A Look at the Differences Between Hemp and Marijuana

Collaborator: VNN Content Studio
Published: 09/20/2021, 6:46 PM
Edited: 11/10/2021, 2:48 PM

Presented by Elevate Holistics, a telehealth platform focused on making the processes of medical cannabis as simple and easy as possible. Through collaboration with your physician and Elevate staff, you have everything you need to Elevate your health naturally.

Photo Courtesy: LauriPatterson via gettyimages.com

(NATIONAL) Hemp and marijuana are often tied together based on their similar features. When put side by side, they can look identical to the eye. These similarities aren’t a coincidence, as they come from the same flower family. Their genetics have some overlap, but these plants actually have unique characteristics. 

We’ll break down the differences between marijuana and hemp by looking at their chemical makeup, how they are viewed legally, their health benefits, and how these two plants are affecting the market.

Chemical Makeup

There are a wide range of chemical compounds—called cannabinoids—in both hemp and marijuana. Potency of the psychoactive compound tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the primary way to distinguish hemp from marijuana. THC is the notorious chemical responsible for the euphoric feeling commonly called the “high.”

What separates the two is a THC threshold of 0.3%. A THC level above this percentage makes it marijuana, and anything below it is hemp. 

THC draws the line between these two plants, but they share another popular chemical compound, cannabidiol (CBD). What hemp lacks in THC; it makes up for in CBD. Highly potent hemp strains can have up to 20% CBD levels. Marijuana can have varying levels of CBD, and the most balanced strains will have between 6-12% CBD and THC levels. The combinations and levels of these chemicals vary the euphoric feeling. That’s what makes every marijuana strain unique and causes individuals to react to them differently.

Effects of Marijuana Consumption

Most marijuana users frequently report relaxation after the onset effects. Other common experiences include heightened senses, slowed perception of time, and increased appetite. 

Its impact can vary depending on the user, how it’s delivered to the body, and the strain. You’ll likely have the most enjoyable experience with marijuana if you choose a strain with a THC potency in proportion to your tolerance. Highly potent marijuana strains can reach upwards of 25% THC levels, with marijuana extracts ranging between 50% to 90%.

Because hemp has less than 0.3% THC, consuming it will not provide a “high” in the same way consuming marijuana does.


The intoxicating effects of THC have made marijuana controversial, and its reputation has battled decades of misinformation. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) designates marijuana as a Schedule 1 controlled substance, categorizing it with other drugs such as heroin and bath salts. 

Many states have since legalized marijuana. In 1996, California was the first state to legalize medical cannabis. In 2012, Washington and Colorado became the first states to pass laws legalizing the use of recreational marijuana. Recreational marijuana is now legal in 19 states.

The 2018 Farm Bill removed hemp from the Controlled Substances Act and allowed farmers to produce it as an agricultural product.

Access to recreational and medicinal marijuana has opened the door for curious customers and allowed for cannabis products to evolve with time. 

Market Size

Marijuana and hemp have bloomed into big business. Grand View Research estimates the 2020 global cannabidiol (CBD) market size was valued at $2.8 billion and is expected to reach $3.5 billion by the end of 2021. Grand View Research also estimates that the global legal marijuana market size will reach $70.6 billion by 2028.

Hemp is also used to make various products, such as textiles and clothing, rope, paper, bioplastics, biofuel, and even a concrete-like substance called hempcrete. 

Many venture capitalists and investors have swooped into the market, which experts expect to grow even more as more companies produce more CBD-infused products and governments continue to legalize marijuana for recreational and medicinal purposes. 

Health Benefits

Through legalization at the state level, research has further explored marijuana’s health benefits. Scientists have found evidence that marijuana is an effective treatment for childhood epilepsy syndromes such as Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome. These syndromes typically don’t respond to antiseizure medications. In numerous studies, CBD was able to reduce the number of seizures, and, in some cases, it was able to stop them altogether.

In addition, researchers have found that cannabinoids have been successful in helping patients with nausea and vomiting and reducing chronic pain.

Interestingly, cannabis is also considered a superfood! You can eat it raw like any other vegetable, or throw it into a salad with some hemp seeds. Hemp seeds contain protein, healthful fatty acids, and fiber, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). These seeds will not produce any euphoria; however, athletes and others who undergo drug testing should be aware that consuming hemp can lead to failed urine tests

Hemp and marijuana may often look the same, but they do have many unique characteristics that distinguish them surrounding their chemical makeup, legalities, market share, and more.

CANNABIS WEEKLY is presented by Elevate Holistics, a full staff of healthcare professionals that take you from CBD to THC, including pharmaceutical interactions, and treatment plans. By using HIPAA-compliant medical marijuana processes and board-certified cannabis physicians, you can get your MMJ card right from the comfort of home. 


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