Despite the obvious distinction between marijuana and hemp, many people wrongly assume that they are different species. In fact, hemp and marijuana belong to the same genus and type of cannabis sativa.

One important difference is that neither hemp nor marijuana is a separate species. Both hemp and marijuana are made from the plant Cannabis indica, and both are the same plant species. 

In the United States marijuana is defined as a cannabis sativa plant that contains more than 0.3 percent THC, and hemp contains less. The law distinguishes between the two because of their THC content: marijuana contains more, hemp does not.

Although many use the words hemp and marijuana interchangeably, hemp is reserved for plant varieties that contain negligible amounts of THC and do not produce psychoactive effects. Although hemp and marijuana are both a variety of cannabis, they are very different plants, and both contain less than 0.3 percent THC. If the public uses the term “marijuana,” it is only because a cannabis plant that contains enough THC can be “psychoactive.” As you become better educated on these topics, this distinction is an important one to make.

Hemp has a significantly lower THC content than marijuana, and under federal law, the THC content in hemp must be 0.3%. Hemp is described as a cannabis strain that must contain less than 1.5 percent THC on a dry weight basis. The big difference is that cannabinoids are responsible for the “high” percentage of marijuana.

While marijuana produces tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol extract (CBD), hemp produces CBD only.

Although hemp and marijuana both belong to the family Cannabis sativa, they differ greatly in their chemical composition. The easiest and fastest way to distinguish them is by their appearance alone. While the hemp plant has thin leaves that accumulate at the top of long stems, the leaves of the marijuana plant tend to be wider, with nugget-buds that look spread out. 

Hemp and cannabis, however, have several very distinct differences (in addition to how they look), and although cannabis is excellent for human consumption, it may not be the best option for pets. Cannabis is the dried resinous flower buds and leaves of the marijuana plant that contain THC and other terpenes. 

Although industrial hemp belongs to the Cannabis sativa species, it is not a plant that can be used as a recreational drug. Federal law defines them as part of such plants grown for industrial purposes such as the manufacture of textiles, paper and other industrial products.

Currently Federal law defines industrial hemp as a cannabis plant containing CBD (cannabidiol) and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the psychoactive component of the Cannabis sativa species. Cannabis plants, including hemp, produce high levels of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, as well as CBD. Although hemp contains a considerable amount of CBD, hemp is not an intoxicating substance as it contains only small amounts as previously articulated.

The decisive characteristic of hemp and marijuana is the chemical composition of the plant. Both can produce high amounts of THC, the psychoactive component of the Cannabis sativa species, but THC is produced at very different levels. While hemp can contain no more than 0.3% THC by dry weight, marijuana contains up to 30% of its content. Neither hemp nor marijuana may be produced with a THC content higher than 1.5% or 2.0%.

Both hemp and marijuana are regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). Due to the confusion and complications that CBD users can cause, it is becoming increasingly important to understand the differences between CBD and THC and their relationship to each other in order to better plan their use. CBD is legal at a federal level in the United States.

Marijuana is also a member of the cannabis genus and is the most commonly used term to describe the Cannabis sativa species. Hemp and marijuana are not, however, a legitimate nomenclature for cannabis plants; it is merely a general classification of cannabis adopted in some cultures. Although they regularly refer to species and varieties of cannabis, they are not considered one. 

Marijuana is contained in a cannabinoid called THC, although other cannabinoids can also be found in varying amounts. In many states, including Florida, you need a Florida MMJ Card (medical marijuana) to buy and consume marijuana and marijuana products. This is not true for CBD which is legal federally.

For this reason cannabis is most commonly used as an umbrella term to describe both hemp and marijuana. Now that you have a clear understanding of cannabis and hemp, you can begin to understand why the differences are important, from the cannabinoid content to the difference in THC content between the two.