You may be wondering what is hemp. In fact, you may have even heard that marijuana and hemp are exactly the same because they’re both plants in the cannabis family. Well the truth is hemp isn’t marijuana, but the two plants do share some characteristics because they’re from the same family of plants. In a way, hemp and marijuana are like cousins. Yes, they’re from the same family so that means they come from a plant with the same name just like you have the same last name as your cousins. They’re related so it means they will have some of the same characteristics just like you and your cousins may look somewhat similar since you are from the same family. But, just because they are cousins like you and your cousins, it doesn’t mean they are the same.

First, it’s important for us to understand what hemp is so we can really understand what we are talking about. Hemp is a plant that is grown for its wide array of uses including products that range from food and beverages, cosmetics, personal care products, nutritional supplements, fabrics and textiles, yarns and fibers, paper, construction and insulation materials, and much more.

It is likely one of the earliest plants cultivated by humans for textiles fibers. In fact, there have been hemp cloths found in Mesopotamia, which is now modern day Iran and Iraq, that date back to around 8,000 BC. It’s not just isolated to that part of the world either. China appears to have had hemp cultivation for over 6,000 years and it found its way to Europe around 1,200 BC. This all means that humans have been using it for various purposes for 10,000 years.


Legally, hemp and marijuana have separate definitions in law. While marijuana is defined in U.S. drug laws, Congress defines the definition for industrial hemp as “the plant Cannabis sativa L. and any part of such plant, whether growing or not, with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis” as part of the 2014 Farm Bill. Delta-9 THC is more commonly referred to as THC, which is the part of the marijuana plant that causes you to feel “high” from consuming marijuana. Essentially, hemp has none of the psychotrophic effects that you experience from marijuana.

This is no small distinction between hemp and marijuana. While hemp contains no more than .3% THC, marijuana can contain up to 30% THC content in the plant. This key distinction is the difference between the completely federally legal hemp plant and the federally illegal marijuana plant. But, this isn’t the only distinction between the two plants.


Hemp and marijuana are grown in very different ways. Typically, hemp plants are grown in close proximity to each other. They may be grown as close as 4 inches apart. It is also a very hearty plant and can be grown in a variety of climates. The growth cycle of the plant is long at around 108-120 days.

Marijuana on the other hand requires a very controlled, warm, and humid growing process. It is typically grown at least 6 feet apart and requires a much shorter growth cycle than hemp at between 60-90 days.


While they can look similar, there are often key differences in the appearance of marijuana compared to hemp. For instance, when you look at the leaves of the marijuana plant you’ll notice that it tends to look either broad leafed or appear chunky with tiny hairs or crystals on it. Hemp, however, often has skinnier leaves that are concentrated near the top of the plant. On a hemp plant, few of the leaves exist below the top of the plant. And, when you observe the plants from afar marijuana looks like a short, large bush, while hemp is typically skinnier and taller. In fact, the hemp plant can grow up to 20 feet tall. So, if you are observing a hemp farm from one that is growing marijuana, it will be quite clear that these are different plants.


Another key differentiator of hemp compared to marijuana is what the plant is used for. Hemp has many commercial applications that include use in industrial products such as paper, clothing, building materials, and plastic. It is also used in food products such as cooking oil, hemp flour, and hemp seed-based products. And, it is used in medicinal products such as CBD oil tinctures, CBD-infused topicals, and CBD-infused edibles.

Marijuana on the other has large quantities of the cannabinoid THC, which is associated with the “high” sensation caused by marijuana. Just like CBD, and other cannabinoids in both hemp and marijuana, THC interacts with your Endocannabinoid System.

The Endocannabinoid System (ECS) is a naturally occurring network of receptors spread throughout the entire human body. It wasn’t until in the 1990s that researchers first discovered endocannabinoids, which are the natural cannabis-like molecules produced by the human body. Scientists began to realize that cannabinoids from plants like hemp had an effect on the human body by mimicking our own naturally occurring endocannabinoids. THC binds to your CB1 and CB2 receptors which creates the feeling of being “high”

Marijuana is commonly utilized for recreational uses; however, research continues to reveal a wide array of potential new therapeutic uses.


The main difference between CBD that is derived from the hemp plant and the marijuana plant is the THC content of the CBD. CBD derived from hemp contains no more than 0.3% THC meaning that it has all of the benefits of CBD without the “high” associated with THC. CBD derived from hemp is fully federally legal meaning you can buy it online, in drug stores, or at wellness centers like CBD Supply Maryland.

CBD derived from marijuana has similar molecular properties to CBD derived from hemp, but it is high in THC. This means that under current laws it is not federally legal to purchase marijuana derived CBD.

This article shows how it can be easy to confuse hemp and marijuana. Clearly, as different strains of the same family of plant there are similarities, however, it is also clear that there are obvious differences between the plants. Whether it’s how they are grown, what they are cultivated for, what they look like, or how they affect the body, it’s clear that the two are not the same plant.

The confusion and complications that can be present for CBD users make it important to understand the differences between hemp and marijuana.

The difference between hemp and marijuana is a subject that is all too often improperly explained, but hopefully this sheds some light on this important but misunderstood topic.