Hemp and Marijuana – what’s the difference?

Classification and taxonomy of cannabis

Even though it is estimated that the cannabis plant has been accompanying humanity for millennia, confusion still exists today regarding the classification of its species or varieties. In fact, the debate on how to classify this plant has been active for more than two centuries: are the different varieties of cannabis typical of a single and very diverse species? Or is it a polytypic genre with several species? In this article, we will investigate and explain the main differences between hemp and marijuana.

There are hundreds of cannabis varieties
As we saw in our article on the origins of cannabis cultivation, the plant was first classified by Carl Linnaeus in 1753 and named Cannabis Sativa. However, Linnaeus only knew European hemp, and it was not until 1785 that Jean-Baptiste de Lamarck introduced a second species found in the mountains of India and with very different morphological features from the first, which he called Cannabis Indica. Much later, in the twentieth century, precisely in 1924, D.E. Janichevsky presented a third species found in Russia, Cannabis Ruderalis.

Origins of cannabis cultivation

The debate continued until the 1970s, when William Imboden, Loran Anderson, and Richard E. Schultes proposed the classification that is still the most popular among botanists and growers today, dividing the genus Cannabis into three distinct species: Sativa, Indica and Ruderalis. This classification is based on stable morphological differences observed in each of the three species and is, therefore, the most used when talking about the different varieties of each species.

Cannabis taxonomy:
Kingdom: Plantae
Subkingdom: Tracheobionta
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Urticales
Family: Cannabaceae
Genus: Cannabis
Species: Cannabis Sativa L., Cannabis Indica Lam., Cannabis Ruderalis Janisch

The origin of hemp and marijuana

One of the main differences between hemp and what we colloquially call marijuana is the THC or tetrahydrocannabinol content of the latter. Indeed, while hemp varieties show a very low (or nonexistent) content in this psychoactive compound, the cannabis plants we often refer to as drug varieties do contain considerable amounts of this cannabinoid. But how did these varieties come to have such different traits? In 1976, Ernest Small and Arthur Cronquist proposed that it would have been mainly due to the human factor.

THC molecule, the principal psychoactive compound in cannabis
Over time, thanks to the selection and breeding carried out year after year, two very different types of cannabis would have been differentiated: one rich in THC and used for medicinal, religious and recreational purposes, and another with hardly any THC content, destined for the production of food and various materials and objects such as fabrics, ropes or baskets. As cannabis expanded from Asia, and thanks to the selection of growers in the areas where it took root, more and more different varieties appeared, each sharing characteristics with their distant relatives, but in turn developing their own unique traits.

So, the THC rich varieties would be what we now call “marijuana” (and in many cases “cannabis”), while those lacking this psychoactive compound and used industrially to obtain raw materials are generically called “hemp”. Within each of these types, we can find hundreds of different varieties, from those offered as THC-rich, feminized seeds to hemp seeds that can be purchased by weight in any agricultural cooperative.

Differences between hemp and marijuana

Broadly speaking, we can point to differences in terms of morphology, chemotype and use to distinguish between hemp and marijuana. Marijuana (cannabis rich in THC) is usually more compact and branchy, has a much richer content of cannabinoids and terpenes and is usually cultivated and used for medicinal or recreational purposes. In contrast, hemp plants usually grow much taller (up to and over 5 meters), have very little lateral branching and usually a very low content in cannabinoids and terpenes (some of them do have considerable amounts of , CBG or other compounds of particular interest in the therapeutic field). Today, hemp has dozens of applications in industry and for food, from the production of seeds to the manufacture of bricks for construction.

Male plants are not usually removed from hemp fields
Given its characteristics, especially the height of the plants, it is almost impossible to grow hemp indoors, meaning that most of the hemp produced worldwide is outdoors or in greenhouses. On the other hand, and since the cultivation of marijuana is illegal in many places, indoor cultivation is the method chosen by many growers of this type of plant, and with good reason, cultivating indoors is much safer both for legal reasons and to avoid the attention of plant thieves or “rippers”.

