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Hemp vs. Marijuana: What Sets Them Apart

Hemp vs. marijuana is a battle that’s raged on for years. Although these names are often used interchangeably, there are various distinctions between each plant.

Some questions may pop up when deciphering the difference between the two. Are they the same thing? Can you smoke them? Do they both get you high?

Read on to get a deeper understanding of marijuana and hemp. Discover their definitions, histories, characteristics, and uses.

Let’s get started.

Hemp vs. marijuana: What is marijuana?

Hemp vs. cannabis is more or less the same thing. Its formal name is Cannabis sativa L.

Also known as industrial hemp, it’s explicitly grown commercially. The 2018 Agricultural Improvement Actdefines it as cannabis with a THC level of less than 0.3%. It’s unlikely to get you high and has soaring levels of cannabidiol (CBD) instead.

Chinese and Mesopotamians cultivated hemp centuries ago. It was so valuable that colonial America required farmers to grow it to produce rope and textiles. Mandatory hemp cultivation sounds like a pipe dream today.

A difference between hemp seeds and marijuana seeds is that the former grow into hardy plants, requiring much less water and fertilizer. They can make several products, have various health benefits, and are a source of protein and essential fatty acids.

Cannabis Leaves

Hemp vs. cannabis: The differences between hemp and marijuana

Hemp and marijuana; are they two peas in a pod, or more like apples and oranges? Understand that they’re both cannabis and come from the same species. This section will explore the apparent differences between them.


The main difference between marijuana and hemp is in the name. Marijuana has a controversial title due to its racist roots in the United States. It carries an anti-immigrant sentiment rooted in the Mexican people.

Previously only known as cannabis, it became “marijuana” due to its association with Mexican culture. Some started spreading propaganda about this plant, linking it to racism as they thought it was a Mexican product. It slowly contributed toward cannabis becoming illegal.

During the 1910s and 1920s, weed was legally transported across state lines. It only became regulated as an illegal drug in the 1930s.

The racial controversy resulted in the term “marijuana” becoming a word many consumers no longer want to use. The term cannabis became the preferred term, while hemp is used to refer to any cannabis plant with less than 0.3% THC.


When it comes to the appearance of weed, a trained eye can tell the difference between hemp and marijuana with relative ease.

With hemp, picture a tall, slender plant with skinny stalks. On the contrary, weed crops are shorter, bushier, and thicker. The weed leaf is also broad, while hemp leaves are thinner.

Hemp plants generally have a more uniform look with evenly spaced branches. They also tend to have a lighter green color. Cannabis has a darker green shade, is shaggier, and is more irregularly shaped.

There are several plants that look like marijuana, so it’s worth knowing the visual differences whenever you come across them.


To differentiate between hemp and weed bud, the key is in the size. The hemp flower is small, inconspicuous, and greenish-yellow. Weed buds are a sight to behold, as they’re typically large and colorful.

They’re both coated in a glittering layer of crystals known as trichomes, which store cannabinoids and terpenes. An example is the farnesene terpene, responsible for sweet, fruity, earthy aromas and soothing sedative effects.

The tiny and spindly hemp nugs have a low THC concentration and high CBD levels. Depending on the strain, the dense marijuana buds can have soaring levels of THC and CBD.

Consuming hemp flower or weed requires knowledge of what you’re dealing with. Always research the specific strain you’re considering.

hemp vs marijuana


Growing hemp or marijuana is an exciting and rewarding experience, but it’s essential to do it right. Proper preparation and care can make all the difference in the final yield and quality. We’ll give you a brief overview of what it takes for a bounty harvest.


Hemp is tough; it thrives in different climates and soil types. Select a strain suited to your local climate and soil conditions. Opt for a well-draining medium with a neutral pH of about 6.0–7.5.

It takes about 100 days for the crops to reach maturity. During this time, monitor them for any signs of pests or diseases despite their resistant traits.

Harvest time depends on your end goal. If you’re interested in fiber, the ideal moment is before the flowers begin developing, usually around 70–90 days after planting. It’s typically around mid-September.

To collect hemp seeds, wait until they’re fully mature, and the plants begin drying out at around 100–140 days. It’s often around mid-October. According to a study, yields may be up to 3 tons per acre.

Both state and federal laws regulate hemp cultivation. Farmers must follow specific guidelines; testing is mandatory to ensure it contains less than 0.3% THC.


