Hemp vs Marijuana- What’s the difference?

The United States is on the brink of full legalization of marijuana. If not for recreational purposes, studies have confirmed the number of health benefits. While, the increased usage is ever more likely, there are however rising concerns that flare up. One that relates to the difference between weed and hemp.

The clear distinction remains rather unclear for people who often tend to mistake the two plants. The words are interchangeably used which makes it all the more difficult to know what really constitutes hemp and what constitutes marijuana.

While they may look almost the same, there is a crucial difference between the two. They are biologically structured differently which in turn accounts for the varied properties of both.

How to really distinguish between hemp and marijuana? Continue to read the article to develop better insight!

Hemp vs Marijuana

Before we focus our discussion on the actual difference between the two, let us aware ourselves about the primary classifications of the cannabis plant: mainly being Indica and Sativa. Marijuana, on one hand, will belong to either the Indica or Sativa category. The case is, however, different for hemp which belongs only to the Sativa group.

What this really means is that both, hemp and marijuana are extracted from the cannabis plant. Yet, because both are further categorized into different classification, they are not literally the same. They possess a dissimilar biological structure and may at the end of the day have different usage.

Let us first consider the anatomy and composition of the two.

On the look of it, marijuana plant happens to be rather bushy, with broader leaves and dense buds. In contrast, hemp will have skinny leaves that will grow taller with time. More importantly, they will tend to be concentrated on the upper part of the plant. In addition, hemp will have fewer visible branches than a marijuana plant.

On a closer look at the composition, we also notice both the plants to be different from each other.

Cannabis consists of two dominant Cannabinoid compounds: Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD). The former is responsible for inducing psychoactive activity within the user.

On average, a marijuana plant will have THC content ranging from 10 to 40%, enough to get someone high. Hemp, on the other hand, has as low as 0.3% THC, simply not enough to induce psychoactive effects. Which finally brings us to the last section of this article: the usage of the two.


From the aforementioned discussion, it is reasonable to infer that marijuana is most likely to be used for recreational purposes. The great amount of THC leads to stronger high compared to smoking hemp. In addition, marijuana also becomes the primary substance for any cannabis related medical treatment. Usually smoked, it can also be inhaled or ingested in the form of edibles.

Its counterpart hemp is used mostly in the industrial sector to produce a range of clothing, paper and biofuel products. The CBD from hemp is also sometimes extracted to be used as oil for a variety of purposes. Either way, the recreational use remains limited close to being zero.

Areeba Hussain

Areeba is an independent medical and healthcare writer. For the last three years, she is writing for Tophealthjournal. Her prime areas of interest are diseases, medicine, treatments, and alternative therapies. Twitter @Areeba94789300

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