Although both marijuana and hemp come from the Cannabis Sativa family, they’re distinctly different. Marijuana is bushier with wider leaves, while hemp is thinner with shinier leaves.
It’s their chemical composition differences that really make them different though.
More than 113 chemical cannabinoids are found in cannabis, but the amount of cannabinoids differs drastically between marijuana and hemp.
Marijuana’s most prominent cannabinoid is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) — the chemical cannabinoid associated with the plant’s psychoactive effect. In marijuana, THC levels can reach past 35%, depending on the strain, but THC levels in hemp plants are less than 0.3%.
The low amount of THC in hemp means that, unlike marijuana, it has traditionally been used for industrial purposes.
Hemp’s fast growth and strong and versatile fibers made it ideal for crafting durable rope, clothing, sail, and paper.
Although hemp can’t get you high, it does contain abundant amounts of another cannabinoid, cannabidiol (CBD), which is also found in marijuana.
CBD is a nonpsychoactive cannabinoid, and its interaction with receptors in the central nervous system and immune system can offer medicinal benefits.