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What are the main differences between Cannabis, Hemp and Marijuana?

24 February 2022

For those approaching the world of Cannabis for the first time these might appear interchangeable terms. Indeed they refer to different plants (genus) in the Cannabaceae family, with botanical and cultivar differences.

What is Cannabis?

The word Cannabis is a taxonomic term referring to a genus of flowering plants, members of the family Cannabaceae, including about 170 plants. Cannabis is considered to be indigenous to Central Asia and the Indian subcontinent and its uses for fabric and rope date back to the Neolithic age in China and Japan. The plant is often divided up into three species: cannabis sativa, cannabis indica, and cannabis ruderalis. As a matter of fact in the colloquial gerg the three terms are used as synonyms even if not appropriate from a botanical and bio-chemical point of view. More than 480 natural components are found within the Cannabis sativa plant, of which 66 are classified as cannabinoids, separated into subclasses.


What is Hemp?

The scientific name of Hemp is Cannabis Sativa (L.). Hemp and Marijuana belongs to the same famility but they have different characteristics and biochemical components. Hemp is largely used in the “cannabis” industry for the production of cosmentics and dietary supplements and it contains low levels of the psychoactive phytocannabinoid, known as Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) which indeed is reach in the “sister” Marijuana. What is making Hemp interesting, is its content of non-intoxicating phytocannabinoids such as Cannabidiol (CBD) which has a wide range of positive effect on the chemistry of our body.

HEMP for industrial usage is selected in order to have low content of THC. The level legally binding for THC in industrial Hemp is <= 0.3% in US and <= 0.2% in EU. If the content of THC exceeds these threasholds the plant is considered Marijuana and it falls under the control of the UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs (1961) and their use is permitted only under Controlled Substances Acts (CSA), in force in various countries.

Industrial Hemp can be considered one of the most versitile plants in the words. Over time, the use of industrial hemp has evolved into a great variety of products, including health foods, organic body care, clothing, construction materials, biofuels, plastic composites and more with sources claiming up to 25.000 different products

What is Marijuana?

Marijuana can be considered the psychoactive sister of hemp (a cannabis sativa or cannabis indica specie). What differentiate Marijuana from industrial hemp is its high content in THC, far above 0.2-0.3%.

Marijuana can be made available and sold in various ways being the dried and cured flower the most common. Nevertheless, like hemp, it can be also used for extraction to create concentrated extracts that can be sold or used as ingredients in food supplements, cosmetics and/or other natural foods. The Countries that have legalized the use of Cannabis with THC over 0.2% for medical use (i.e. under prescription and control of a physician) are Australia, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Germany, Greece, Israel, Italy, the Netherlands, Peru, Poland and the United Kingdom. In the United States, 31 federal states have legalized the therapeutic use of the plant.

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