Hemp vs. Marijuana: Are The Two Categories of Cannabis Really That Different?

hemp vs marijuana

Hemp vs. Marijuana: Comparing The Two Sides of The Cannabis Coin

Hemp is not marijuana, and marijuana is not hemp — but they are both cannabis. People often describe hemp and marijuana as two different species, but the truth is that they are part of the same variety of cannabis known as Cannabis sativa. Read on to find out more about what makes each plant special.   

What Is Hemp?

The hemp plant or “hemp” is Cannabis sativa L. with a tiny amount of THC — 0.3 percent or less by dry weight. Because the THC level in this plant is so low, it’s unlikely to get you high. 

This THC threshold was first proposed in the 1979 book “The Species Problem in Cannabis: Science & Semantics [1].” The author of the book set 0.3% as an arbitrary number to distinguish between hemp and cannabis. That number stuck, and today it’s used as the threshold for THC in hemp (0.3%) in its legal definition under the Agricultural Act of 2018.

Hemp is one of the world’s first agricultural crops. Its cultivation started over 10,000 years ago in the place that’s modern-day Taiwan. This resilient plant has countless applications, including the production of: 

  • Cannabidiol (CBD) 
  • Some of the strongest fibers 
  • Raw material 
  • Rope 
  • Textiles 
  • Clothing
  • Shoes 
  • Food 
  • Bioplastics 
  • Insulation 
  • Biofuel   

What Is Marijuana?

The marijuana plant is a potent cannabis species with a delta 9 THC concentration above 0.3%. Its potency is a result of its high THC content, which brings a euphoric sensation — and makes marijuana popular among both recreational and medicinal users. 

Unlike hemp, marijuana tends to be grown exclusively for consumption and is offered in different products, including flower, oils, concentrates, and edibles. Marijuana flower, especially the exotic strains, is bred to yield high THC levels and lower CBD levels, so it doesn’t yield as much CBD as hemp flower. The average CBD levels of marijuana flower are below 10%, while the average THC levels go above 15%.        

Overview of the Cannabis Family 

People confuse hemp and marijuana easily because they are both members of the same Cannabacea family. When it comes to appearance, hemp and marijuana are almost indistinguishable. The three main species of this family are: 

  • Cannabis Sativa 

The most widespread species of cannabis, Cannabis sativa is a tall plant that grows up to 20 feet in height. It’s native to the tropical climate of East Asia and comes in hundreds of different strains that need lots of bright light for their outstretched leaves. 

Both hemp and marijuana come in the Cannabis sativa variety and are distinguishable by their high THC concentration in marijuana and low in hemp. Sativas are known for their uplifting, energizing effect. 

  • Cannabis Indica 

Native to the mountains of South Asia, Cannabis indica has a higher tolerance for cold weather and is accustomed to cooler conditions. It grows as a short plant with a few branches — but with a large flower size and high THC content. 

Compared to sativas, this species is less popular with growers, but it’s ideal for indoor cultivation under lights. Indicas provide a calming and deeply relaxing effect. 

  • Cannabis Ruderalis

Cannabis ruderalis is the lesser-known species of cannabis native to Eastern Europe. Ruderalis is a short, small plant with a few branches that produces very low yield and lacks notable fiber content. This cannabis variety reaches maturity much faster than sativa and indica, but it’s rarely cultivated because it contains low levels of cannabinoids.  

Hemp is Cannabis sativa L., so it’s rarely present as indica. But, there are some hybrid strains that blend low THC cannabis to create a better hemp flower with a higher CBD yield. In the end, the classification of hemp vs. marijuana depends on their chemical composition rather than which variety they belong to.  

Hemp vs. Marijuana: Similarities And Differences

hemp vs marijuana

The main difference between these two cannabis varieties is their delta 9 THC content, while the main similarity is that they are both grown primarily for their cannabinoids. Here is an in-depth explanation of the main differences and similarities between hemp and marijuana: 

Chemical Composition

Chemically, hemp and marijuana are immensely different. 

