What Is The Difference Between Hemp, Marijuana, & Cannabis?

CBD 101: Part Three

You may not know this, but marijuana and cannabis have been used medically and recreationally for thousands of years. In the United States, some of our first citizens knew about the medicinal benefits that marijuana offers, and they used it freely. You could even get cannabis extracts at your local pharmacy or doctor’s office. 

All of that changed, however, in the early 1900s when marijuana started getting a bad and distorted reputation as something that resulted in “superhuman strength”, “violent crimes”, and a “lust for blood”. It wasn’t long until people were afraid of this once-embraced and highly used form of medicine. And it didn’t help that several federal acts listed marijuana as illicit and unsafe. 

Today, marijuana is still listed as “illicit” on a federal level, but it is increasingly becoming accepted and legal to use in many states. However, the fear that developed in the early 1900s is still here, and many people are concerned about using CBD or other cannabis products simply because they associate it all with the illegal drug marijuana. 

To make things more confusing, people started throwing in the term hemp and using it interchangeable with both marijuana and cannabis. While all three of these terms are important to talk about when it comes to using CBD, the three are really quite different, and it’s important to understand why if you want to feel safe using CBD.

What is Cannabis? 

Before we can discuss the difference between hemp and marijuana, we need to first discuss what cannabis is. Simply put, cannabis is just a plant. Getting a little more specific, cannabis is the genus of the plant that both hemp and marijuana descend from.

Cannabis is thousands of years old. In fact, some of the earliest records of using cannabis date back as far back as 6,000 B.C.! Over the course of time, people have used cannabis as food and medicine. They’ve also used cannabis, in its various forms, to make clothes, paper, cosmetics, biofuels, textiles, and more. 

Cannabis is a plant genus. This means that it’s the generic name for a whole group of plants that is made up of different cannabis species. The two most common species of cannabis are Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica. There are many other species of cannabis, but they do not contain the same amounts of cannabinoids, particularly THC and CBD, as indica and sativa

In today’s debate about CBD and related products, the term cannabis is often used interchangeably with hemp and marijuana. This is incorrect. As we stated above, cannabis is simply the plant genus that both hemp and marijuana come from. 

Are you confused yet? 

Let’s take a closer look at what makes hemp and marijuana, two species of cannabis, so different. 

What is Marijuana? 

Marijuana refers to the illicit drug in the United States. It is made up of dried leaves, flowers, seeds, and stems from either that sativa and indica species of cannabis. The main thing that sets marijuana apart from hemp, though, it is THC levels. Marijuana is high in THC, which is the cannabinoid within the plant that causes the psychoactive or “high” response. 

Originally, scientists believed that the Cannabis indica species has higher levels of THC. While the indica species may naturally have higher amounts of THC than sativa or other species, it is important to note that most marijuana nowadays comes from hybrid cannabis plants. Generally, though, marijuana keeps the same look as the original indica species: a shorter, bushier plant with wider leaves. 

In today’s marijuana and cannabis market, it is rare to find a product that comes from a 100% natural and unaltered sativa or indica plant. Instead, farmers use controlled growing environments, crossbreeding, and more to get plants with the highest possible levels of THC. In fact, some of those plants are bred to contain as much as 30% THC. As a result, those who use marijuana are likely to have a stronger “high” effect. 

When you ingest marijuana, the THC attaches to the receptors in your brain and causes a feeling of being “high”. This involves altered senses and comprehension, mood changes, impaired memory and movement, hallucinations, delusions, and more. 

What is Hemp? 

When you look at the side effects of using marijuana — particularly the delusions and hallucinations — and combine that with the fact that people interchangeably use the terms marijuana and hemp, it’s no wonder people have become afraid to even consider using CBD or other hemp-derived products. But you must understand that hemp and marijuana are completely different from each other. 

Hemp, like marijuana, comes from the cannabis plant. However, hemp comes from the Cannabis sativa species, which is naturally higher in CBD. Hemp plants are also taller and skinnier than marijuana, and hemp leaves are longer and more narrow. Just the physical appearance between the two plants makes it easy to tell the difference between hemp and marijuana. 

When growing hemp plants, many farmers will not modify the plants. Instead, the naturally higher levels of CBD and lower levels of THC are enough. However, there are some farmers who grow hybrid versions of sativa that have either reduced or no THC. If your CBD product does contain THC, it will be .3% or lower. This minuscule amount of THC cannot get you high in the slightest degree. 

So, whether your CBD product comes from a natural hemp plant or a hybrid one, you can rest assured that you can experience all of the benefits that CBD has to offer without worrying about ever experiencing the psychoactive side effects. 




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