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Cannabis vs. Hemp vs. Marijuana

What’s The Difference?

When it comes to learning the basics about CBD – including where it comes from and where, or why, it may be considered legal or not – we’re likely to find ourselves playing the name game.

Words like “cannabis,” “hemp,” and “marijuana” seem to be used interchangeably to describe the types of plant CBD – as well as its psychoactive cousin, THC, and many other types of cannabinoids – come from.

But are these terms really analogous?


What’s In A Name?

Not exactly.

The differences between cannabis, hemp and marijuana may be subtle, but they’re still pretty important, from both a botany and – perhaps, more relevant for most people – legal perspective.

It’s important to note that, no matter what these plants are called, they all stem from the same “tree,” so to speak: The scientifically-classified Cannabaceae family. 

There are more than 170 different members of this family, and they’re all actually fairly different from one another.

That broad group is further organized into 11 different subsections (called genera in the science world). One of these subsections is cannabis, and it includes many different types of cannabis plant. And these cannabis variants all include different levels of key cannabinoids like THC and CBD.

So when it comes down to understanding the difference between cannabis, hemp and marijuana, it all comes down to how the plants are classified—both by science and the law.


What Is Cannabis?

Technically, cannabis is the taxonomic name for a specific genus of the Cannabaceae family.

In other words: A subsection of Cannabaceae plants that have been categorized together based on specific traits, including how they reproduce, their actual physical design, and other scientifically-defined characteristics.

Within the umbrella group of cannabis, there are three predominate species:

·  Cannabis sativa

·  Cannabis indica and

·  Cannabis ruderalis

These species are based, among other traits, on their actual chemical makeup, and both hemp and marijuana fall under these subcategories.


What Is Hemp?

At its broadest level, hemp is a species of cannabis scientifically referred to as Cannabis sativa L. But even this designation can be further broken down, with there being many different catalogued varietals of hemp.

This is where things may start to get confusing.

Hemp is always designated as Cannabis sativa. However, there are also some forms of marijuana that may also fall under this species.

In these cases, the difference between hemp and marijuana is mainly legal – though, based on the more scientifically-minded chemical makeup of the plants.

Hemp, then, would be the plants of the Cannabis sativa L. species that contain 0.3% or less of the chemical component tetrahydrocannabinol – otherwise known as THC, or the chemical that makes you high after smoking marijuana.

In these cases, the legally-designated hemp plants can be used for a number of things, including in the manufacturing of textiles and the development of biofuels. Hemp is also legally allowed to be consumed as a food (both its flowers and seeds regularly get the kitchen treatment) and through a number of beauty products, including skin lotion and shampoo.

Increasingly, hemp is also being cleared for creating CBD-based products.


What Is Marijuana?

Within the Cannabis sativa species, marijuana is the more intoxicating form of hemp – whose plants contain more than 0.3% of THC.

But there are also a number of different marijuana strands (and more developed all the time), which may include the genetics of plants from Cannabis sativa, plants designated as Cannabis indica, or a mixture of both.

Marijuana is currently legal – in one form or another – in about two-thirds of U.S. states, whether it be for medicinal or recreational purposes. Legalization, in these cases, has also come with a number of regulations on how much THC the plant may be bred to contain, among other stipulations.


Where Does CBD Come From?

Cannabidiol – better known as CBD – is a naturally occurring chemical compound found within the cannabis plan. That means that there’s traces of CBD inside both hemp and marijuana.

One of the biggest differences is the ratio of CBD found within the plants. Some cannabis species naturally include higher amounts of cannabidiol, and, indeed, many of these have been cross bred to create varietals that are higher still in CBD (and even lower in their natural levels of THC).

Typically, the law requires manufacturers of CBD-based products to use only those plants that could be considered “hemp” – where the natural level of THC is below 0.3%, and the naturally-occurring percentage of CBD is much higher.

When it comes to the CBD products you ultimately purchase, the cannabidiol involved could be cultivated directly from one of these plants or added as an isolate, meaning the chemical has been extracted from its natural source and injected directly into the product.

Regardless of where it comes from, however, when it comes to CBD, it’s coming from cannabis. And now you know why!


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