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The Differences Between Hemp and Marijuana

Whatever your baseline knowledge about the marijuana industry in general, you may have heard the words hemp and marijuana used interchangeably. Some people insist that there is a difference between these two terms, and others think that the argument is really just over semantics. No matter your position, we are here to put any doubts over hemp vs marijuana to rest.

Hemp vs Marijuana: the Scientific Differences

While both marijuana and hemp are derived from the same plant species, Cannabis Sativa L, they have been cultivated differently over many years to yield different uses. Industrial hemp was first grown in Taiwan thousands of years ago and was distinguished from marijuana, which is the flowering strand of the plant that is recognized for its psychoactive properties when used by humans. What sets the marijuana strand of the cannabis plant apart from hemp is that it has higher levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is responsible for the psychoactive effects of marijuana. Marijuana also has lower levels of cannabidiol (CBD) than hemp. To increase the level of THC found in marijuana, it is typically grown indoors and has all of the male components removed because fertilization can lower THC concentration. Given that hemp has such low levels of THC, it is almost impossible to get high from smoking or ingesting hemp. The differences in the cultivation of marijuana and hemp have contributed to their distinct appearances over time. Marijuana is specifically cultivated to be bushier and more flowery than hemp. On the other hand, hemp is not cultivated in as controlled an environment as marijuana because there is no danger to the structural integrity of the plant from fertilization. Hemp is most useful when it grows high and strong so that it can be used in a long list of products.

Hemp vs Marijuana: the Legal Differences

There has been plenty of debate over the differences in regulation of hemp and marijuana. Because the legal definition of marijuana was so broad for so many years, it made it impossible for hemp farmers to grow and use hemp in many common industrial products, such as rope, plastic bags, textiles, fuels and building materials. However, a little more than a decade ago by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit formally distinguished between marijuana and hemp so that farmers would not be prohibited from growing hemp to produce many of the products that we use on a daily basis. The court describes non-psychoactive hemp as a strand of cannabis that is not synthetically produced or directly derived from marijuana. The Drug Enforcement Agency is no longer allowed to regulate the production and use of non-psychoactive hemp because it does not have the same properties when consumed as marijuana.

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