Are Hemp and Marijuana the Same Plants?

A common misconception among those who are new to the world of cannabis is identifying hemp as marijuana and vice versa. In fact, one of the few things that connect these two is the same parent.

Take a look at the classification below so that you never take marijuana for hemp:

  • Cannabis – this term refers to a plant family that covers many species, including both marijuana and hemp.
  • Hemp – hemp plants belong to the cannabis family and they are grown for their tall, sturdy stalks (industrial hemp) and unique cannabinoid profile with low THC levels.
  • Marijuana – this variety of cannabis is what makes people feel high. Marijuana is grown for either medical or recreational purposes due to its high THC content.

Think of it as rectangles and squares. Virtually, all squares are rectangles, but not all rectangles can be classified as squares.

To wrap it up, no, marijuana and hemp are not the same plants, even though they come from the same parent.

Here’s what you need to know about the basic differences between hemp and marijuana.


You can tell the difference between hemp and marijuana right away by simply looking at them.

Hemp grows up to 15 feet tall and it has long massive stacks. In addition, hemp plants can be cultivated together because they grow easily closely packed with each other. Their leaves are skinny, with the largest concentration on the top of the plant. At times, hemp can look like long ditch weed.

Marijuana, on the other hand, has broad leaves, tight buds and can look like a nugget with organs hairs. It rarely exceeds 5 feet height and grows outwards with more buds than hemp. On top of that, each marijuana plant needs to be grown separately.

Chemical Makeup

As mentioned, the main difference between hemp and marijuana is in their chemical makeup, specifically in the ratio between delta 9 (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD).

An average marijuana strain contains anywhere from 5 to 20% THC content. Some premium marijuana varieties can reach up to 30% THC due to the cross-breeding of different strains. Also, marijuana tends to have low CBD levels, somewhere between 0.1 and 2%.

When it comes to hemp, this ratio is turned upside-down. Hemp plants have a maximum THC level of 0.3%, which makes it impossible to feel any psychoactive effect, let alone get high. On the other hand, their CBD levels can vary between 18-27%.

Speaking of getting high…

Psychoactivity Level

In order to elaborate on that part, we need to clarify the difference between “psychoactive” and “intoxicating”.

By its definition, a psychoactive substance is one that acts on your brain. CBD is known for its anti-anxiety and stress-relieving properties, so in fact, it acts on the mind. In other words, CBD is psychoactive, and so are all hemp-based products.

However, unlike marijuana, hemp is non-intoxicating.

While the range of marijuana health benefits outweighs the potential minor side effects, it is possible to get intoxicated with weed. Marijuana intoxication includes increased heart rate, dizziness, increased anxiety, or, in the worst-case scenario, paranoia that can last for several minutes.

Due to the extremely low THC content, and the scientifically proven fact that CBD doesn’t produce toxicity regardless of the dose, the above is not going to happen with hemp and its derivatives.

Cultivation Requirements

The environment in which hemp and marijuana are cultivated is vividly different. Hemp plants can be grown tightly together – the distance between plants can be as close as 4 inches – and are generally grown on large multi-acre fields. Hemp is also resistant to different climates and harsh conditions, so it’s way more versatile than marijuana. Its growth cycle oscillates around 108 and 120 days.

Contrary to hemp, marijuana is much more demanding when it comes to cultivation. Marijuana plants require a carefully controlled environment, in which warmth, humidity, and air flow must be maintained on the top-notch level to grow best-quality plants. Their growth cycle lasts up to 90 days. Marijuana crops cannot be held too close to each other; otherwise, female plants can get pollinated.

Hemp and hemp-derived products are legal in all 50 states and in over 40 countries around the world. Hemp became legal in the United States upon the introduction of the 2014 Farm Bill. The bill allows U.S. farmers and universities to cultivate hemp for research and industrial purposes. Technically speaking, leaves and buds of hemp cannot be used to produce oil, so many CBD companies dubiously claim that they extract CBD oil only from hemp stalks and seeds.

Marijuana, on the other hand, is illegal in most countries. At the time of writing, Canada and Uruguay are the only two countries to have entirely legalized marijuana for both medical and recreational purposes. Recreational weed is legal in 9 states, with 31 states providing access to medical marijuana products.

The War on Drugs and the Reefer Madness have undoubtedly taken their toll on cannabis, but with the current body of scientific evidence proving the benefits of marijuana, we may soon witness a global change in the attitude towards the herb.


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