Hemp vs Marijuana – What’s the difference?

Hemp vs Marijuana

            You may have heard each term used synonymously, though you made have made the distinction that they’re different. There are a couple of key differences that separates the two siblings, and each has their own spot in their respective industries. We’ll get into a light breakdown on what hemp and marijuana is, and what exactly they both do. The first thing we’ll do is dive into is the world of hemp!

What is hemp?

Hemp Plant

Industrial hemp, or just commonly known as hemp, is in fact from the same species as marijuana – Cannabis sativa. It’s cultivated en-mass for a variety of purposes – from papers and textiles, to making biodegradable plastics or even food, hemp has a wide array of uses. Hemp becomes entirely different than standard cannabis plants in the way that it’s cultivated for industrial purposes, and not for recreational consumption.

As cannabis plants grow rather quickly, hemp turns out to be a highly profitable plant to grow. For use as a textile and in comparison to cotton, hemp requires roughly half the amount of water, no pesticides to survive, and breathes in a huge amount of carbon dioxide!

The hemp industry has been around for thousands of years, though recently it has exploded in growth and getting bigger with each cumulative year. By the year 2020, the hemp and CBD industry is expected to break $2.1 billion, according to the Hemp Business Journal.

Hemp is practically never smoked or consumed with the intention of getting high in mind. THC, being the active molecule in cannabis, is often in very low or almost nonexistent quantities in industrial hemp.

 Evidently, THC amounts are quite unimportant when it comes to making clothing or paper, and thus not important in the grand scheme of things. When it comes to marijuana however, the complete opposite is true!

What is marijuana?


Casually referred to as marijuana, the species Cannabis Sativa L and Cannabis Indica is instead almost always cultivated with the intention of smoking it in mind. While someone could consume ounces upon ounces of hemp and not get any sort of effects, doing the same with marijuana will yield extremely different results.

Though marijuana plants could also be cultivated and the fibers processed for the same uses hemp has, that’s quite counterproductive since the grower has to start from square 1 again, slowing down their production of consumable buds.

What’s the difference between hemp and marijuana?

While both forms of the cannabis plant contain over 65 different cannabinoids, there’s two big ones to look out for – THC and CBD.

While your normal cannabis plant might contain between 15-20% THC, hemp plants will contain 0.3% or less. As previously mentioned, THC is responsible for all the effects that smoking a j would suggest. It’s highly psychoactive and will certainly cause impairments of many types – many good and many not as much. CBD however is on the other side of the coin entirely!

Though CBD definitely has many effects associated with it too, they’re all non-psychoactive. From acting as a strong anti-inflammatory to helping ease the pain from a sprained wrist, CBD has a plethora of medical benefits.

THC is the jewels on a crown for recreational marijuana, with growers aiming to breed the strongest, most potent crops possible. With CBD not having much mental effect, the majority of farmers don’t concern themselves with having high CBD levels in their plants. The opposite may be said for hemp growers.

While hemp fibers have a great variety of uses, farmers and growers often aim to grow crops with high CBD concentrations, provided they have a purpose for it and a way to extract it. People often ask us what is hemp oil vs. CBD oil? Hemp oil is made from hemp seeds and does not contain active CBD.

The main differences between the two plants really lies in the intended destination; if the end product is potent buds for weekend warriors to get absolutely lifted off of, you’re probably thinking of marijuana. If the end product is to be fashioned into foods, fuels and clothing, then it’s likely hemp you’re thinking of.

CBD from hemp vs. marijuana

While the two brothers each contain CBD to varying degrees, does it really matter from which sibling it came from then?

In short – it really doesn’t; provided it’s pure CBD in the end product.

CBD (and THC) need to be extracted from the plant somehow if it’s to be concentrated and used later on. One of the most common ways of extracting these little cannabinoids is through the use of a solvent assisted extraction. Through a complicated process using a solvent such as butane or carbon dioxide, the resins get purged from the plant and collected.

So while you can extract CBD from both types of plants, here’s where it gets tricky. There’s no easy way to separate CBD from THC. That means if you’re trying to extract CBD from marijuana, you’re going to a bunch of THC mixed in too.

However, with hemp plants being extremely low in THC and higher in CBD, a more ‘pure’ end product is to be expected. This is ideal when buying a CBD product for medical purposes, as you might not want to be intoxicated all day when trying to just deal with a pulled muscle.  There is also a difference between CBD Isolate and Full Spectrum CBD, which is just that full spectrum has a wide range of cannabinoids, and Isolate is only CBD.

So while the CBD is the same in both plants, the amount of adulterants/other cannabinoids that’ll be found in an extract from hemp plants vs marijuana plants is a big factor alone. In one study, 70% of CBD products found online were mislabeled, oftentimes containing significant amounts of THC without being disclosed.

If you’re looking to get a CBD infused product for any therapeutic purposes without wanting to feel any mental effects, I’d then highly recommend a hemp based CBD product, to get the purest product possible.