What’s the difference between hemp and marijuana?
Copy article link to clipboard.
Link copied to clipboard.
- What is hemp?
- Hemp vs. marijuana: Does hemp also have THC?
- Can you smoke hemp?
- How are hemp varieties chosen?
- What is hemp used for?
- How is hemp used as a food product?
- How is hemp processed?
- How is hemp cultivated differently than marijuana?
- Is hemp cultivation legal in the U.S.?
- World history of hemp
- Frequently asked questions
Although hemp and marijuana are both classified biologically as cannabis, there are a number of important differences between them. Here we’ll break down the anatomy, history, use, and legality of the hemp plant to get to the heart of not only what distinguishes hemp from marijuana, but also what makes it such a viable, versatile commodity.
What is hemp?
A variety of Cannabis sativa L, hemp is a dioecious plant, which means it can be separated into male and female plants. These plants have served a wide variety of purposes for more than 10,000 years. We get fiber from the plant’s stems, protein from the seeds, oils from the leaves, and oils from the smokable flowers. Hemp fibers can be used to make items including paper, clothing, textiles, rope — even building materials.
Hemp fibers can be used to make items including paper, clothing, textiles, rope — even building materials. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
The whole hemp plant, from stalk to seed, can also be used to make fuel and feedstock. For more specific applications, hemp can be divided into four categories:
- Bast fibers
- Hurds, or shives
- Leaves and flowers
Hemp vs. marijuana: Does hemp also have THC?
Hemp produces a broad range of cannabinoids, including tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the intoxicating cannabinoid in marijuana. However, hemp does not produce enough THC to create intoxicating effects.
Although hemp doesn’t produce a significant amount of THC, it is capable of producing the non-intoxicating cannabinoid cannabidiol (CBD) in high concentrations. In fact, hemp-derived CBD is rapidly becoming one of the most popular forms of the cannabinoid on the market today.
Many countries differentiate hemp from marijuana by the amount of THC produced by the plant. In the US, industrial hemp is defined as Cannabis sativa L. that does not contain more than 0.3% THC. The European Union has set the limit at 0.2%, while in the UK the limit is zero, unless growers have a cultivation license to grow industrial hemp with no more than 0.2% THC.
In the US, industrial hemp is defined as Cannabis sativa L. that does not contain more than 0.3% THC. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
Can you smoke hemp?
The short answer is yes. Though be aware that while hemp does have trace amounts of intoxicating compounds, that doesn’t mean it will get you high. Hemp plants don’t produce enough THC to have an intoxicating effect. CBD, though technically psychoactive, is a non-intoxicating cannabinoid and won’t produce any form of a euphoric high on its own.
But if the goal isn’t to get an intoxicating high, smoking organic hemp can be an enjoyable and efficient way to experience other cannabinoids like CBD. It’s also never been easier to experiment now that you can find organic hemp flower and pre-rolls online. And while hemp-derived CBD gummies and CBD oil might be all the rage, smoking hemp allows you to self-titrate in real-time — no waiting around for any subtle effects to kick in.
There’s the added bonus of increased bioavailability. Through the act of inhalation, your bloodstream absorbs CBD much faster than it would after eating an edible or using a tincture under your tongue. Your body will also have access to a lot more of the CBD in the smoke or vapor when it’s inhaled. When consumed, a CBD edible goes through the digestive tract, and some of the potency is lost in the process.
For a cleaner burn, consider lighting your hemp flower with hemp wick. Raw hemp wick coated in beeswax offers a slow burn from all-natural materials, which many users say produces a cleaner cannabis flavor than a lighter or match. The more you know.
For a cleaner burn, consider lighting your hemp flower with hemp wick. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
How are hemp varieties chosen?
Depending on the desired final product, hemp cultivars are chosen based on several factors, including:
- Stem quality
- Cannabinoid content
- Resistance to disease
- Time to harvest
- Hemp oil content
- Seed production per acre
CBD production, in particular, has become a major factor in recent years. As the CBD market continues to grow, more and more cultivars are also being chosen based on their CBD production and unique aromatic, or terpene, profiles.
Hemp-derived CBD oil has skyrocketed in popularity in recent years. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
What is hemp used for?
CBD oil is extracted from hemp leaves and flowers. More and more people are experimenting with CBD oil extracted from hemp plants as a wellness supplement, hence the ever-growing popularity of CBD-focused cultivation.
Hemp fibers are primarily used for textiles, paper, building materials, and other industrial products. Raw materials such as hurds, or shives, are short woody fibers typically found inside the stalk. They’re used for making bedding materials, absorbents, particleboard, ceiling panels, compost, and other industrial products.
Bast fibers make up the outer portion of the stalk and are typically split into three categories — primary, or line fiber, secondary, and tow. They are categorized according to their cell strength and cell wall thickness, which will determine the fiber’s strength, durability, and what it can be used for.