Marijuana is a bit more complicated to deal with. It needs specific conditions and regular monitoring, so cultivators may prefer indoor growing or specialized greenhouses. Pay careful attention to temperature, humidity, and light.

The ideal pH varies depending on the medium and growth phase. An acidic level of 5.8–6.8 may be sufficient in soil, while hydroponics requires a higher range of 5.5–6.5.

Depending on the strain, it takes about 3–8 months to grow from seed to harvest. Whether you’re dealing with sativa or indica, there are different weed colors, flavors, effects, and growth patterns. Remember to research and pick the right strain for your skill level.

Provide plenty of light and nutrients to promote healthy growth for the delicate vegetative phase. During flowering, monitor the crops closely for any signs of stress or diseases. Adjust your lighting and nutrient schedules to encourage impressive bud development.

Growing hemp and marijuana requires patience, skill, and attention to detail. With enough practice and proper care, anyone can reap a chunky harvest.

THC and CBD content

The differences between smoking hemp flower and weed depend significantly on the THC and CBD content.

Marijuana is mainly famous for its high THC content, while hemp is all about CBD. This compound has various reported health benefits. There are some strains with more CBD content as well. If it’s legal in your state, you don’t have to stick to hemp unless you prefer to.

Either way, it’s crucial to know the difference between hemp bud vs. weed bud. You wouldn’t want to smoke the wrong herb and get unintended effects. Remember to consume responsibly and know your limits.


Hemp has a wide range of applications, and there are a few unexpected ways it’s used today.

Clothing made from hemp might have you picturing an itchy and scratchy tie-dye, but the fabric has improved since the 1960s. It’s breathable, durable, and blended with other materials to create soft, comfortable attire, perfect for any occasion.

Hemp seeds are also a superfood. They’re packed with protein, healthy fats, and essential nutrients, making them a great addition to smoothies, salads, and baked goods. Anyone adventurous may even create milk or protein powder.

The herb is also making waves in the beauty industry. Its oil reportedly has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, making it an exceptional ingredient in skincare products. It’s non-comedogenic, so it helps reduce breakouts from heavy creams that clog pores.

There’s a slight difference between hemp and CBD oil. They both have the potential to provide relief for various conditions, but hemp oil has more nutritional value.

When hemp leaf vs. weed leaf comes into question, it’s the former that makes paper, rope, and even building materials. Hemp is resistant to rot, fire, and pest invasions, a win-win for any homeowner.

Marijuana has several functions, too. Apart from recreational activities, users report help with various conditions, like anxiety, insomnia, pain relief, and creativity boosts.


The legality of hemp and marijuana is sometimes confusing.

Thanks to the 2018 Farm Bill, Hemp is legal to grow and possess in all states in America. Enjoy all the benefits of the hemp plant without repercussions.

Despite marijuana’s growing popularity, it’s still illegal at the federal level. Many states have legalized recreational and medical use, but it still sparks debates. Update yourself on the law before having a sesh to unwind.

The difference in the law lies in the chemical makeup of hemp and weed. As earlier stated, hemp contains less than 0.3% THC, so it’s not a controlled substance.

Marijuana has soaring THC levels that can reach up to 30%. Unfortunately, it’s a controversial substance, depending on the location. It’s hard to imagine weed was once a legal cross-border import.

Stay informed about the regulations surrounding both plants to avoid getting caught with your buds in a bunch over a legal technicality.

differences between hemp and marijuana

Social stigma

Although there’s a social stigma regarding both hemp and marijuana, it affects one more than the other. The first is a hero, while the other is often demonized. Here’s why the difference in perception is enormous.

Early civilizations used hemp for centuries in a variety of practical applications. It’s versatile and valuable in several ways. Sustainable living movements embrace it to reduce overreliance on harmful synthetic materials.

The opposing views began when President Nixon declared a “War on Drugs” in the 1970s, which included a crackdown on marijuana. The other was caught in the crossfire, as people thought hemp and marijuana were identical.

It led to decades-long demonization of hemp, with many seeing it as nothing more than a drug plant. But in recent years, people have been more educated about the benefits, and the social stigma is fading away.

For a long time, authorities associated smoking weed with laziness and rebellion. The media portrayed it as a dangerous drug that’s the root cause of many societal issues.

You can trace the roots of the stigma to historical, political, and racial issues. The war on drugs disproportionately impacted communities of color, consequently spreading harmful perceptions and policies.

