Cannabis, marijuana, weed, hemp. Four words that, over the years, have been confused with one another and wrongly been used interchangeably. While marijuana, weed and hemp are all pants of the Cannabis family, they are definitely not the same thing.
The Cannabis family is divided into two main species – hemp and marijuana. While marijuana can be considered either a Cannabis Sativa or a Cannabis Indica, hemp is only a member of the Cannabis Sativa. We know what you’re thinking, “sativas still get you high though, so how is it that hemp is not weed if it’s still a sativa?”
Just because hemp and marijuana share similarities, the biological structure of the plant has several distinct and crucial differences. It’s like how some wild mushrooms in the forest will send you down the rabbit hole and others will, well… They may look the same and have similarities, but you do not want to confuse them. Thankfully confusing hemp with marijuana won’t have such drastic effects, and visually is actually much easier than comparing mushrooms to mushrooms… Phew.
Marijuana features broad leaves with dense buds and is short and bushy in its appearance. On the other hand, hemp is quite skinny and grows quite tall with its leaves concentrated at the top of the plant and very few branches growing beneath the top. The anatomy of the plants also have crucial differences in their chemical compounds. While the Cannabis family contains many compounds the two main ones are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). Hemp contains a very very low percentage of THC (think under 0.3%, not worth trying to smoke it) in contrast to marijuana which can have anywhere from 15%-40% THC levels.
The high levels of THC make marijuana the perfect crop to grow for recreational and medical purposes because of psychoactive properties of the plant. Hemps low percent of THC make it less valuable in the “pot” market but highly sought after as a renewable raw material. The seeds and flowers are used in health foods, organic body care, and other nutraceuticals, while it’s fibers and stalks are used in hemp clothing, construction materials, paper, bio-fuel, plastic composites, and more.
So while these two plants might, to the uninformed, be seen as the same, us cannabis connoisseurs (which now includes you) know that they are drastically different!