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Hemp vs. Cannabis, what's the difference?

Hemp and cannabis are derived from the same species of plant; Cannabis sativa. They are both grown for different purposes and exhibit a lot of different characteristics. Put simply, hemp is the name given to strains of cannabis plant with extremely low levels of the psychoactive compound THC, making the versatile plant viable to use in dozens of different industries. Cannabis or marijuana on the other hand is typically grown for the high.

Since there are lots of misconceptions about hemp and cannabis this article shall give you a detailed description, similarities, and differences between hemp and cannabis.

What is Cannabis?

Also known as marijuana, cannabis is an ancient plant that has been cultivated for recreational and health purposes. It is known to interfere with brain activity and can cause a few side effects like anxiety and psychoactive ‘high’ all thanks to the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content. Cannabis contains more than 483 different compounds with the cannabinoids as the most active compounds present in the plant. Data gathered from research has shown that cannabis contains more than 100 different cannabinoids, including CBD, and THC. Over the last few decades, cannabis has been cultivated to have extremely high levels of THC with the primary purpose of getting the user high. However, with the development of scientific research on the cannabis plant, the uses have now shifted into the medical world.

What is Hemp?

Hemp is a strain of Cannabis sativa, which is primarily grown for industrial and commercial use with the entire hemp plant, stalk, leaves, seeds and buds, all utilised for a wide range of products. Cannabis on the other hand is generally grown just for its bud and oils. Hemp is cultivated due to its extremely high nutrient profile and its versatility as an industrial product.

In order to legally be called hemp, the strain of cannabis must contain less than 0.3% THC and any amount of CBD and other cannabinoids. Hemp has been successfully utilized in the food, cordage, cosmetics, paper, plastic, composite materials, building materials, clothing, and textile industries.

Differences between cannabis and hemp

  • Cannabinoid Content

    Cannabinoid Content

    All cannabis plants contain a broad profile of more than one hundred compounds known as cannabinoids. These cannabinoids are a driving factor behind the medical cannabis movement as they are proving to have incredible benefits on the human body. CBD and THC are two of the most abundant cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant and play a large role in the difference between cannabis and hemp.

    Cannabis is grown for high levels of THC, anywhere from 5-30%, whereas hemp cannot contain more than trace amounts or 0.3% THC. Therefore, hemp will not get you high like a typical high THC cannabis strain will. Hemp can be grown for many different purposes, one being for CBD oil. Most of the worlds CBD oil comes from hemp plants.

  • Effects on the body

    Effects on the body

    As hemp contains little to no THC, no part of the plant can create a psychoactive effect and is regarded as very safe. 

    Cannabis strains vary hugely in THC content but your average plant will probably have enough THC to result in a some level of mind altering high. Some people welcome this, while some do not enjoy not being completely in control.

    For those wishing just to experience the benefits of the cannabis plant without the high, any hemp product would be great for you.

  • Plant Growth

    Plant Growth

    Hemp is typically grown outdoors in large quantities with the focus being mass production for seeds and stalks. Cannabis on the other hand is usually grown in greenhouses in order to fine tune growing and help preserve the valuable buds and oils.

    During the growth, hemp plants tend to grow faster, taller, and hardier than cannabis plants as they are subject to the outdoor environment, whereas cannabis requires a more controlled growing condition to produce the desired results.

  • The Future of Hemp and Cannabis

    Hemp has massive potential to grow into the food market as well as replace numerous raw materials. Hemp grows very fast and can be sustainably grown, making it a front runner to eat into the paper and textile market which consumes about 7 million hectares of forests each year. 

    Cannabis growing for medicinal purposes is another massive market right now as countries around the world loosen their cannabis laws to allow CBD and THC products into the market.

Hemp vs. Cannabis: A Comparison Chart

THC vs. CBD Content High amounts of CBD.
Little to no THC (less than 0.3%)
High THC (5 – 20% on average, up to 30% for high-potency strains). Wide range of CBD.
Will it get you high? No Yes
Growing Requirements Hardy and adaptable; grows in a variety of soil and climate types; suitable as a field crop for fiber production, and as a greenhouse plant for producing flowering plants needed for seed, oil and CBD products. Both male and female plants grown and used. Usually grown indoors, requiring carefully controlled temperature, soil, and nutrient levels and special cultivation techniques in order to maximum resin production. Only female plants grown.
Appearance Tall, almost treelike, with thinner leaves and fibrous stalks sporting fewer branches and flowering buds Shorter, bushier, with broader leaves and many branches sporting preponderance of THC-rich buds
Uses Industrial Applications:
High-quality paper
Rope and cordage
Clothes and textiles
Biofuels and bioplastics
Automotive manufacturing
Eco-friendly building materials
Health/Beauty/Medicinal Applications:
CBD oil reported as a treatment for inflammation, epileptic seizures, multiple sclerosis, anxiety, and wide array of other conditions
Hemp seeds and hemp oil can be used to make healthy food products high in essential fatty acids and low in saturated fat
Creams and ointments for anti-aging effects and relief from skin conditions
Psychoactive Effects:
Heightened sensory awareness
Medicinal Applications:
Pain relief
Treating depression and anxiety, especially related to chronic health conditions
Antiemetic treatment for chemotherapy-related nausea
Appetite inducer for wasting diseases like AIDs and terminal cancers