We can fight this by enlightening ourselves and others about the potential benefits of hemp and marijuana.

Research shows that providing accurate information about marijuana leads to a decrease in negative attitudes toward it. With more states legalizing it for medical and recreational use, the tides are turning.

The next time you hear someone spouting misinformation, humbly speak up and share the facts. They might join you for a joint and some enlightenment if it’s legal in your state.

Environmental impact

When it comes to usage, comparing hemp and weed leaves the latter at a slight disadvantage. Industrial hemp is a total eco-warrior. It has many uses and benefits and is also good for the environment. Here are some reasons why green advocates appreciate hemp:

  • Absorbs carbon naturally: It drains carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, so it’s an efficient way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Requires minimal water: Unlike other crops, hemp grows with very little water. It’s excellent for arid regions where water is scarce.
  • Fights off pests: Its natural defenses against pests ensure no need for harmful pesticides, supporting the health of the environment, cultivators, and consumers.
  • Improves soil health: The deep roots help break up compacted soil and improve air circulation and drainage, leading to better yields.
  • Decomposes and enriches the soil: Despite being strong and durable, the fibers are biodegradable and make eco-friendly plastic products.
  • Acts as a biofuel: Hemp seeds produce biodiesel, a renewable and eco-friendly alternative to fossil fuels.
  • Replaces paper: It makes paper without using toxic chemicals like chlorine.
  • Makes sustainable textiles and clothes: Spin the fibers into yarn and weave them into materials to produce soft, breathable, and durable garments resistant to rot.
  • Substitutes to petroleum-based paint: There’s linoleic acid in the oil, which gives it a drying effect like that of paint.
  • Makes non-toxic insulation: It creates eco-friendly and effective insulating materials that are fire-resistant with a high R-value, making it famous for green buildings.
  • Human food and animal feed: Hemp seeds are a rich source of nutrients. Eat them raw, roast them, or use in cooking and baking. They’re also a sustainable and healthy option for livestock and pets.

The hemp vs. marijuana eco-friendliness battle goes to the former. Unlike its counterpart, weed isn’t as safe for the planet. Indoor cultivation requires immense energy for various processes and may contribute to greenhouse gas emissions.

Outdoor growing has its impacts too. Growers use pesticides and other harmful supplements; the runoff may contaminate surrounding water sources or harm wildlife.

Despite all that, there are examples of sustainable and eco-friendly weed cultivation practices. Some cultivators incorporate renewable energy sources like solar, while others use organic methods to avoid harmful chemicals.

Fast Auto Cannabis Plant

Composition: Cannabis vs Hemp

Hemp seeds have a high content of healthy fats such as omega 3 and 6, which contributes to the health of your heart. 

It’s also rich in vitamins and minerals, which are great for keeping your immune system fully functional. It’s best used in salads and other cold servings but not suitable for cooking as it can burn easily.

When comparing cannabis vs. hemp, cannabis in its raw form also has many vitamins, dietary fiber, minerals, proteins, and much more. Who would’ve thought its nutritional value would be as high as its natural state.

Consumers enjoy cannabis much more when inhaled. Once heat is applied, all the cannabinoids associated with the known effects of CBD and THC are released. Something that creates a difference between hemp and cannabis. 

Hemp is typically known to be low in cannabinoids. You’ll need to extract large amounts to obtain a small amount of CBD. Cannabis has a robust terpene profile that enhances the euphoric and therapeutic effects of CBD and THC and all the other benefits.

growing autoflower - monitor

Differences brings new possibilities

When looking at hemp vs. marijuana, there aren’t so many differences. The polarity is not typically in the appearances but beyond what the eye can see.

The differences between hemp and marijuana are in what they have to offer, what their legal status is, and how regulated they are regarding availability and production.

The easiest thing to remember when it comes to the difference between cannabis and hemp is that you can derive cannabidiol from both. Only hemp doesn’t provide the high that marijuana does.  

It’s important to know all the facts when choosing a cannabis strain that best suits you. Whether for recreational purposes or medicinal use, ensure you know all the differences to avoid disappointment.

Differences aren’t always bad, and they can bring new possibilities. So if you’ve been avoiding any of these herbs because they’re too similar, perhaps these contrasts will give you new insights.  

For more information, visit Homegrown Cannabis, where we aim to meet all your cannabis needs. Whether you want to know the difference between hemp and marijuana or buy cannabis seeds, we’ve got you covered.

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