Hemp and marijuana, more accurately known as cannabis, are of the same genus, Cannabis, and the same species, Cannabis Sativa, and are technically the same plant. However, hemp and cannabis are selectively bred for very different purposes and have many notable differences. Here are a few ways hemp differs from marijuana:
Hemp and cannabis are genetically different through selective breeding and are bred for different purposes. Cannabis is bred for its psychoactive properties for medical, religious, and recreational purposes. On the other hand, hemp is selectively bred to be strong and durable for industrial purposes. Hemp has a wide variety of uses and can be found in everything from fuel, biodiesel, methanol, and cooking oil, to clothes, paper, and even food. Marijuana cannot be used for these purposes and a large amount of hemp is required in a short period of time to achieve the same effects as cannabis.
The reason hemp cannot be used for recreational or medicinal purposes is because of the amount of THC it has is less than the amount cannabis has. THC, short for tetrahydrocannabinol, is responsible for the majority of cannabis’ psychological effects. THC is what causes a recreational user of marijuana to become high and what treats nausea in cancer patients. Though cannabis has a much higher THC count than hemp, the line between them is arbitrary. Canadian scientist Ernest Small published a paper in 1971 that arbitrarily determined that hemp contained less than 0.3% THC and cannabis was anything with a THC content greater than 0.3%. Canadian law, therefore, defines hemp as anything with a THC content below 0.3%. Most European countries, however, define hemp as having a THC content below 0.2%, and the United States defines hemp as having no THC content. Legally and scientifically, there is no universal definition.
There is a common myth on the internet that cannabis is solely female plants and hemp is solely male plants. This is false. There are both male and female hemp plants as well as male and female cannabis plants. However, cannabis plants are primarily female and produce budding flowers that are high in THC. It is from these buds that marijuana is made. These plants are delicate and require controlled, generally warm temperatures and a humid environment to grow. Hemp plants, on the other hand, are primarily male and do not contain budding flowers. These plants have a strong fiber and are hardy, making them able to be grown in a wide variety of areas.
Though there is no universal definition for the differences between hemp and cannabis, they are two genetically different plants bred for very different purposes.