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News > Hemp vs. Marijuana - What's the Difference?

Hemp vs. Marijuana - What's the Difference?

Sat, Oct 15, 2022 | Reading Time: 4 minutes

Hemp vs. Marijuana - What's the Difference?

Did you know that both hemp and marijuana are different types of cannabis?

It’s true. Hemp and marijuana actually have a shared history, though they’ve gotten increasingly different in the last couple hundred years. We’ll be taking a closer look at these differences in this article.

  • Hemp and marijuana: shared history
  • Hemp and marijuana: discovery time!
  • Hemp vs. marijuana: are these terms politically-motivated?
  • Hemp vs. marijuana: other key differences

Hemp and marijuana: shared history

Once upon a time, in a place far, far away, there was a species of plant called cannabis. Cannabis had been cultivated for centuries before... and it would continue to be cultivated for centuries to come. The year was around 3,000 BC. 

Cannabis grew all over the world, and with few exceptions it was high in CBD and low-moderate in THC. Cultures from all over the world praised the plant for its versatility as everything from food to textiles to medicine. At this time, the words cannabis and hemp were virtually interchangeable. 

Farther down the road, though, humans began to selectively breed cannabis for certain properties in favor of others, and before too long the plant’s precise balance of natural compounds began to shift into different directions. But more on that a few paragraphs later. 

How did cannabis make its entrance into the modern era? It all started with British physician William O’Shaughnessy. A polymath at heart, O’Shaughnessy was impressed at cannabis’s utility during medical trips to India — impressed enough to take some product samples back to the West with him. He conducted early trials on epileptic patients, which went well enough for him to deem cannabis “an anti-convulsive remedy of the greatest value.” [1]

Together with a few physicians and business partners, O’Shaughnessy helped get first-wave cannabis tinctures into pharmacies across England and the US. Still, however, nobody knew quite why cannabis worked so well.

Hemp and marijuana: discovery time!

…Until the 1960s. Cannabis had been banned in America largely due to conflicts of interest from the paper and oil industries, but in Israel research continued full speed ahead. A young Israeli researcher named Raphael Mechoulam was the first to identify the chemical makeup of both THC and CBD, which he did with the help of a revolutionary new nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) technology. [2]

Further analysis showed that most cannabis strains belonged to one of two chemotypes: a wild-growing “fiber-type” rich in CBD, and a selectively-bred “drug-type” rich in THC. While both these chemotypes are technically classified as cannabis, they often go by their informal names:

  • Hemp: Wild-growing, “fiber-type,” rich in CBD
  • Marijuana: Selectively bred, “drug-type,” rich in THC

Hemp vs. marijuana: are these terms politically-motivated?

Let’s go back to the 1930s for a minute. Back in the mid-30s US officials needed a good reason to outlaw cannabis. Prior to this time, cannabis was used in medicine and for industry...but powerful people with powerful financial interests wanted to replace it with more profitable alternatives. [3]

The public wouldn’t have had it, though, if a plant known to be beneficial was suddenly banned. 

So, instead of banning cannabis, the government simply renamed it. A Hispanic term of mysterious origin, Marijuana, proved to be just the thing to get the people scared of cannabis. 

And the misunderstanding remains to this day. Marijuana continues to be used to describe certain types of cannabis — sometimes it’s even used to describe hemp-derived CBD products.

Hemp vs. marijuana: other key differences

The hemp vs. marijuana demarcation remains to this day. While this isn’t the most botanically accurate distinction in the world, it’s important to understand nonetheless. 

Both hemp and marijuana refer to subspecies of the cannabis plant family. Within this family, they each fit into different archetypes. 

The biggest difference between them? Hemp is genetically predisposed to produce large amounts of CBD and not so much THC, while marijuana is genetically predisposed to produce large amounts of THC and not so much CBD. 

Hemp and marijuana look similar, but their physical and mental effects are actually worlds apart! Below are some of hemp and marijuana’s biggest differences. 

 One of the biggest differences is in the area of legality (hemp and CBD are legal nearly nationwide, while marijuana is not). On a related note, CBD can be taken by anybody; children, adults, and pets alike. Giving marijuana to the wrong demographic can be illegal — not to mention dangerous. 

Another big difference: hemp provides therapeutic benefits without a high. That definitely can’t be said of high-THC marijuana, which almost always comes with psychotropic side effects. This difference gives hemp a huge advantage over other types of cannabis, and can probably go a long way toward explaining why hemp-derived CBD is so popular!

The differences between hemp and marijuana go beyond legal and psychoactive qualities:

  • Marijuana increases hunger…hemp may decrease it
  • Marijuana may cause anxiety…CBD may reduce anxiety
  • Marijuana may cause sleepiness…the right CBD dose is wakeful
  • Marijuana may promote forgetfulness…while hemp promotes memory

Of course, sometimes marijuana and hemp do share things in common. Even highly psychotropic marijuana can relieve anxiety or promote sleep in some cases. But given its numerous side effects, why not obtain the same benefits in a side-effect-free form?  

Hemp’s characteristics

  • Classified as Cannabis Sativa
  • Moderate-high in CBD 
  • Low in THC (below 0.3%)
  • Moderately rich in terpenes
  • Peaceful, balancing
  • Few side effects

Marijuana characteristics

  • Cannabis Sativa
  • Moderate-high in THC
  • Low in CBD (usually)
  • Very rich in terpenes
  • Exhilarating, uplifting
  • Potential side effects

At five™ CBD all of our products fall into the hemp-derived category. Why? Because hemp provides virtually every benefit of marijuana without any less-than-helpful side effects. And because all of our CBD products are derived from lab-tested, organically-grown hemp, everything contains 0.3% THC or less. 

In other good news, each five™ product is made with a truly full spectrum hemp extract. Whether it's gummies, tinctures, or gel capsules, each product comes with our proprietary 5:1 ratio of CBD to minor hemp compounds. Check them out for yourself here.

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