Characteristics and uses of hemp

As we know, mankind has cultivated and used hemp for millennia and has obtained different materials for an endless number of industrial or nutritional applications. Hemp is usually cultivated intensively, at a very high plant density, which is partly due to its low capacity to develop lateral branches. The height varies depending on the variety and growing conditions, although it is not uncommon for the plants to reach a height between 2 and 5 or 6 meters. The inter-nodal distance is very large, especially in those crops grown principally for fiber, for example, rather than seeds.

Hemp grows tall, without side branches
The stem is usually thicker, more woody, and also less hollow than that of many varieties rich in THC. They can present male or female flowers, although there is also a considerable number of monoecious specimens, in other words, hermaphrodites. Depending on the final use, which can range from the production of hemp seed oil to fiber for cellulose, the producers will choose one variety or the other according to the characteristics of each one. These are some of the many uses of hemp:

Paper production
Materials for weaving (clothes, ropes, candles, etc.)
Manufacture of biodegradable plastics
Recyclable and biodegradable construction material
Synthetic materials (aerospace and automotive industry)
Seed production
Seed oil
Cosmetic industry (soaps, creams, etc.)
Beyond any shadow of a doubt, hemp represents an ecological and sustainable alternative that can greatly contribute to creating a better future for our planet, especially if practices such as the responsible use of pesticides and other toxic products are taken into account by growers.

CBD Effects and Benefits

This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of medical advice or treatment from a personal physician. All viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions.

Cannabis oil preparations have been used in medicine for millennia, but the concern over the dangers of abuse led to the banning of medicinal hemp or cannabis in the 1930s.

is the major non-euphorigenic component of Cannabis sativa. Some research is beginning to show that is different than other well-studied cannabinoids. All cannabinoids function as ligands, meaning they dock onto the binding site of a protein and have the ability to modulate a receptor’s behavior. CB1 receptors are widely distributed but are particularly abundant in areas of the brain, including those concerned with movement, coordination, sensory perception, emotion, memory, cognition, autonomic and endocrine functions.

It appears that oil has few adverse side effects when it’s used in appropriate amounts. The most common oil side effects include drowsiness, dizziness, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, dry mouth, anxiety, and changes in mood.

Pain relief: Both cancer and its treatment can lead to pain. Cancer often causes pain due to inflammation, pressure on internal organs, or nerve injury. When the pain is severe, it can even become resistant to opioids, which are powerful pain relievers. indirectly acts on the CB2 receptors, which may help with widespread pain relief by reducing inflammation.

Dangerous Side Effects of Oil

There are some known real risks to oil, however. Be absolutely certain to consult a doctor before using oil if any of the below apply to you.

  •  It can lower your blood pressure and interact with medication.

Mostly, oil is benign. Its side effects might leave you feeling unwell for a little while, but they will pass. But this is a medication, even if it is marketed carelessly, and that means it can have a powerful effect on your body.

oil can act as a blood thinner and in doing so it can lower your blood pressure. For someone who has issues with blood pressure this can pose very real risks.

  •  It can make Parkinson’s disease worse.

Some research indicates that oil can exacerbate the symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease. This research is ongoing, but patients should avoid the product until more definitive results come out.

Mild Side Effects of Oil

Most of the side effects of oil are moderate. Unless you fall into one of the specific categories above, the odds are that this is a generally benign product with limited negative consequences, according to one research paper. Most of those include:

  •  It can cause drowsiness and light-headedness.

This side effect should come as no surprise. Doctors have long looked at cannabis as a treatment for sleep disorders, and oil is no exception. Putting you to sleep is a feature, not a bug. Just don’t be surprised if your latte doesn’t pack the caffeine punch you expected.

  •  It can cause loss of appetite and dry mouth.

Ironically, perhaps, for a cannabis product, oil has been linked to loss of appetite in some people. Along with dry mouth, it can simply leave you feeling unpleasant after ingesting. As with most other side effects, this will pass in time.