Both contain naturally-occurring phytocannabinoids but in different ratios. In hemp, the most abundant cannabinoid is cannabidiol (CBD), while in marijuana, delta 9 THC makes up the majority of the plant’s chemical composition. 

Other cannabinoids can vary as some hemp flower can be high in cannabigerol (CBG) and cannabichromene (CBC) — while others are exclusively abundant in CBD. While hemp is non-intoxicating, the high THC content gives marijuana potent intoxicating properties. 


Thanks to differences in THC content, hemp and marijuana are regulated separately. 

In 2018, the Farm Bill legalized the hemp plant and its cannabinoids, as well as hemp-derived products. The bill established a THC limit on hemp plant material and products infused with hemp cannabinoid extract of less than 0.3%.   

It also made a clear distinction in the definition of hemp and marijuana. Before this historic bill was passed, no strict description differentiated non-intoxicating from intoxicating cannabis.

In the United States, marijuana is an illegal plant at a federal level —a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act. Since the 2000s, over 15 states have allowed the sale of recreational marijuana, and over 35 states legalized the plant for medical purposes.  


Marijuana and hemp strains of the Cannabis sativa variety grow very tall with thin leaves. 

Both require different conditions to grow. 

With marijuana plants, growers prioritize potency, so high THC content is the primary goal. Compared to the past, marijuana strains today are much more potent — growers can produce marijuana with THC levels as high as 30%. To achieve that, they selectively breed the plants in a controlled environment, choosing the stickiest, most resinous female flower buds.

With hemp plants, the growing conditions depend on the type of hemp that’s being cultivated. Industrial hemp, that’s used for fiber, is grown to maximize size, and no regard is given to the flower. Hemp cultivated for its CBD flower is grown in a controlled environment through selective breeding to maximize the concentration of cannabinoids and the quality of the flower.

Uses & Benefits

  • Marijuana 

Unlike hemp, marijuana is exclusively used for human consumption for therapeutic and recreational purposes. 

Medical marijuana patients use high-THC cannabis for various conditions, like Alzheimer’s, epilepsy, seizures, multiple sclerosis, severe nausea, chronic pain, and more. 

This plant is used for recreational purposes because it gives the user a euphoric sensation. The THC in marijuana binds to the CB1 receptors of the endocannabinoid system to produce desirable effects — and the “high” associated with cannabis. High-THC cannabis can be consumed as edibles, vaped, or smoked. 

  • Hemp

Hemp, on the other hand, is incredibly versatile and can be used for its therapeutic benefits and other practical purposes, including: 

  • Cannabinoid Products

The flower of the hemp plant is cultivated to produce high concentrations of cannabidiol (CBD). Studies show that this cannabinoid offers an array of benefits but is especially helpful in the treatment of epilepsy. CBD can improve your mood, relieve physical and mental tension, and may improve sleep.  

One of the most widespread hemp products, CBD oil, is made from CBD isolate extracted directly from Cannabis sativa and mixed with a carrier oil like MCT or hempseed oil for consumption. Aside from CBD, hemp flower can be bred to yield higher levels of cannabigerol (CBG) and cannabichromene (CBC). Different hemp cannabinoids are available as edibles, tinctures, salves, and cosmetics. 

As mentioned, CBD comes from mature hemp flower. But, the hemp plant creates a superfood known for its exceptional nutritional value — the hempseed. The hempseed doesn’t naturally produce cannabinoids but is rich in fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals. 

This seed is made up of Omega 3, 6, and 9 fatty acids and can be consumed on its own or as cold-pressed hemp oil. From salads to sauces and meat, you can spice up every meal you can think of with this liquid gold. 

  • Practical Uses 

Humans have been using this crop for thousands of years to produce the most durable and robust rope and fabrics. In the 1600s, the British navy heavily relied on hemp rope for its ships. 

