Mention the word hemp and you’re likely to hear someone draw an immediate comparison to marijuana. That’s because the two plants are actually two different cultivars of the same botanical species: Cannabis sativa.
But though they’re often thought of as two sides to the same coin, it’d be more accurate to consider hemp and marijuana as two cousins with very distinct personalities. In this article, we’ll look beyond the skin-deep resemblance and shine a light on the many differences that set these two cannabis cousins apart.
Take a quick look at a hemp plant and a marijuana plant growing side by side, and it’s easy to see the two strains are related. They both feature serrated, sharp-pointed leaves–generally with five to seven leaflets each–that are easy to pick out of any botanical lineup. But like any two look-alike cousins, a closer inspection reveals a world of difference.
All cannabis plants contain a broad profile of more than one hundred compounds known as cannabinoids, which mimic the effects of similar chemicals already at work in the human body. Throughout their long centuries of cultivation, the differing uses for marijuana and hemp have resulted in two strains of cannabis with very different cannabinoid profiles.
Mirroring their contradictory natures, hemp and marijuana strains tend to thrive in very different settings.
|THC vs. CBD Content||High amounts of CBD, Low THC (no more than 0.3 percent)||High THC (5 – 20% on average, up to 30% for high-potency strains), Low CBD|
|Will It Get You High?||No||Yes|
|Growing Requirements||Hardy and adaptable; grows in a variety of soil and climate types; suitable as a field crop for fiber production, and as a greenhouse plant for producing flowering plants needed for seed, oil and CBD products||Finicky; usually grown indoors, requiring carefully controlled temperature, soil, and nutrient levels and special cultivation techniques to prevent pollination|
|Appearance||Tall, almost treelike, with thinner leaves and fibrous stalks sporting fewer branches and flowering buds||Shorter, bushier, with broader leaves and many branches sporting preponderance of THC-rich buds|
To make comparisons of cannabis strains just a bit more confusing, there is another variety of this plant, Cannabis indica, that can also get thrown into the mix.
Hopefully we’ve been able to clear up some of the confusion that commonly creeps into comparisons of hemp and marijuana. As with any comparison of personalities, however, it’s important to remember not to paint with too broad a brush.
While marijuana is often talked about only as a recreational drug, its euphoric, analgesic, antiemetic and appetite-boosting effects have been reported to alleviate symptoms associated with a variety of medical conditions ranging in severity from depression to terminal cancer. And while hemp is often farmed outdoors, growers who choose to focus on cultivating flowering plants for seed and CBD production have found great success growing hemp as a greenhouse crop.
When it comes to cannabis, the old saying is only too true: you really can’t judge a plant by its cover. Now that you know more about the differences between the cannabis varieties, we hope you’ll know what to say the next time someone tells you hemp and marijuana are the same exact thing.
To help you bring your newfound knowledge to the masses, the chart below provides a convenient breakdown of the basics we’ve discussed so far, along with some additional details about the distinct properties of hemp and marijuana–the oft-confused yet decidedly unique cousins of the cannabis family.