Hemp and marijuana are both members of the cannabis family, but with significant differences; most notably their respective concentrations of cannabinoids and terpenes. For this reason, the latter is typically grown for its THC content and used for recreational or medicinal purposes. Hemp, on the other hand, is grown for its CBD content as well as for various industrial and commercial applications.
While marijuana and hemp have been evenly used to make cannabinoid isolates as well as full- and broad-spectrum products, hemp is starting to see more use in the creation of more novel products within the legal cannabis industry. As an example, CBD hash is made using CBD trichomes from industrial hemp — as are other novel concentrates like budder, which is essentially cannabis butter that can be used for cooking.
The main difference between hemp and marijuana is that hemp contains less than 0.3 percent THC, while marijuana contains significantly more. THC is the compound in cannabis that produces the psychoactivity associated with marijuana consumption, while CBD is a non-psychoactive compound currently being studied for a number of therapeutic benefits, including anxiolytic, antidepressant and antiemetic effects.
Legality & Utilization
Hemp is legal in most countries, while marijuana is still technically illegal in many places, including within the United States. This is because of the classification of THC as a controlled substance under the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA’s) drug scheduling system.
Hemp has been used for centuries in various industries, such as paper and textile production. Even today, several industries unrelated to cannabis consumption — including the clothing, sports medicine and construction markets — utilize hemp in the production of everything from recovery roll-ons to hempcrete, which is a green alternative to concrete made from hemp hurd, which is the dried woody core of hemp stalks. This is made into a composite strengthened with lime and/olr sand.
Conversely, marijuana has been used almost exclusively for recreational and medicinal consumption in recent years. The superior THC and terpene profiles in various marijuana strains are preferred by cannabis product manufacturers for the production of vape cartridges and concentrates, as well as infused food and beverages.
Comparing Their Growth Cycles
Growing industrial hemp is much easier than growing marijuana. This is because hemp plants have a shorter growth cycle and require less water and nutrients. Hemp can also be grown in a wider range of climates and soil types than marijuana.
Marijuana plants, on the other hand, are more delicate and require more attention to detail when growing. They also have a longer growth cycle, which means they need more time and costlier resources to mature. The materials, nutrients and techniques suitable for growing marijuana also depend on the grower’s desired use case.
When growing marijuana specifically for terpene content, for example, it’s recommended to favor soil-based setups over hydroponics and stress the plants with selective pruning — which doubles as a means of directing the flow of energy and nutrients toward flowers, where terpene-producing trichomes are most densely concentrated. Timed fluctuations in growing temperature are also recommended during the flowering stage to further maximize trichome yields.
Market Size & Public Reception
The market for hemp is growing rapidly into several industries, while the market for marijuana is still relatively niche with a narrower consumer base. This isn’t simply because of the differences in psychoactivity between their respective primary cannabinoids, but the utility of the source plant material. Where hemp can be used to produce anything from clothing and lampshades to environmentally friendly biofuels, marijuana enjoys its status as the definitive mainstay in cannabis dispensaries across the country.
While the legal landscape around marijuana is still contentious in many countries around the world, and the word itself is still embattled with negative connotations in many cultures to this day, hemp is much less stigmatized due to its many practical uses outside of cannabinoid consumption. Depending on the prevailing politics, agricultural regulations and consumer base in a given locality, growing marijuana may prove much less profitable than growing hemp, or vice versa.