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Hemp vs. Cannabis: What’s the Diff?


Cannabis and hemp may look very similar since they’re both from the Cannabaceae family, but have a few key differences that distinguish them in the eyes of the law. Most importantly, people use industrial hemp for its high CBD levels and low THC content. Cannabis, on the other hand, generally, contains trace amounts of CBD and high amounts of the intoxicating THC compound.

Despite this major difference in chemical content, people still get confused about the difference between the two, and for a good reason. Essentially, there’s no taxonomic difference between hemp and marijuana, making it all the more bewildering. Let’s uncover how history and the rule of the land have split the cannabis plant into two main types. 

While they both have their benefits, you may have a personal pick. You also may want to knoe where to get these things. You can find both hemp and cannabis-related products at any cannabis dispensary in Canada. 


What Is Hemp?

Legally, industrial hemp and all its derivatives (edibles, topicals, etc.) must contain less than 0.3 percent THC in the United States and Canada. THC limits vary across the world and they can be higher or lower than our 0.3 percent THC cut-off. Keep in mind, not all CBD products are derived from hemp. Some cannabis strains can also contain high levels of CBD.

Hemp cultivation has made a comeback since it can now be legally used for its hemp seeds, fibre, and flower. In particular, hemp-derived flowers contain a THC content so low that it won’t get people high. Cannabis contains THC levels often reaching into the high 20 percent levels in its flower buds, more than enough to elicit psychotropic effects.

The history of hemp stretches back thousands of years. Hemp plants are considered the first domesticated crop and were used to create paper, clothing, and rope in ancient civilizations. Today, there are tens of thousands of different industrial uses for hemp plants that use its seeds, fibre, and low-THC flower.


What Is Cannabis?

Cannabis, also known as marijuana, refers to the plant that gets users high. Legally, any plant containing more than 0.3 percent THC by dry weight is considered cannabis. THC levels across cannabis cultivars, also known as strains, vary based on genetics and growing environment.

Beyond its broad classification, the industry has segmented the plant into three main types:  sativa, indica, and hybrid. While many companies may market each category with distinct effects, the reality is that a strain’s effects vary wildly depending on the person and individual plant.


Difference Between Hemp vs. Marijuana

Apart from their chemical composition, hemp and marijuana differ in appearance and method of cultivation. 

  • Appearance: Cannabis plants tend to be short and bushy with several branches full of resinous flower buds and broad leaves. Hemp plants grow tall and thin with fewer branches and narrow leaves concentrated on the top.
  • Cultivation: Hemp plants can grow outdoors in close proximity to each other in a variety of climates. Cannabis plants require a warm, humid, and climate-controlled environment with plenty of space between plants to accommodate branching and flowering.


Uses of Hemp and Marijuana

Cannabis is prized for its therapeutic compounds, primarily its cannabinoids. Cannabinoids are found in higher levels in cannabis flower buds. They can also be found in its leaves and stalks in lower concentrations. Consuming cannabinoids via smoking, vaping, or orally can get you high and provide numerous health benefits.

Hemp, or cannabis with very little THC, can also produce flower buds, although these contain a higher concentration of CBD and less than 0.3 percent THC.  Many users prefer this to marijuana since it doesn’t get you high but has plenty of therapeutic effects.

In addition, hemp plants can be used to create a several hemp-based products, including:

  • Plastic
  • Clothing
  • Paper
  • Textiles
  • Biofuel
  • Food 

Since hemp plants produce plenty of fibre, flowers, and seeds to make a variety of products, they’re quickly becoming a more sustainable alternative to planting trees used to make products such as paper or textiles.


Law and Order

Now that we have covered the difference between hemp and marijuana’s chemical composition, let’s discuss how the law regulates each type of plant. In the United States, the 2018 Farm Bill legalized the production of industrial hemp, thereby, making hemp-derived CBD legal.

Because cannabis plants contain more than the 0.3 percent THC limit, they don’t make the legal cut-off. In several states, the cannabis plant is legal for medical and recreational use, although not always both and not in all states.

In Canada, hemp production has been legal since 1998. In 2018, Canada became the second country to legalize recreational cannabis use. This means that cannabis of any THC concentration is legal.

Hemp and marijuana have been linked and maligned as a part of the war on drugs. It was easier to condemn the entire plant rather than understand its many beneficial uses. Only recently have countries started to soften their stance on industrial hemp production. 

It’s no wonder there is so much confusion surrounding the difference between hemp and cannabis. Even law enforcement has trouble telling the two apart. Over time, hopefully governments will legalize Cannabis sativa and make these distinctions more consumer-friendly. 

Whether you prefer hemp or cannabis, you can find whatever you’re looking for at one of the Dank Cannabis dispensaries in Calgary, Alberta. is a cannabis store in Canada that lets you buy on their website and either pick-up in store or get your order delivered to your door. View the full Dank menu and start shopping!

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