What is the Difference Between Hemp and Marijuana?

    by John Reid / September 13, 2018

    There is a great deal of confusion surrounding the differences between marijuana and hemp. Both marijuana and hemp from the Cannabaceae family that includes two species of hop used to brew beer. Within this same family you will find Cannabis Sativa (hemp) and Cannabis Indica (marijuana) that likely originate from the Northern hemisphere but are bred for very different reasons. Cannabis, as a whole, is a very versatile plant that can be used for food, fiber, and medicine.

    Marijuana (Cannabis indica, often colloquially called “cannabis” “weed” or “pot”) is a plant containing high levels THC and low levels of CBD. THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is intoxicating and CBD (cannabidiol) is non-intoxicating. When people think of the “weed” smoked by their Grateful Dead loving roommate, we are talking about cannabis indica. As of this post, 40 states have either legalized marijuana for medical or recreational use. The 10 remaining states are the like 1 out of 5 dentists who don't recommend brand X. Just sayin'...

    Hemp (Cannabis sativa, often colloquially called “industrial hemp”) on the other hand is a fiber rich plant – so rich it can be made stronger than steel if bred properly. Hemp has a variety of uses, which include construction, food, body care, fuel and is even used as a supplement with medicinal benefits (such as CBD hemp oil). Hemp, or sativa, has high amounts of CBD and low amounts of THC. That means it’s the opposite of marijuana in terms of intoxication, hemp will not give you a “high” or “stoned” feeling when consumed. The 2018 Farm Bill made hemp legal for purchase and sale in all 50 United States. It was a no brainer politically because of the positive economic factors and literal cash crop for farmers. 

    The main thing that marijuana and hemp share is that they both have medical benefits. CBD has been shown to potentially reduce inflammation and anxiety. THC has been shown to potentially reduce pain and enhance mood. There is still more research to be done to prove to skeptics and regulators that cannabis is safe as a medicine. Due to their classification as Class I substances under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 little research in the United States has been completed. However, despite the federal ban on growing hemp in the US, many other nations, in particular Israel, have been leading the way in terms of cannabis research. Much of this research points to positive outcomes for hemp despite no double blind studies being completed.

    Long story short, even though hemp and marijuana may be subspecies of the same plant, their uses and applications are not the same. The 2018 Farm Bill gave the hemp industry a stronger foothold by differentiating the cultivation, manufacturing and distribution from marijuana. That means hemp will soon be in everything from CBD oil to bags to drapes. Just don’t smoke your hemp drapes and expect to get high.

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    John Reid

    John Reid

    John has over 13 years of experience in finance and consulting. John has joined the industry-wide mission to educate and introduce people to the value of this often misunderstood component of the hemp plant. When not working with the Relief Scout vendors, you can find John and his wife enjoying the great outdoors and surfing in San Francisco. And if you ever want to talk music, John is all ears.


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