Hemp, Marijuana: What's the Difference?

Have you ever passed by a store window that displayed hemp purses, clothing, or other products for sale? Many people immediately think of marijuana when they see hemp products, and while the word "hemp" frequently pops up in marijuana-related debates, hemp and marijuana are not the same thing. One of the most important differences is that marijuana can get a person high and hemp cannot. Let's look at some of their other characteristics:

What do hemp and marijuana have in common?

Hemp and marijuana are varieties of the Cannabis sativa plant.  It is illegal to grow both hemp and marijuana in the United States (although it is not illegal to sell or purchase hemp products—hence the hemp bags and dresses you see in store windows).  The two plants have similar aromas when in bloom—however, only one will get a person high because only one of the varieties contains any significant amounts of THC.  Hemp does contain traces of THC, but not enough to get a person high.

How are hemp and marijuana different?

Smoking marijuana will make the user high, and smoking hemp will not. Hemp contains less than 1 percent of the active ingredient THC, the substance that gives pot smokers a high. Marijuana plants, on the other hand, can contain 10 to 20 percent THC.

Marijuana plants and hemp plants have different appearances and are harvested differently. Marijuana plants tend to be short and bushy, while hemp plants can have stalks that are 25 feet high! Unlike marijuana, hemp has many uses. Over 25,000 products can be manufactured from hemp, including hair conditioner, diapers, insulation, carpets, paper, and perfume.  Things like rope made out of hemp never rot like traditional rope.  Hemp as a food is one of the most easily absorbed by the body, and can help you live a healthier and happier life.

The hemp debate and the marijuana debate are often confused with each other. Proponents of legalizing hemp cultivation focus on the plant's many uses and the fact that it requires no pesticides in order to flourish. However, opponents express concern that permitting hemp cultivation would result in the legalization of marijuana cultivation because both hemp and marijuana come from the same plant.[1] Opponents also say that other raw materials are more economical than industrial hemp, which has been disproved on more than one occasion. Cultivating hemp is currently illegal in the United States, although hemp items are imported, including hemp foods.

Marijuana, on the other hand, is supposedly illegal because of its health risks. Proponents of legalizing marijuana point to recent studies that show that there may be some medical benefits associated with marijuana use. But, any benefits of legalizing marijuana—medical or otherwise—have to be weighed against the disadvantages, such as the intoxicating effects, which, oddly enough, are far safer than the high achieved by alcohol or cigarettes.

During debates about the legal status of marijuana, the environmental and economic benefits of hemp may be used in arguments for the legalization of marijuana. But, remember that hemp and marijuana are not the same thing.