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It seems this question baffles most people on the internet, from bloggers, doctors, and even politicians! As a matter of fact, it even baffled me before I came to learn about cannabis and studied its properties.
Just what is the difference between Hemp, Cannabis & Marijuana?
Are They The Same?
Our society places a taboo on anything cannabis-related and our laws are a reflection of this. This means that such a discussion has never taken place, leaving us all in the dark.
Cannabis comes in hundreds of different strains and breeds.
- What do you call marijuana?
- What do you call hemp?
- Difference between hemp vs. marijuana vs. cannabis
- Which one is a better source of cannabinoids?
The confusion out there arises because there are both legal and botanical distinctions to be understood.
Read on to understand more …
Firstly, let’s understand the basic species of cannabis first. There are 3 main species of cannabis, but the total number is likely much higher and is disputed.
The 3 main groups are:
See the image below for how each of these plants appears:
The Cannabis Sativa strain is usually taller and has narrower and longer leaves and can be planted at higher density.
The Cannabis Indica strain, on the other hand, is usually shorter and more bushy like with shorter and wider leaves and planted with more spacing between plants.
To simplify it further, most cannabis products are obtained from the first two species only: Sativa and Indica. Looking at the physical characteristic of a plant will help you identify which species it belongs to.
That’s the different forms of cannabis from both a physical identification and a botanical point of view.
Hemp vs. Marijuana: What’s the difference?
The definition of hemp is a legal one, and not botanical, and is based on the concentration of (Tetrahydrocannabinol) THC.
Hemp has a THC concentration of less than 0.3%
Marijuana has a THC concentration greater than 0.3%
So any plant of either species that contains a THC concentration of less than 0.3% is considered hemp and anything above that is considered marijuana, regardless of the species the plant belongs to or what it looks like. Within both species there are hundreds of different breeds which contain varying amount of cannabinoids in their gooey resin, some of which fall within the legal definition of hemp and some within the legal definition of marijuana. The cannabinoids are extracted from the plants resin which is present within the “heads of tiny, mushroom-shaped trichomes, found mainly on the plant’s odiferous female flowers (the buds) and to a lesser extent on the leaves” (Project Medicinal Cannabis).
“The term hemp means the plant Cannabis sativa L. and any part of that plant, including the seeds thereof and all derivatives, extracts, cannabinoids, isomers, acids, salts, and salts of isomers, whether growing or not, with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis”
It so happens that many resin rich varieties which contain lots of different and beneficial cannabinoids are of the Cannabis Indica strain, which is short and busy. It is also true that many resin poor varieties which contain minimal cannabinoids are of the Cannabis Sativa species, which is tall and skinny in appearance. These later Cannabis Sativa varieties are usually called “industrial hemp” and are used industrially to manufacture textiles, rope, clothing and paper. They have very useful fibre which makes them a valuable crop for such uses. But not all Cannabis Sativa species are used industrially, some are used medicinally also.
Where The Confusion Lies
This is incorrect.
Where Does The 0.3% Legal Definition Come From?
Legality In NZ
What else would you like to know? Write us your questions below.
Disclaimer – medicinal cannabis and CBD oil are unapproved medicines in NZ which means that there is no conclusive evidence for their effect, apart from Sativex. Many doctors do not routinely prescribe cannabis medicines. The above article was written for general educational purposes and does not intend to suggest that medicinal cannabis can be used to treat any health condition. Please consult with your healthcare provider.