The Big Difference Between Marijuana And Hemp

Even though a third of Americans think hemp and marijuana are the same thing, there is actually a major difference between them (via Yahoo!). And while the use of both marijuana and hemp-derived products is high, public knowledge about them is low.

Hemp and marijuana are, in fact, variations of the same plant. So far as their taxonomy (scientific classification) goes, both are species of cannabis plants that, on the surface, are indistinguishable from one another. "Hemp and marijuana even look and smell the same," Tom Melton, deputy director of the North Carolina State University's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Extension program, explains (via NC State News).

The difference between them is found in a legal distinction. Hemp is cannabis that contains 0.3 percent or less of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), one of two main plant chemicals found in cannabis plants (cannabinoids) and the compound responsible for the "high" normally associated with marijuana use (via Healthline). The other main chemical is cannabidiol, a.k.a. CBD. This compound has become widely popular for its association with pain and anxiety relief. On its own, however, it's not psychoactive and can't produce a high (via Verywell Mind).

You can't get high on hemp

NC State Extension deputy director Tom Melton adds, "The difference is that hemp plants contain no more than 0.3 percent (by dry weight) of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the psychoactive substance found in marijuana. By comparison, marijuana typically contains 5 to 20 percent THC. You can't get high on hemp" (via NC State News). Thus, hemp is usually produced for non-recreational purposes, like CBD oils, paper products, and textiles.

On the other hand, when people talk about marijuana, they're usually referring to the cannabis plant that can produce a 'high,' as it contains more than 0.3 percent THC.

The 2018 Farm Bill made it legal to grow hemp (but not marijuana) across the United States, and production quickly picked up. As Melton puts it, "Many see industrial hemp as a rapidly growing industry." But individual state laws regarding CBD and marijuana use are complicated and vary widely.