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Hemp vs. Marijuana: The Difference Explained

Now that the 2018 Farm Bill has legalized the commercial production of hemp at the federal level in the United States, the next step for the cannabis community will be for us to get the local politicians, thought leaders, and voters to embrace hemp farming in their communities throughout America. We like warm receptions as much as the next farmer, so we put together this article outlining some of the key differences between hemp and marijuana, as well as the many benefits it has for Americans and our economy. Embracing the commercial production of hemp will help both farmers and entrepreneurs. Hemp farming is sustainable and profitable. According to an article in Forbes, the global hemp market is expected to jump to $10.6 billion by 2025. Everything from automobiles to alcohol is waiting to be reinvented with hemp.

Family of Plants: Hemp vs. Marijuana

While some of the words get used interchangeably, Cannabis, Hemp, and Marijuana are similar, but they are not the same. First, let’s talk about Cannabis. Cannabis has two classifications for its family of plants – Indica and Sativa. Hemp and marijuana are both members of the Cannabis Sativa family. Because they come from the Cannabis Sativa family, they share a few similarities; however, their biological structure causes several, crucial and very distinct genetic differences. In simple terms, hemp is not marijuana and marijuana is not hemp. Cannabis Sativa strains are taller, loosely branched, with long, narrow leaves. They can reach heights of up to 20 feet and are usually grown outdoors. The word “hemp” or “industrial hemp” is typically used to refer to the hemp leaves, stalks, fibers, or seeds grown for commercial or industrial use. The word “marijuana” is typically used to refer to Cannabis flowering tops and leaves that deliver some amount of body or head buzz.

Anatomical Differences: Hemp vs. Marijuana

Some people and even a few scholars believe hemp is the male marijuana plant. When examed closely, you can see key differences in their structure. Hemp has skinny leaves concentrated towards the top of the plant. Hemp grows taller and skinnier than marijuana, with only a few branches beneath the upper portion. Marijuana has dense buds, broad leaves, and a bushy, short appearance. When growing marijuana, the intent is almost always to produce and harvest the female flowers (as well as the leaves). The short, clustered female flowers are full of THC. If marijuana is grown near a hemp farm, the hemp’s pollen would immediately ruin the marijuana crop, diluting marijuana’s psychoactivity. Alternatively, marijuana’s pollen could increase the THC levels of the hemp crop causing it to go beyond the legal levels.

Chemical Composition: Hemp vs. Marijuana

As we dive deeper into the anatomy of the two plants, each has crucial differences in their chemical composition. The chemical composition between Hemp and Marijuana is drastically different, specifically, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC is the chemical that causes marijuana’s psychological effects. On average, marijuana can contain anywhere from 5-20% THC. Premium marijuana, grown using JEWEL at every stage, can have higher levels, up to 25-30% THC. Hemp has a max THC level of 0.3%, essentially making it impossible to get high or feel any psychoactive effect. This threshold will be heavily regulated by the Department of Agriculture as hemp farming is rolled out in the United States. Hemp also has high cannabidiol (CBD) content that works against THC, essentially making the effects from the THC useless. Cannabis Sativa plants have a higher concentration of CBD enzymes, which cause no mind-altering effects.

Cultivation Methods: Hemp vs. Marijuana

The environment in which hemp and marijuana are grown is strikingly different. Hemp is grown close together (as close as 4 inches) and typically on a large multi-acre plot, with up to 50 plants per square foot. To produce the highest yields, hemp farmers can grow their plants as tall as 15 feet. Planting hemp close together reduces flowering and branching. The goal is to have a healthy main stalk with only a few branches and leaves. Hemp is grown around the world and can grow in a variety of climates. Its growth cycle is typically 100-120 days. Hemp is grown for two types of fiber, bast, the outer portion, and hurd, the interior fiber, or pith. Marijuana is best grown with more than 200 times more space than a hemp plant. When you cultivate marijuana, you want the plant to be bushy, heavily foliated with flowers and buds. The plants should be, six to 10 feet away from each other, with no more than two plants per 1 yard (9 square feet). Unlike hemp, marijuana is best grown in carefully controlled, warm, and humid temperatures. Its growth cycle is closer to 60-90 days. Marijuana is grown for recreational and medicinal purposes.

Common Uses: Hemp vs. Marijuana

With its increasing popularity over THC, hemp is grown to make THC-free CBD products. CBD products have analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and anti-anxiety properties without any of psychoactive effects. Hemp products can also be used to produce hundreds of crucial resources such as biofuel, building materials, clothing, food products, oils, and more. Industrial hemp will reduce America’s dependency on other countries. According to the same Forbes article mentioned above, instead of importing an estimated $100 million of hemp products, that money will go to American farmers and entrepreneurs. Due to its high contents of THC, marijuana is grown for medicinal and recreational uses. Marijuana can be ingested, smoked, inhaled, or injected. THC can be extracted from the plant for use in edibles, vaporizers, capsules, and more. Because of its high THC contents, marijuana is illegal in some parts of the world. In the US, nearly 50% of the states have expanded their laws.

Where 3 Gems Plant Nutrients Fits In

As a company, we are excited to see the Farm Bill legalize industrial hemp in America and we look forward to helping hemp farmers develop a nutrition schedule that delivers results. JEWEL is a powerful, super concentrated, liquid supplement that can be added to hemp farming nutrition schedules to optimize nutrient uptake at every stage. To learn more about JEWEL or to set up a call with a Grow Specialist contact us at

Sources: Forbes, Ministry of Hemp, MaximumYield

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