana, on the other hand, can contain anywhere between 5% to 30% of THC. Growers have bred genetics that promotes high THC content due to demand. Marijuana inherently has lower levels of CBD than hemp, however, there are many engineered stains that feature higher CBD content alongside lower levels of THC. Learn more about the differences between THC and CBD.

The Cultivation of Hemp vs. Marijuana

Hemp is grown closely together and typically is grown in larger areas. Hemp can grow in different climates requiring simpler cultivation than marijuana. Hemp is also naturally pest-resistant which is why there is no need for genetic modification for built-in pesticides. Organic hemp practices are much easier to achieve due to their chemical composition. Hemp is adaptable to most climates which makes it easier to grow in different geographies. Marijuana requires a carefully controlled environment, making indoor growing popular due to seasonal growing restraints. Marijuana cultivation also requires warmth, humidity, and larger growing distances between each plant.

The Legality of Hemp vs. Marijuana

Hemp is legal among all 50 states due to its inherently low rate of THC. The cultivation of hemp is another story– there is current legislation trying to make it federally legal to grow hemp anywhere in the US. Marijuana’s legality differs from state-to-state. Learn more on the specifics of legality on marijuana and hemp.

Why Was Hemp Banned Alongside Marijuana?

The Controlled Substances Act of 1970 established a set of banned drugs in the United States alongside the formation of the Drug Enforcement Administration, DEA. The Controlled Substances Act banned the entire Cannabis family even though hemp has no mind-altering effects and is completely different in chemical composition than marijuana. This government error has led to all the misconceptions of the hemp plant.

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