Hemp vs. Marijuana: What’s the Difference?

Marijuana is the dried flower of the female cannabis plant, and it can come from either the cannabis indica or cannabis sativa species. Hemp is only a member of the cannabis sativa family.

Although marijuana and hemp can both come from the cannabis sativa family, they’re distinctly different. Marijuana is bushier with broader leaves, while hemp is leaner with shinier leaves.

It’s differences in their chemical composition that really set them apart, though.

More than 100 chemical cannabinoids are found in cannabis, but the amount of these cannabinoids differs dramatically between hemp and marijuana.

Marijuana’s most common cannabinoid is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) — the chemical cannabinoid associated with the plant’s psychoactive effect. In marijuana, THC levels can reach 30%, depending on the strain, but THC levels in hemp are less than 0.3%.

The low levels of THC in hemp mean that, unlike marijuana, it has historically been used for industrial purposes. Hemp’s rapid growth and strong fibers made it ideal for crafting durable rope, clothing, sail, and paper.

Although hemp won’t get you high, it does contain significant amounts of another cannabinoid, cannabidiol (CBD), which is also found in marijuana. CBD is a nonpsychoactive cannabinoid, and its interaction with receptors in the central nervous system and immune system can offer medicinal benefits, making hemp-CBD concentrates popular ingredients.