There is still some confusion about the difference between marijuana and hemp. Some articles and other literature have mentioned these two interchangeably. This confusion is inevitable and thus, understandable because the two plants generally look the same.
For starters, both marijuana and hemp are somewhat similar because they both are part of the Cannabis genus and the Cannabaceae family of small flowering plants. However, it is important to highlight the fact that both are different species with different properties and applications.
What Is The Difference Between Marijuana and Hemp?
1. Taxonomical Classification
Scientific classification through taxonomy essentially spells the primary difference between marijuana and hemp. Remember that both are part of the genus cannabis and the Cannabaceae. However, they are two different species.
Marijuana is the general term used for any strains and varieties of plants belonging to the species of Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica. To be more specific, the term refers to cannabis plants that have high levels of tetrahydrocannabinol or THC.
On the other hand, hemp is a specific variety of Cannabis sativa with a phytochemical structure and overall anatomy that are considerably different from marijuana.
2. Phytochemical Composition
Both marijuana and hemp contain the psychoactive compound THC. However, hemp tends to have lower concentrations of THC than marijuana. Furthermore, hemp has higher concentrations of cannabidiol than marijuana.
Take note that THC is the principal psychoactive component of the cannabis plant. Hence, this compound is responsible for inducing psychoactive reactions associated with recreational marijuana.
Meanwhile, cannabidiol does not have the same psychoactivity as THC. In fact, its higher concentration decreases or eliminates the effectiveness of THC. This is the reason why using hemp similar to recreational marijuana does not yield a similar result.
3. Physical Appearance
Another difference between marijuana and hemp is their physical appearance. To the untrained eye, both seem to look the same because of their prominent leaf arrangement. When placed side by side, the two actually have striking dissimilarities.
Marijuana characteristically has broader leaves and dense buds while hemp has skinny leaves that are concentrated toward the top of the plant. In addition, marijuana has a shorter and bushy appearance while hemp grows taller and skinnier.
The cultivation of marijuana also differs from hemp. Marijuana plants need around six feet of spaces between them, and they thrive in a warm and humid climate. Hemp plants can grow solely together in a variety of different climates.
4. Uses and Commercial Applications
Marijuana has grown notoriety for its recreational use through smoking the dried leaves and buds, vaporization, inclusion with cooked food, or ingestion of its extract. Remember that the THC in this plant induces psychoactive reactions. Hence, the term marijuana has also been used to refer to the prepared psychoactive drug based on cannabis.
Common psychoactive reactions from recreational marijuana include a change in perception, elevated mood, and increase in appetite. Several albeit limited studies have also investigated the medicinal properties of marijuana, particularly in alleviating chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, in managing chronic pain, as well as possible effects in addressing neurological problems.
On the other hand, hemp has been widely cultivated due to its versatile industrial and commercial applications. For instance, it is one of the first plants to be spun into usable fiber. It also has been processed into a composite material used in construction. Hemp seeds have been used as a food due to its nutritional profile that is high in protein, dietary fiber, and minerals such as manganese, phosphorus, magnesium, and zinc.