The short answer here is that yes, hemp is completely different from marijuana. It’s different in not only its application and cultivation but its function as well.
However, these stark differences didn’t stop hemp being lumped in with marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. Even after four decades, the government seems to still be a bit confused about the differences between these two varieties.
While the legislation around it is official, the actual progress of it has been slow. When it comes to application, marijuana and hemp fall into two completely different categories.
Marijuana can be used for both recreational and medicinal reasons. Hemp is associated with a number of other uses where marijuana couldn’t be used. These include clothing, dietary, and skin products. Amazingly, hemp is actually known for having over 25,000 uses.
Where is the Difference Between Hemp and Marijuana?
Hemp and marijuana look entirely different from one another. When you look at the leaves of the marijuana plant, you’ll find that the bud looks like a nugget while the leaves can be quite broad.
The hemp plant has much thinner leaves that are mostly concentrated at the top of the stem. In fact, you’ll be hard-pressed to find any leaves or branches below the top part of the plant.
When you’re looking at both plants from far away, marijuana looks much shorter and more bush-like. Hemp, on the other hand, is taller and thinner. Generally speaking, when you compare a hemp farm to a marijuana farm, it shouldn’t be too difficult to notice the differences.
While appearance is a great start, these two plants also differ entirely when it comes to their chemical makeup. This is because in marijuana you’ll find the cannabinoid THC, which is psychoactive and responsible for making you high.
In your average batch of marijuana, you’ll find as much as 20% is THC. Hemp, in contrast, has a maximum of 0.3% THC, which means that it’s virtually impossible to get high from taking hemp recreationally.
Another thing that makes these plants different is that hemp has a much higher CBD content, which is the cannabinoid responsible for a myriad of various health benefits, e.g., pain relief.
Environment for Cultivation
Beyond chemical makeup and appearance, the environment in which these two plants are grown is remarkably different. Hemp plants are grown very closely together, as little as four inches apart, and are usually produced in plots of multiple acres. It can also grow in a number of different climates with a growth cycle of 120 days.
In contrast, the marijuana plant requires a warm, humid atmosphere that is continually controlled. It has an average growth cycle of 60-90 days. Interestingly, marijuana plants can’t be cultivated too close together – it’s recommended that they’re grown approximately six feet apart.
Additionally, if hemp and marijuana were grown too close together, the hemp plant would ruin the marijuana crop and inhibit its ability to create good levels of THC.
What’s the Difference Between CBD and THC?
As we mentioned earlier, THC is the cannabinoid that’s responsible for having a psychoactive effect. Interestingly, the CBD found in hemp actually inhibits the trace amounts of THC that you’ll see in the hemp plant, rendering it useless.
Cannabis Indica vs. Cannabis Sativa
Cannabis Sativa strains are usually taller, have long leaves that are narrow and loose branches. They are almost always better grown outdoors and can reach as high as 20 feet. Cannabis Sativa plants contain a much higher level of CBD, which means you won’t experience a high from it.
Cannabis Indica is a much shorter plant with shorter branches and broader leaves. They are much better suited to being grown indoors. Cannabis Indica has a much higher concentration of THC, which is where you’ll find the psychoactive properties.
Because hemp was lumped in with marijuana in the Controlled Substances Act, it has been classified as a drug ever since. It’s only been recently with new legislation that people are starting to take notice of the hemp plant and all the health benefits contained in CBD.
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References and Further Reading
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