What’s the Difference Between Hemp and Marijuana?

What is the difference between hemp and marijuana? The short answer: semantics. The long answer: the difference is a largely misunderstood distinction that now has two correct answers, a legal one and a scientific one. And like all things proven by scientists, it is somehow up for public and political debate.

Thanks to nearly 80 years of federal cannabis prohibition, public knowledge on the topic is limited to rumors and misinterpretations perpetuated online—everything from “hemp plants are male and marijuana plants are female” to “one is a drug and the other is not.”

The legal definitions also have muddied the water as legislators have passed laws at both the federal and state levels defining hemp in the pursuit of both fiber and medicine.

So what exactly is the difference between marijuana and hemp? Let’s start with semantics.

Hemp refers to strains of Cannabis sativa that have been bred specifically for fiber used for clothing and construction, oils and topical ointments, nutritional benefits and a wide and growing variety of other purposes that don’t involve intoxication.

Marijuana is a slang term used to describe strains of Cannabis sativa specifically bred for the potent resinous glands (trichomes) that grow on the flowers and some leaves (buds). While there is some dispute over the origins of the term “marijuana,” it was introduced into popular use by Hearst-era newspapers as a way to instill fear of pot-smoking Mexicans.

Wording aside, both hemp and marijuana are, in fact, the same thing. Although both “hemp” and “marijuana” as we know them are from the same genus, Cannabis, they are also part of the same species, Cannabis sativa. The scientific difference between what we refer to as hemp and marijuana comes from the purpose the strain was bred for.

– Read the entire article at AlterNet.


1 Comment

  1. Low Rider on

    The difference is in the buzz.