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Marijuana vs Hemp

The tale of the 2 plant cousins! Hemp and Marijuana are both Cannabis, but they are different varieties, even though they look and smell the same. Marijuana is the dried flower of the female cannabis plant, and it can come from either the cannabis indica or cannabis sativa species. Hemp is only a member of the cannabis sativa family.

Believed to be one of the oldest domesticated crops, humans have grown these two different varieties of cannabis for both industrial and medical uses. Early civilizations grew these tall, sturdy hemp plants to make a variety of foods, oils and textiles, such as rope and fabrics.

Cannabis plants contain unique compounds called cannabinoids, the chemicals that give the cannabis plant its medical and recreational properties. More than 100 cannabinoids have been found identified in Cannabis, but the amount of these cannabinoids differs dramatically between Hemp and Marijuana.

The most prevalent and understood, THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol) interact with different receptors in the body to produce a wide range of effects, such as the “high” feeling from THC. In marijuana, THC levels can reach 30%, depending on the strain, but THC levels in hemp are less than 0.3%.

Because of these very low levels of THC, Hemp unlike marijuana, has historically been the “cousin” that was used for industrial purposes. Hemp’s rapid growth and strong fibers made it ideal for crafting durable rope, clothing, sail, and paper. Whereas, the fibers and stalks of marijuana are not used commercially.

The growing conditions are also different. Marijuana is often grown indoors so that conditions like light, temperature, and humidity can be closely monitored and it grows shorter and bushier with lots of flowers. Its shape tends to either be broad leafed, a tight bud, or look like a nugget with tiny hairs. Its growth cycle only 60-90 days.

Hemp Is typically grown outside and grows sturdy and tall, up to 2 to 4 meters in height, without the need for herbicides or pesticides. It has skinnier leaves that are concentrated at the top with few branches or leaves existing below the top part of the plant. Hemp is grown closely together (as close as 4 inches apart) and is typically grown in large multi-acre plots in a variety of climates and its growth cycle is 108-120 days.

Hemp and Marijuana cannot be grown too close to each other since the hemp’s pollen would immediately ruin the marijuana crop, diluting marijuana’s psycho-activity.

How did both of these plants become illegal, when only Marijuana gets one high? In the 1970s, Nixon declared a “War on Drugs” and signed into law the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. In this Act, marijuana was grouped with all types of cannabis and was made illegal to grow in the US. Unfortunately, Hemp was in this group and was also classified as a drug even though it doesn’t include any of the chemicals that make marijuana a drug.

Now that Hemp is legal, there will be exciting times for this plant since it can be used for so many applications.