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Hemp vs Marijuana : the eternal confusion

Hemp vs Marijuana : the eternal confusion

Hemp vs Marijuana



The difference between hemp vs marijuana is a subject that is all too often very poorly explained. Hemp is different from marijuana in its function, cultivation, and application.

What’s the Difference Between Hemp vs Marijuana?


Cannabis is a type of flowering plant in the Cannabaceae family, which consists of three primary species: Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, and Cannabis ruderalis.

While hemp and marijuana are usually referred to as “species” or “strains” of Cannabis, they actually do not pass as either one. 


Hemp and marijuana are simply broad classifications of Cannabis that were adopted into the mainstream culture; however, they are not legitimate terminology for the Cannabis plant.

To clear the smoke on this popular but quite often misinformed subject, let's try to clarify the difference between Hemp and Marijuana. To do so, we invite you to explore what each of these terms actually means and how they relate to Cannabis.

What is Hemp?


“Hemp” is a term used to classify varieties of Cannabis that contain 0.3% or less THC content. A variety of Cannabis sativa L, hemp is a dioecious plant, which means it can be separated into male and female plants.

Photo by Kym MacKinnon on Unsplash

These plants have served a wide variety of purposes for more than 10,000 years, many believing that hemp was the first crop ever cultivated by mankind. It’s known to have over 50,000 uses and has been the catalyst for man’s earliest innovations. The usage of the plant is more common in producing crucial resources such as food, rope, clothing, paper, and housing material. As living proof, you can check our wonderful clothes made from natural Romanian hemp. 

The term “hemp” has generally been used to describe non-intoxicating Cannabis that is harvested for the industrial use of its derived products.

What is Marijuana?


“Marijuana” or ‘’weed’’  are terms used to name varieties of Cannabis that contain more than 0.3% THC  and can induce psychotropic or euphoric effects on the user.

Photo by Jeff W on Unsplash

The term ‘’marijuana’’ is widespread throughout popular cultures worldwide but has its roots in the American culture. It is considered by some organizations and individuals to project an inadequate misstatement of Cannabis. Some consider the term to be racist. 

Marijuana has been intertwined with race and ethnicity in America since well before the word "marijuana" was coined. If we look at early American history, the term “marijuana” was missing from the vocabulary, and “cannabis” was the primary term used to classify the plant.

Between 1910 and 1920, nearly a million Mexicans migrated into the United States seeking refuge from the Mexican Revolution.

At the same time, anti-Mexican sentiment started to arise and the term “marijuana” was coined for cannabis as it was considered the preferred means of intoxication by Mexican immigrants.

Soon after, a lot of rumors began to appear warning Americans of the violent crimes and homicidal tendencies caused by using “Mexican cannabis” or “locoweed,” which led to an even greater rise in anti-Mexican sentiment.

By 1927, 11 states had passed anti-marijuana laws and by the 1930s anti-marijuana propaganda and the fear of “Reefer Madness” was in full swing.

After the proclamation of the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937, which imposed unrealistic taxes on the possession, sale, and transportation of the plant, the federal government had effectively banned “marijuana,” paving the way for the next 80 years of cannabis prohibition.

The Confusion Between Hemp & Marijuana


 A key difference between hemp and marijuana is their chemical composition. The cannabis subfamily is made up of over 110 known cannabinoids and hemp and marijuana’s cannabinoid profile is characteristically different. The most characteristic difference between the two is based on a single factor — the amount of THC in the plant — or rather whether it will get the user high.

4 Major Differences Between Hemp and Marijuana


Because both high and low THC plants can appear similar, it’s important to break down some core differences between the two.

With contrasting legal regulations and very different effects and usages, you definitely do not want to get these two confused.

To understand the major difference between them, here are some aspects to consider. 

Composition: As explained above, the difference between hemp and marijuana is the THC content. While both plant types can produce good amounts of CBD (non-intoxicating compound), THC content is the key difference.  Cannabis utilizes enzymes (THC synthase and CBD synthase) to synthesize cannabinoids; these enzymes combine precursor molecules (cannabigerolic acid or CBGA) and amino acids to create either CBDA or THCA which eventually lose their carboxyl groups and become our familiar cannabinoids. The genetic heritage of a plant determines the amount of THC vs CBD synthase present in the plant, and therefore how much THC or CBD the plant will produce. This is the only biological difference between “hemp” and “marijuana”. THC synthase and CBD synthase are antagonistic to each other because they use the same precursor molecule; therefore increasing levels of one necessarily decreases the other even if both enzymes are present in a given plant.

Legality: Because they have different THC content, hemp and marijuana regulation are drastically different. Hemp was just recently removed as an illegal substance under the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018, making it and its derived products legal under federal law as long as THC content does not exceed 0.3%. Meanwhile, marijuana is still considered a controlled substance and is federally illegal under the Controlled Substance Act of 1970.

Cultivation: Hemp and marijuana are grown and harvested for different purposes, so it’s only natural that they would have different approaches to how they are cultivated. Marijuana growers manipulate and enhance elements such as light, temperature, and humidity to enhance the plant’s characteristics as well as to ensure plants are female that give flowers. On the other hand, hemp is grown to maximize size and yield. In order to accomplish this, hemp is usually grown outdoors and does not require the level of attentiveness that marijuana does.

Usage: Famously, marijuana is used recreationally by many to achieve mind-altering, euphoric effects, what we know as a “high”. Further, marijuana and THC are being used and tested in the medical field in a variety of ways. Hemp is used to create products like rope, clothes, paper, hemp seed oil, and housing materials. It’s also great for creating CBD-infused products.

The terms hemp and marijuana have become deeply ingrained in our culture, despite the inaccuracies of their definitions. At the end of the day, whether the plant contains THC or not, it’s still cannabis Sativa. The main defining characteristic that separates the two types is whether or not it is above or below 0.3% THC, and even then, these two terms should be taken with a grain of salt as they are not of scientific origin in the first place. 

So, the next time you hear these terms, remember that these are interchangeable with the core word, “cannabis”.

As for us, we're true hempsters that took on the mission to revive the Romanian hemp industry starting from a unique vision. Therefore, we can admit our clothes can really make you feel good, but without the getting high part.

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