Hemp Versus Marijuana

Hemp vs Marijuana

First and foremost: Hemp is not marijuana. Marijuana is not hemp. This is one of the most important facts to KNOW AND SHARE because people are unaware that they are different. Oftentimes people believe that hemp is the male plant of marijuana. This is false.

Hemp and marijuana are both cannabis. But, hemp and marijuana are different varieties of the Cannabis sativa species.

This confusion exists because marijuana was created by selectively breeding Indian hemp for Tetrahyrdocannabinol (THC). THC is the major differentiating factor between hemp and marijuana.

What is the difference between hemp and marijuana?

  Hemp Marijuana
THC Concentration Low (Less than 0.3% THC by law) High (More than 0.3%  THC by law; normally 5% to 30% THC)
CBD Concentration High Low
Psychoactive No Yes
Female Plant Role Produce seeds or flowers Produce seeds and flowers, but seeds not desired except for reproduction
Male Plant Role Strong fibers, pollinate plant for seeds. Removal desired when growing for CBD. Will pollinate female. Removal necessary.
Growing Strategy Outdoor row crop or greenhouse. Normally seeded, but cloning possible for CBD Normally indoor or greenhouse. Commonly cloned.
Products CBD extracts, health foods, cosmetics, composites, building materials, plastics, industrial oils, paper, textiles Leafy material, THC extract, CBD extract, other finished marijuana products (candy, drinks, etc)

Growing for Phytocannabinoids

The major similarity when growing hemp and marijuana is when growing for the cannabinoids. In hemp’s case, farmers grow for the CBD and other minor cannabinoids, but legally require less than 0.3% of the cannabinoid THC. As for marijuana, unless growing for a particular ratio of THC : CBD, growers want the highest concentrations of THC and CBD possible. Because these production schemes both desire high concentrations of cannabinoids found in the floral material; the current growing conditions are similar.

Just like a marijuana grower, a hemp farmer growing for high concentrations of CBD would want to remove the male plants from the field or facility before pollination. This allows for less seed and higher concentrations of phytocannabinoids in each plant. Under this growing condition, hemp grown for phytocannabinoids like CBD commonly resembles marijuana production patterns.

CBD Field grown from clones with drip irrigation
Murray State University Hemp Field

Conversely, European growing conditions for CBD resemble fiber conditions and the crop is often dual harvested for fiber and CBD. This CBD is produced at lower concentrations in the tops of fiber varieties. This method creates a dual-purpose production system and resembles densely-packed hemp fiber production as opposed to bushy, flowering marijuana.

Regulatory Environment

In the regulatory realm, technically anything containing (even the minutest) concentrations of tetrahyrdocannabinol (THC) are regulated under the Drug Enforcement Agency’s Controlled Substance Act; however, the federal government allows states to create their own cannabis policies.

For this reason, certain states have passed legislation for recreational and/or medical marijuana as well as the legal production of industrial hemp. The 2014 Farm Bill protects hemp production for research purposes and pilot scales within universities and State departments of agriculture. This is a federal bill.

The 2015 and 2016 Omnibus Bills (Federal Spending Bill) also contain strategic language that prohibits the DEA from using federal dollars to block research, production and sales of both hemp and marijuana.

Marijuana’s raw materials and finished products can only be sold within its state of production. Conversely, hemp raw materials can be sold across state lines to individuals participating in their state’s Hemp Pilot Program, with approval from their State’s department of agriculture. In addition, hemp-derived finished products can be sold throughout the U.S.. In fact, you can find, compare and buy hemp-derived finished products in our Marketplace!

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