What is the difference between Hemp and Marijuana?

Updated: Aug 28, 2019

How many of you have heard of hemp and thought hemp and marijuana were synonymous? I know when I first got into this business, I really did not know the difference between hemp and marijuana, so you are not alone.

The difference between hemp and marijuana is a subject that is all to often improperly explained. As a supplier of CBD products, I will attempt to help explain the mass confusion and complications present for CBD users, potential CBD users, and even the government. It has become increasingly important to understand the difference between hemp and marijuana and how they relate to the term “Cannabis” to clarify the difference between Hemp and Marijuana and clear the smoke (no pun intended) on this often misinformed subject.


First, it is important to understand that the two plants share a commonality in that they are both a species of plant called Cannabis Sativa L. This species of plant is well known for its 7 leaf pattern in the picture below that is heavily associated with recreational marijuana use. Both hemp and marijuana feature this leaf pattern and to the naked eye look exactly the same. So much so, that this has led to numerous law enforcement officers making arrests and seizing hemp that is 100% legal because it looks exactly like “marijuana.” Not to help matters, but CBD companies are marketing their products to look like marijuana, so to many it is very confusing.

However, looking beyond the species and the visual aspects of the two plants, the common traits between the two varieties begin to dwindle. Marijuana and hemp are different in their appearance, composition, legality, growing methods, and potential uses. Each of these aspects contributes to the significant overall differences between the two plant varieties

4 Key Differences Between Hemp and Marijuana


Hemp is a fibrous plant thanks to the large stalk which can result in plants up to 20 feet tall. The 7-leaf pattern often shows skinnier leaves concentrated at the top of the stalks. Today, the legal term industrial hemp is used to describe hemp classified as having less than 0.3% Tetrahydrocannabinol (Delta-9 THC).

Marijuana is a variety of cannabis well known for its high concentration of Delta-9 THC, the psychoactive “high” producing compound. Marijuana is a shorter, stalkier plant than hemp. These plants feature broader leaves with an abundance of budding flowers growing around the stalks. These flowers are often covered in crystal-dusted hairs.


Due to the difference between their levels of THC, hemp and marijuana are regulated very differently under the law. Lawmakers and the public have long been confused by hemp, marijuana, and cannabis.

With progress from the 2018 Farm Bill, hemp is no longer on the CSA schedule 1 of controlled substances. With the passing of this bill, hemp is finally defined separately from marijuana. If cannabis contains 0.3% THC or less by dry weight, it is now considered hemp, not marijuana. Once and for all, hemp is now federally recognized as a legal substance in the eyes of the federal government.

Despite this clear classification at the federal level, state, tribal, and regulatory bodies are still working on local regulation across the hemp industry. Marijuana, on the other hand, while legal in some states, is still treated as a controlled substance at the federal level and is federally illegal under the Controlled Substance Act.


Hemp and marijuana are harvested for different purposes so, naturally, they require different growing conditions. Marijuana is grown in precisely controlled indoor environments. Tight control of the growing environment means that grower operations are smaller in scale than hemp operations.

To properly cultivate a marijuana or cannabis plant, a grower must pay close attention to the plant at each stage of its life cycle and maintain exact conditions in its environment, such as proper temperature, lighting, and humidity.

In contrast, hemp is grown to maximize its size and yield. Hemp can be grown in a wide variety of climates with minimal care. Often the plant is grown in large greenhouses or in outdoor farming operations.


Hemp and marijuana each offer a range of usages which are unique to their composition. When it comes to CBD and the case of hemp and marijuana, we are faced with yet another important subject that must be addressed.

CBD can be derived from either hemp or marijuana, however, given the unique characteristics of each plant, one would assume that the CBD derived from each plant is different in some way.

Surprisingly, they are not.

According to Jeremy Riggle, Ph.D, chief scientist “the CBD molecule and its associated pharmacology are the same, whether it was extracted from hemp or from marijuana. CBD is CBD, regardless of where it was originally derived from.”

So if CBD is the exact same at a molecular level, CBD should be legal whether it’s derived from hemp or marijuana, as long as it’s below 0.3% right? Well…Not exactly…

This is where the law can get a little confusing, but let me explain. Under the Agricultural Act of 2018, commonly known as the “2018 Farm Bill”, hemp and hemp-derived products, including hemp-derived CBD, were legalized.

A common misconception about the 2018 Farm Bill is that it legalized CBD regardless of if it was derived from hemp or marijuana. This is not true.

Based on the guidance of the DEA, CBD is still considered a Schedule I controlled substance.

However, if the CBD is derived from hemp which contains 0.3% THC or less, it would not be regulated as a controlled substance and is federally legal. The keyword here is “derived from hemp.”

The 2018 Farm Bill explicitly applies to “hemp and hemp-derived products.” It does not include marijuana-derived CBD, which remains under the regulation of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the DEA as a controlled substance. Even if the CBD contains 0.0% THC, if it is derived from marijuana, it is not legal in the eyes of the law under the 2018 Farm Bill. Clear as mud? Good!

Why is this important?

Here at SOTA CBD, we source our product line exclusively from hemp grown within the federal regulations outlined in the 2018 Farm Bill that is sourced here in the USA. Furthermore, after extraction, all of the THC is removed from full spectrum extract. The result is a highly effective broad-spectrum CBD product that is legal, non-psychoactive, and high-inducing cannabinoids.

While the subject can be a bit complex and quite confusing, I hope to have shed some light on this important subject and properly explained the difference between hemp vs marijuana. Despite the dysfunctional use of the terms “hemp” and “marijuana,” these terms have become deeply ingrained in our culture and society. There is definitely a need to re-educate America about Hemp and Marijuana, but to reverse this issue, it will take time.

Terms like hemp and marijuana are a reflection of our complicated relationship with cannabis. Because these terms are used in a legal context, it’s important to understand what they mean, how they’re different, and how they relate to cannabis to understand your rights and avoid potential legal complications when using CBD products.

Follow and Like
SOTA CBD Facebook pages
SOTA CBD instagram page
SOTA CBD twitter page
SOTA CBD Pinterest page
SOTA CBD YouTube page
New Logo transparent blue.png


These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any disease. Always check with your physician before starting a new dietary supplement program.  This product is not for use by or sale to persons under the age of 18. This product should be used only as directed on the label. It should not be used if you are pregnant or nursing.All trademarks and copyrights are property of their respective owners and are not affiliated with nor do they endorse this product.   By using this site, you agree to follow the Privacy Policy and all Terms & Conditions printed on this site. Void Where Prohibited by Law.