Difference Between Cannabis, Hemp, & Marijuana

green cannabis leaf

What is the Difference Between Cannabis, Hemp, and Marijuana?

As the national cannabis debate rages on, more and more state legislatures are making their own decisions concerning the legalization of cannabis products. Some states are skeptical of all forms of cannabis, including hemp products, while others allow regulated recreational and medical cannabis use.It can be difficult to form an opinion in this debate if you aren’t clear on the difference between cannabis, hemp, and marijuana.

What is Cannabis?

The cannabis plant grows as three different species: sativa, indica, and ruderalis. Cannabis plants have a unique reproduction model. They are dioecious, meaning there are both male and female plants. In order to produce different strains of cannabis, a male plant needs to pollinate a female plant. However, many growers isolate their plants, because if left alone, female plants will produce seedless buds. These buds are considered to be higher quality than seeded buds, which produce a harsher smoke.

What is the Difference Between Indica and Sativa?

Ultimately, there is very little difference between the indica and sativa from a consumer standpoint. Some claim that indica has more CBD and that sativa has more THC, but that simply isn’t true.

The difference between indica and sativa has more to do with the appearance of the plants. Sativa is taller and sprouts narrower leaves than indica; sativa also has a longer flowering season, and is better suited for warmer climates. Indica’s flowering period is shorter, so it can withstand colder climates that have a shorter growing season.

However, plenty of breeders do create hybrids. This is achieved when a male sativa plant fertilizes a female indica plant, or vice versa. Most strains are not completely sativa or indica, but a mix of the two.

What is Hemp?

Hemp is made from a certain strain of Cannabis sativa that contains only a small amount of THC, usually no more than 0.3 percent. As such, humans cannot get high from ingesting hemp.

Hemp products are made by stripping fiber from the stalk and processing it appropriately from there. In order to make clothing, paper, or rope, these fibers are softened and woven together. It can also be hardened and mixed with wood, fiberglass, or plastic to form buildings or even car doors.

Because hemp is derived from cannabis, hemp products are not widespread. In fact, it wasn’t until late 2018 that US law officially distinguished hemp from its psychoactive cousin, marijuana. Small-scale hemp cultivation was permitted far before this, but the 2018 Farm Bill greatly expanded the legality of hemp farming. Hemp products can now be shipped across state lines, which represents a big win for hemp advocates.

Hemp still remains a highly regulated crop, especially when considering interstate travel. States still can determine the rules for how it can be grown in their state; Idaho, for example, classifies any product containing any amount of THC (even 0.3 percent) as marijuana. Nevertheless, the future looks bright for hemp production.

What is the Difference Between Hemp Oil and CBD Oil?

Hemp oil and CBD oil both come from certain strains and species of the cannabis plant, but they are both used for different purposes.

Hemp oil can be used for cooking, as a moisturizer, or as a base for many other beauty products. Hemp oil can be switched out for many other household oils without notice.

CBD oil comes from the stalk, leaves, and flowers of the cannabis plant, usually from the species ruderalis. Ongoing research is still trying to determine whether CBD can be effective in alleviating several types of health problems, but nothing is definitive yet. Nevertheless, some people do believe that CBD can even benefit their pets, though, again, there is no definitive research to warrant these claims yet.

What is Marijuana?

Prior to 1910, the word “marijuana” didn’t exist in the American English lexicon. Now, “marijuana” is the most common name used to refer to cannabis in the U.S.  The federal government, particularly the DEA, has classified cannabis/marijuana as a Schedule I substance, although its legality at the state-level differs across the US. Sativa, indica, and hybrid strains commonly contain between 15 and 40 percent THC by concentration,  which is enough to get a user high.

Cannabis has been called several names, including: weed, reefer, grass, dope, Mary Jane, and herb. However,  the term “marijuana” itself was actually popularized in the 1900s, and used as a way to associate the plant with Hispanic immigrants. Drawing the link between immigration and this “crazy” drug only served to exacerbate xenophobia. Some modern historians and cannabis industry leaders actually deplore the term “marijuana” because of its history and association with racism and prejudice, insisting on societal use of the word “cannabis” to describe the plant and its derivatives instead. Others argue that the term has lost it’s “prejudiced bite”.

Today, recreational cannabis use has been accepted by the majority of Americans (62 percent), and medical cannabis use has been accepted even more so. In all regards, the plant has become increasingly popular since the 1990s, and that trend only seems to be rising. With more research, many are hoping that cannabis treatments and products such as CBD oil will be proven as a legitimate medical and social resources used to better lives and alleviate pain.