Key Differences Between Hemp CBD and Marijuana. Are hemp products and marijuana one and the same?
It’s not uncommon to hear people using the terms “hemp” and “marijuana” interchangeably. However, when comparing the two plants side-by-side, it’s important to note a few key differences.
In this post, we’ll discuss the difference between hemp and marijuana, including how the two plants differ in THC levels, how they are grown, legality, and more.
Understanding the Cannabis Plant
Hemp and marijuana are members of the Cannabis genus of flowering plants. Three species of the Cannabis family can be recognised: Cannabis Sativa, Cannabis Indica and Cannabis Ruderalis. Terms ‘hemp’ and ‘marijuana’ can be used to described either of these plants, as they are not strict botanical terms. In short, the difference between hemp and marijuana boils down to the intended use of the cultivated plants.
All members of the Cannabis genus – including hemp and marijuana – contain cannabinoids: chemical compounds typical for Cannabis plant only very rarely found outside of it. However, just this does not mean they have the same levels of cannabinoid concentrations. Hemp and marijuana feature very different concentrations of common cannabinoids such as THC and CBD.
What is marijuana?
The term ‘marijuana’ typically refers to unpollinated flowers or “buds” of the Cannabis plants cultivated in a way that would maximize the THC content – the chief psychoactive compound found in the plant. Known & cultivated for millennia, Marijuana has always been grown for religious, medicinal or ‘recreational marijuana use’.
Growing Hemp vs Growing Marijuana
Hemp and marijuana must be grown using different techniques and in different environments to produce the best possible results. Nowadays, marijuana is typically grown indoors, allowing the growing conditions to be monitored very closely in order to optimize growth.
Contrastingly, while several measures are taken to try to optimize the concentration of THC in marijuana plants, hemp is cultivated as close as you can get to how cannabis grows naturally. With hemp, the whole plant can be used commercially, not just the flowers.
What is hemp?
Humanity began using and growing hemp hundreds of years before it discovered marijuana. Resilient, adaptable & fast-growing, hemp has always been grown for its strong fibre (making it a key crop for the production of fabric & ropes), as well as for its seeds – a source of nutritious hemp seed oil.
Although almost completely bereft of the psychoactive cannabinoids such as THC, hemp plant is rich in their non-psychoactive counterparts such as CBD.
What is CBD?
Although hemp has also been used for medicinal & therapeutic purposes, it wasn’t until the last century that we began understanding the role the CBD plays in the plant’s beneficial properties.
CBD (Cannabidiol) is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid, commonly found in hemp – it accounts for up to 40% of the plant’s extract. Cannabidiol can be taken into the body in multiple ways, including by inhalation of cannabis smoke or vapor, as an aerosol spray, in capsules, or in a form of CBD hemp oils.
Medicinal grade CBD (typically in a form of isolate) is currently being used in treatment of various neurodegenerative diseases such as epilepsy. In addition to that, a growing body of evidence suggests that CBD can exhibit an overall beneficiary effect on the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS) that regulates such distinct areas as sleep, digestion, skin condition, inflammations, pain, et cetera…Non-medicinal grade CBD intended to nourish the endocannabinoid system is marketed in a form of food supplements, food or food additives.
CBD & Hemp vs Marijuana Confusion
There’s a great deal of confusion in regards to differences between CBD & hemp vs marijuana. Different and often vague legal status of said plants do not help in solving these confusions.
What perplexes most people is that although being a psychoactive drug marijuana is, indeed, illegal in most countries, CBD & hemp do not exhibit any psychoactive properties, and as such remain legal.
However, there has recently been a legal discussion regarding the status of CBD products. Although CBD has been present in various hemp-derived food products for centuries, so-called Novel Food catalogue – a non-binding EU guideline document – is sometimes quoted by authorities seeking to ban CBD-enriched products or CBD isolates available on European markets.
Hemp & CBD vs Marijuana legality
This said, hemp cultivation, manufacturing, and distribution remains legal in all European countries, and since the introduction of the Farm Bill in 2018 in the U.S as well. This means that it is legal to purchase and use CBD products made from hemp.
Marijuana, on the other hand, is still not legal in most European countries; although it is legal in certain countries thanks to local medical marijuana laws whilst recreational use of marijuana is being decriminalised in a growing number of countries.
Buying and Selling Hemp & CBD
Non-medicinal CBD products such as CBD oils, vapes, capsules or cosmetics remain legal in the European Union and as such can be freely marketed throughout the EU countries – as long as they meet local safety regulations & the amount of THC allowed.
This does not mean that all CBD products are created equal. The chief criteria that differentiate good quality CBD products are:
• Extraction methods (advanced methods like supercritical CO2 extraction will keep heavy metals and contaminations out of the final product)
• Broad-spectrum of cannabinoids and terpenes (full-plant extracts should preserve these beneficiary compounds)
• CBD content
Hemp & CBD vs Marijuana Summary
Hemp & Marijuana are two different things and it is important not to confuse them with each other. Marijuana is a psychoactive drug obtained from the Cannabis plant, whilst hemp is a non-psychoactive variety of this plant grown for a different use, and with a different cannabinoid profile. Hemp contains practically undetectable amounts of THC and plenty of CBD, whereas marijuana is grown to maximise the levels of the psychoactive cannabinoids. Finally, hemp & CBD products are legal and available in most countries, while marijuana remains largely illegal as a recreational drug and/or strictly controlled as a medicine.