As a result, every farmer in Virginia dedicated a portion of their land to grow this plant for government use as mandated by the Virginia Assembly. Once it got restricted in the U.S., manufacturers turned to synthetic fiber, which continues to be a danger to the environment.  

In the past, most of the paper came from hemp. The plant is large and bears a faster yield than trees, serving as the perfect environmentally-friendly plant to grow for paper. Again, once hemp became illegal, manufacturers turned to wood for paper — destroying countless forests. 

Hemp was also used in the construction industry as it can be used to make concrete, insulation, varnishes, bricks, and more. It’s also an excellent material for the creation of bioplastics — a necessary replacement for plastics that destroy the environment. Hemp is strong and durable, posing the ideal solution to a global problem. 

What Is Hemp-Derived Delta 8 THC?

Both hemp and marijuana contain delta 8 THC in trace amounts. 

This cannabinoid is formed as a by-product of delta 9 THC degradation as the cannabis flower ages. Because of that, marijuana buds produce a higher concentration of delta 8 THC than hemp. 

The cannabis plant produces delta 8 in small quantities, so its natural extraction is not financially viable for manufacturers. Therefore, most hemp products on the market are converted from hemp-derived cannabidiol (CBD) — and are considered legal under the 2018 Farm Bill. 

Delta 8 THC is 50% to 75% less potent than delta 9 THC, but it exhibits nearly the same effects. This cannabinoid brings a sense of euphoria, relief, and relaxation and is different from delta 9 THC in producing less anxiety and paranoia. 

The market offers both hemp-derived and marijuana-derived delta 8 THC. The only difference between the two is their legal status because this cannabinoid is restricted in some states. 

Where to Buy Hemp-Derived Delta 8 THC? 

The very best place to buy delta 8 THC is the one that offers organically grown hemp flower. This is one of the most important factors because it guarantees that the hemp flower from which cannabinoids are extracted is made under the highest standards. 

From the very beginning, Mr. Hemp Flower has offered non-GMO, organically grown hemp from local farmers in North Carolina, Oregon, and Colorado. Our hemp flower is tested for mold, heavy metals, pesticides, and other contaminants. 

Our delta 8 THC is made from hemp, and every product contains pure delta 8 distillate that’s been tested by a third-party lab. The Mr. Hemp Flower Delta 8 Gummies are a premium product popular across the nation, and each mixed berry flavored gummy contains 25mg of delta 8 THC. Dosing these gummies is easy and suitable for both beginners and seasoned users.

Final Thoughts — Hemp vs. Marijuana

Hemp and marijuana often get mixed up because they are both cannabis. 

Hemp and marijuana mainly differ in their cannabinoid content. Marijuana is rich in delta 9 THC, while hemp contains less than 0.3% delta 9 THC. Because of this, hemp is the non-intoxicating variety that’s legal under the 2018 Farm Bill, while marijuana is illegal on a federal level.

States that permit marijuana use for recreational purposes, users can find a variety of products, including flower, oils, and edibles.   

FAQs on Hemp vs. Marijuana

CBD is a chemical component inside hemp. The female flower of the hemp plant contains the highest percentage of CBD and is different from the hempseed, which is typically a nutritional bomb that doesn’t have a significant amount of cannabinoids like CBD.

CBD is a chemical component inside hemp. The flower of the hemp plant contains the highest percentage of CBD, and is different from the hempseed, whis typically a nutritional bomb that doens’t contain a significant amount of cannabionuds liek CBD.

Regular hemp products made from hempseed, like cooking oil, seeds, granola, etc., will not come up on a drug test. The hempseed contains an insignificant amount of cannabinoids, which is not enough for it to pop positive on a drug test.

Hemp plants have a slim and very tall appearance and can reach a height of 18.22 ft. The plant’s leaves have a slim composition and can exhibit lighter green color with gray hues.

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