What Is The Difference Between Hemp and Marijuana?

Even though hemp is one of the world’s oldest domestic crops, there are still many misconceptions about the plant. The biggest mistake is associating hemp with psychoactive drugs like marijuana. Because of this mistaken belief, a large number of the population including lawmakers believe hemp is a dangerous and addictive drug like they perceive marijuana to be. However, as you probably are aware, neither marijuana or hemp is dangerous or addictive. In fact, both possess properties that can benefit our health and wellbeing. So how are hemp and marijuana different? And how did this confusion even begin?

How it all Began

While marijuana and its derivatives began being demonized in the early 20th century by small sectors of the population, it wasn’t until the late 60’s and 70’s with President Nixon’s campaign against recreational drugs, known as “ War on Drugs” that people began conflating hemp and marijuana. As part of this “war,” President Nixon signed into law the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 (CSA) which established a set of banned drugs and formed the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).  The act grouped marijuana with all types of cannabis, including hemp, and made it illegal to grow and consume in the US. As a result, the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 led to the demise of the hemp industry and also led to an increased misconception and rejection of the plant.

Hemp vs. Marijuana

Hemp and marijuana are entirely different even though they both come from the cannabis plant. So should hemp have been left out of the Controlled Substances Act? Absolutely. And here’s why:

Chemical Composition

Both marijuana and hemp derive from the cannabis plant, but they are distinct strains with different chemical compositions and uses. The main difference between hemp and marijuana lies in their concentration of THC and CBD. Marijuana usually contains 3% to 20% THC while hemp usually contains much lower levels of THC and high levels of CBD which negates the psychoactive effect of THC.


Hemp and marijuana are grown for different purposes: therefore, they require different cultivation methods and growing conditions.

Marijuana is specifically cultivated to maintain moderate to high levels of THC so it can be used for recreational and medicinal purposes. It is usually grown indoors under strictly controlled conditions.

Industrial hemp, which usually contains less than 0.3% THC, is typically grown outdoors as an abundant crop. Industrial hemp is used to make clothing, rope, bioplastic, and cosmetics. Additionally, hemp is commonly used as a dietary supplement in the form of food or CBD extracts.

Legal Status

Since the creation of The Controlled Substances Act of 1970, laws have changed significantly since then, with most legislative changes relaxing restrictions of both hemp and marijuana.

While marijuana has gained important legal ground in the U.S., it is still largely illegal in various parts of the country. The use of medical marijuana is legal in only 31 states with only 9 of these states allowing for its recreational use. Luckily, it is just a matter of time before marijuana becomes legal in all 50 states, at least for medical purposes. There is more than enough evidence supporting marijuana’ multiple health benefits, and lawmakers should not be able to ignore this for much longer.

The Agricultural Act of 2014 established a comprehensive set of laws legalizing the cultivation and consumption of hemp under several conditions. Since then, the hemp industry has grown tremendously mainly as a result of the public’s increasing demand for CBD.

Restoring Hemp’s Reputation

Even though it is now largely available in the U.S., the criminalization of hemp almost 50 years ago has had a long-lasting effect on its reputation. However, CBD is now putting hemp back on the map thanks to its medicinal uses that are changing the lives of millions.

CBD is a chemical compound found in hemp. It has been found to have multiple health benefits which can help with a wide array of conditions such as chronic pain, insomnia, and low energy levels. Thanks to its medicinal properties and the 2014 Farm Bill, hemp-derived CBD is now one of the fastest growing industries in the U.S. and is expected to become a multibillion-dollar industry within the next decade.

If you are curious as to what CBD can do for you, try one of the many CBD products available on the market today like Pure Relief’s oils and edibles. For more information about CBD and what it can do for you, check out these educational resources.

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