Is Hemp the same as Marijuana?

Updated: Apr 6, 2021


When I called my father one day last summer, he mentioned that he has severe hip pain which is making it difficult for him to get around and is also affecting his sleep. I immediately brought up CBD and suggested he try a CBD topical and possibly a CBD tincture as well. His immediate response was, “Isn’t that marijuana? I don’t think it’s legal!”


Now, keep in mind that my father is very conservative and like many others of his generation, he grew up fully believing the reefer madness propaganda around cannabis prohibition. It's no surprise there is confusion when people grow up believing that cannabis is the devil's harvest!




So we started talking and I explained to him that hemp is now federally legal and that CBD is a legal byproduct of hemp. We talked about the therapeutic benefits of CBD and he was open to learn more. I think the fact that taking CBD doesn’t involve smoking made the idea more appealing to him. More importantly, he was looking for a natural solution to his hip pain and CBD seemed to fit the bill. What was holding him back from finding relief with CBD was the fear instilled in him by years of cannabis prohibition and a lack of knowledge about the cannabis plant.


The majority of the world’s population still lives in a society where cannabis is illegal. While that has been slowly changing in recent years, it’s really no surprise that many people still don’t understand that CBD is not psychoactive and that hemp is not the same as marijuana. So let’s clarify things a bit for those who are still unclear.


Cannabis is part of a family of plants known as Cannabaceae, and includes both the hemp plant and the plant commonly known as marijuana. The cannabis family contains an astounding variety of plants. The range of colors, sizes, smells, flavors and cannabinoid profiles in the cannabis family is incredibly diverse.



So what is the difference between hemp and marijuana?


The only real difference between Marijuana and Hemp is the THC percentage in the plant. THC is the primary compound in cannabis plants that makes people “high” and THC percentages in cannabis plants can vary from almost 0% to new super potent strains that contain over 30%. If you were to see a hemp plant and a marijuana plant side by side, you would not be able to tell them apart. They both produce male and female flowers, look and smell the same and have similar growing habits.


The 2018 US Farm Bill both legalized hemp as an agricultural commodity and removed hemp from the list of controlled substances. Below is the actual language of the 2018 US Farm Bill which defines hemp.


“The term ‘hemp’ means the plant Cannabis sativa L. and any part of that plant, including the seeds thereof and all derivatives, extracts, cannabinoids, isomers, acids, salts, and salts of isomers, whether growing or not, with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis.”


So what we can understand from the farm bill is that hemp and anything that comes from the hemp plant (including CBD and other cannabinoids) is legal, so long as the THC percentage is below 0.3% by weight. If it contains more THC than 0.3%, it is no longer considered legal hemp.


It is important to note that CBD by itself is not psychoactive; you could take large doses of CBD and would not feel high at all. Keep in mind however, that full-spectrum CBD tinctures do contain trace amounts of THC and large doses of full spectrum CBD can cause slight psychoactive effects.


These days, cannabis in its various forms is grown for 3 reasons:


Industrial Hemp - grown for millenia all over the world to produce rope, paper, textiles, food (seeds and oil), bioplastics and more. Industrial hemp typically contains very low percentages of THC and is grown in large quantities for its nutritional seeds and biomass. It grows quickly with minimal care, is extremely useful and produces good yields. A great renewable resource!


Hemp for CBD – these plants are specially bred and selected for their low THC content and high CBD content. While hemp has been used as medicine for thousands of years, prohibition in recent times has led to heavier reliance on pharmaceuticals and a loss of knowledge of simple but effective herbal remedies. The CBD industry as we know it today is a fairly new industry that started to boom after hemp legalization in 2018. As people learn about the therapeutic benefits of hemp based products like CBD, its popularity continues to grow.


Cannabis for recreational or medical use: this type of cannabis is also known as marijuana, weed, pot, grass, ganja, etc. Plants are selected for their high THC content, often upwards of 20% THC by weight. This is the cannabis that gets you high when ingested. While most people think of THC only as a party drug, research shows that THC may also provide many therapeutic benefits. This is the reasoning behind the medical marijuana movement and has finally led to a worldwide increase in scientific research into THC and other cannabinoids.

The first two types of cannabis mentioned above are now federally legal in the USA and contain only trace amounts of THC. The third type of cannabis is still illegal on the federal level, but is legal for either medical or recreational use in a growing number of states.


We hope this article has provided some clarity and a better understanding of the cannabis family. For more articles about CBD, Hemp and Cannabis, please check out our BLOG.


At Welliva, we are strong believers in the benefits of hemp, CBD and cannabinoids and strive to bring those benefits to our customers in the safest, most natural form.


To learn more Welliva's all-natural products, please visit our SHOP.

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