Cannabis and hemp use is gaining in popularity while at the same time getting a lot of media attention. But there’s a lot of misinformation and confusion around hemp and cannabis.
What exactly are the differences and similarities? Or are they both the same?
Table of Contents
5 Features of Cannabis
Cannabis has been used by humans for ages
Evidence shows that humans have been using cannabis for at least 8000 years.
It is virtually impossible to take a legal overdose of cannabis, as you would have to consume much more than physically possible.
Cannabis and hemp were heavily taxed in the US from 1937-1969 and banned altogether in 1970. The Farm Bill of 2014 made industrial hemp consumption lawful again.
Cannabis Kills Cancer
According to the National Cancer Institute, cannabinoids found in cannabis, kill cancer cells and blocks cancer cell growth.
Worldwide Cannabis Usage
According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 147 million people worldwide use cannabis.
Differences between Cannabis and Hemp
Just to get it out of the way: Hemp and Cannabis are not the same. They are related and have similarities but there also are some distinct differences.
The psychoactive active component THC is probably the largest difference between hemp and cannabis. Cannabis has a large concentration of THC and a small concentration of CBD (Cannabidiol). Hemp, on the contrary, has a large concentration of CBD and a small concentration of THC.
THC is the component (cannabinoid) that causes a high if present in large enough concentrations. CBD is another cannabinoid of both hemp and cannabis and is proven to be a great supplement to our homeostasis or health balance (CBD benefits).
Therefore you can’ get ‘high’ from hemp but you can get ‘high’ from cannabis. CBD has virtually no side effects.
Cultivation and harvesting form another difference between the two plants. Cannabis is mainly cultivated to produce female plants with many buds and flowers, which are harvested for recreational and medical cannabis products. Hemp is on the contrary cultivated to produce male plants with fewer buds and flowers, but with more stalk material on the plants that are harvested for a great variety of products like fabric, paper, etc. The seeds and flowers are harvested for health products.
The legal status of Cannabis and Hemp is different as well. Cannabis is not legal in the US and in most countries around the world, whereas hemp is legal in almost every country.
The intended purpose of cannabis is mainly for recreational use, but also medicinal, whereas hemp is mainly used for medicinal purposes as well as for industrial products.
THC / CBD content in Hemp vs Cannabis
Cannabis THC Content
Cannabis CBD Content
Hemp THC Content
Hemp CBD Content
3 types of cannabis/hemp strains
Basically, we have pictured you so far two major strain breeds that were created by decades of selective breeding:
THC dominant strain – Cannabis
CBD Dominant strain – Hemp
Each of these two has its own specific purpose for which it was so carefully bread, and both have their own specific health benefits. However, the cannabinoids specific benefits add up and create a synergetic effect if they are kept together. Therefore the third strain that is cultivated is the:
It has a close to 50/50 ratio of CBD/THC with usually slightly more CBD. For example 15% CBD and 10% THC (% dry weight). The ratio between them is the CBD/THC ratio, which is often referred to on product labels or websites. In the above example, we have a 60/40 CBD/THC ratio.
Dry weight explained
When you read potency percentages on the web or on the cannabis/hemp packaging, almost always dry weight % is meant, although this is often omitted. Dry weight percentage is the CBD or THC weight percentage of the dried raw material.
For example, if you have a 20% THC content this means that one-fifth of the weight of the dried the flower is THC, the other 80% is plant tissue, vitamins, minerals etc. Except for water, as this is taken out of the equation and therefore it is the dry weight ratio.
If you get stuck on how many CBD drops to take because your package/bottle only contains a CBD percentage, check out our CBD dosage calculator.
Is CBD from Cannabis better than CBD from Hemp?
The fact of the matter is that it doesn’t matter where CBD comes from, just as it doesn’t matter if you get your vitamin C from oranges or lemons. Marijuana, the psychotropic strain of cannabis, contains the same CBD as hemp -just less- and your endocannabinoid system cannot tell the difference.
Oil is extracted which usually contains just under 40% CBD. By purifying the oil cannabidiol can be isolated to get an end product with 99% pure CBD, usually in powder or crystal form.
When we look at CBD oil, it is important where it comes from. Not in terms of marijuana vs hemp but in terms of organic vs non-organic, has it been sprayed with pesticides, etc. etc. This is because the oil does not only contain CBD but also other substances that could contain impurities.
The cultivation, harvesting and extraction processes are therefore of utmost importance.
Is Hemp illegal?
It would be impossible to examine and list the legal legislation of all countries, so we limit ourselves in this article to the United States. Two very important acts were passed during the last century that basically determined the entire cannabis legislation in the US until recently. Only the last few years, we have seen a shift in cannabis acceptance in the other direction.
In 1937 the Marihuana Tax Act took effect by placing taxes on cannabis production, prescription and sales, basically ‘prohibiting’ cannabis or hemp growth in the United States. This act was overturned in 1969 and replaced by, the Controlled Substances Act in 1970, which denounced all forms of cannabis, including hemp, as illegal to grow, by classifying it as a Schedule I drug.
Schedule I drugs are defined as drugs with no medical use and a high potential for abuse, like heroin, cocaine etc.
In 2014 the US Farm Bill was passed, making hemp consumption lawful in all states and allowing states to grow industrial hemp for research and development after which some states have introduced limited programs. In 2015 the Industrial Hemp Farming Act was introduced that would remove hemp from the controlled substances list when the concentration of THC is less than 0,3%. This act did however not pass yet.
Is hemp a drug?
Perhaps we should rephrase the question to: “Is hemp a medicine or an illegal drug?”. Officially hemp is not recognized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as medication but for example, CBD is considered a food supplement.
Because industrial hemp was cultivated especially to contain less than 0.3% of THC, sales, and consumption of hemp products is completely legal in all states. But until the Industrial Hemp Farming Act passes it is not legal to grow in all states, although some states have passed enabling legislation for limited cultivation and some even for commercial production.
Technically, however, it is clear that neither cannabis nor hemp should not be categorized as illegal drugs. Many people, including part of the medical establishment, are of the opinion that they do not belong on the controlled substances list in the Schedule I category as it is proven that they have medical use and no potential for abuse.
What is Hemp used for?
The Congressional Research Service (PDF) produced a report in 2017, describing hemp can be used in at least nine markets and more than 25,000 products. Besides the extraordinary health and homeostasis benefits, CBD has, one of the main cannabinoids of hemp, which we describe thoroughly on this website, we have listed some of these other purposes for hemp:
Hemp plant uses
Food, nutrition, beverages
Some of the 25,000 Hemp Industrial products
Can you smoke hemp?
Yes, you can smoke hemp, just like cannabis. However, as we pointed out in the differences above, you cannot get high from smoking or consuming hemp but from cannabis, you can. You have to know how to use CBD.
Smoking is however bad for your health as we all know it, therefore vaping is the much better alternative. The bioactivity, the absorption rate into your body is the best amongst consumption methods and it has the fastest effect lead time.