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The differences between hemp and marijuana, explained – Business Insider

In December 2018, President Trump signed the Farm Bill, which legalizes hemp and classifies it as an agricultural product in the United States. And because hemp comes from cannabis sativa, the same plant marijuana comes from, more people are wondering about the differences between the two substances.

Besides coming from the same plant, hemp and marijuana have very little in common. “Hemp is the non-drug usage of that plant, while marijuana is the drug use,” Jeff Chen, director of UCLA’s Cannabis Research Initiative, told INSIDER.

Here are the other key differences between hemp and marijuana.

Hemp and marijuana come from the same plant, but only hemp is legal nationwide

Hemp and marijuana may come from the same source, but in the United States, laws regarding their use are quite different. Marijuana, for example, is still considered a schedule 1 drug by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), meaning it has “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” This means marijuana, in both its recreational and medicinal forms, is not legal for use throughout the country.

Hemp, which can be used to make food and clothing, is now considered an agricultural product in the United States.
Thomson Reuters

Hemp, however, is now legal nationwide thanks to the passing of the Farm Bill. In fact, hemp is now considered an agricultural product, whereas marijuana is still considered a drug, Business Insider previously reported.

Cannabis is considered hemp if it contains less than 3% THC

Hemp’s new status as a legal substance has a lot to do with the fact it contains very little tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, Chen told INSIDER. Usually, hemp contains less than 3% THC, so it can’t get you high like marijuana, which can contain around 20% THC.

Read more: On the heels of hemp legalization, regulators have fired a ‘warning shot’ to the $1 billion CBD industry

In fact, the THC percentage in cannabis plants is used to determine whether it is called hemp or marijuana. “If no part of the cannabis plant goes over 3% THC, we will call it hemp,” Chen explained. “As long as it fits this test, it is an agricultural product just like tomatoes.”

A cannabis plant with less than 3% THC is considered hemp.
REUTERS/Nir Elias

Hemp and cannabis also have physical differences, according to Dr. Bomi Joseph, the founder of Peak Health Center and creator of Phyto Farmacy. “In the wild, marijuana grows from eight to 10 feet tall and is very unkempt, like a bush,” he told INSIDER. Hemp, on the other hand, has a “tidier look” and grows between six and eight feet tall.

And industrial marijuana, the kind that is grown in dispensaries in the United States, is in a league of its own due to the US’s genetic growing process. “It’s a mutant species, Joseph told INSIDER. “It has huge flowers that droop over and smells like a skunk, which naturally occurring cannabis does not.”

Traditionally, hemp has been used to make clothes and other products

Besides appearance and THC-based, hemp and marijuana have differing uses. Hemp, for instance, is used to make clothing, supplements, and even food, like hemp milk, according to Joseph.

Marijuana, however, is used as a recreational or medical drug, due to its psychoactive nature. Some strains of marijuana, for instance, are said to alleviate stress, anxiety, and chronic pain, INSIDER previously reported, but more research into its uses and effectiveness still has to be done.

Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more.