How is hemp used as a food product?
Hemp seeds are rich in protein, dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals. They contain an optimal ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids for healthful consumption. A 2008 study also found that hemp proteins are more digestible for humans than common soy protein isolates (SPIs) used in food products. Hemp seeds can be used as food directly or via oil produced from them. Seeds can also be ground up for flour or mixed with water to create hempseed milk.
How is hemp processed?
Processors use many types of processing techniques on hemp seeds and stalks. The technique used depends on the purpose of the final product.
Seeds can be consumed whole, or refined by being pressed or crushed to produce hemp seed oil and flour. These seeds are also hulled, or shelled, to make them more palatable. The remaining shells, which are rich in fiber, can also be used for making flour.
Seeds can be consumed whole, or refined by being pressed or crushed to produce hemp seed oil and flour. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
Hemp stalks are processed through decorticating, a multistep method for removing the long fibers from the rest of the plant. This can involve field retting, a process in which the plants are cut and laid out in the field for four to six weeks. During this time, any bacteria on the plant’s surface will break down the outer layer of the stalk. The retted stalks are then dried.
Water retting is another option. The stalks are immediately dried after harvesting then placed in water for a few days. The water softens the outer layer of the stalks and promotes the growth of additional bacteria, accelerating the process. Finally, chemical retting uses acids, bases, and special enzymes to break down the compounds that hold together the strong bast fibers.
How is hemp cultivated differently than marijuana?
Other key differences between hemp and marijuana have to do with cultivation and harvesting. Male hemp plants flower much faster than females and do not produce nearly as much fiber. In stark contrast to marijuana fields, which seek to banish all males, most female hemp fields include sporadically placed males.
Male hemp plants flower much faster than females and do not produce nearly as much fiber. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
The male hemp plants release pollen female plants use to produce seeds that are either planted for future crops or sold as food. In marijuana fields, male plants are typically eliminated to ensure the maximum production of sinsemilla (seedless) flowers.
While marijuana cultivation requires ample spacing to reduce the risk of mold or bacteria, hemp can be planted more densely. Most marijuana crops are planted with one plant per 4 square feet. Hemp plants that are grown for oil are planted at roughly 40 to 60 plants per 4 square feet. Those grown for fiber are even more densely planted at a rate of about 100 to 120 plants per 4 square feet.
Hemp plants are almost always cultivated outdoors, as opposed to marijuana plants, which are often planted in greenhouses or indoor grow operations. Because hemp is susceptible to the same predators, diseases, and insects that attack marijuana, many cultivators employ a technique called crop rotation, in which alternating crops are planted in the same place, to avoid any buildup of these organisms and to allow nutrients to return to the soil.
The specific order of crop rotation and types of crops being rotated with hemp will depend on the location of the farm. Hemp is also used as a rotational crop at farms where it is not the primary agricultural product.
Is hemp cultivation legal in the U.S.?
The 2014 Agricultural Act, more commonly known as the 2014 Farm Bill, includes section 7606, which allows for universities and state departments of agriculture to cultivate industrial hemp, as long as it is cultivated and used for research. Under the 2014 Agricultural act, state departments and universities must also be registered with their state, and defer to state laws and regulations for approval to grow hemp.
As part of the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (aka the 2018 Farm Bill), the Hemp Farming Act of 2018 reclassified hemp (with less than 0.3% THC) from Schedule I, the federal government’s most restrictive classification of controlled substances, which are considered highly prone to abuse and without medicinal benefits. This move to federally legalize hemp allowed for its cultivation and distribution as a legal agricultural product.
Under the Hemp Farming Act, hemp cultivation is no longer limited to state departments and universities. In addition, the act gives hemp farmers the right to water, crop insurance, and federal agricultural grants, as well as legal access to national banking. Hemp may also be transported across state lines.
Prior to the Hemp Farming Act of 2018, 41 states had passed industrial hemp-related legislation. Thirty-nine of those states legalized statewide cultivation programs that defined hemp specifically to differentiate it from marijuana, establish licensing requirements, and regulate production.
The Hemp Farming Act now requires state departments of agriculture to consult with their governors and chief law enforcement officers on a regulatory program, which will then be submitted to the US Secretary of Agriculture for approval. According to Section 297B of the bill, state hemp regulatory programs must include a system to maintain information on all land where cultivation takes place, procedures for testing THC levels in hemp, and procedures for disposing of products that violate THC content restrictions.
World history of hemp
Hemp has been cultivated on a global scale for thousands of years. The oldest documented evidence of hemp cultivation is a rope, which dates back to 26,900 BCE, found in today’s Czech Republic.
Some of the earliest known prolific uses of hemp began in China about 10,000 BCE, where it was used for making clothing, rope, and paper. The Yangshao people, who lived in China from roughly 5,000 BCE, wove hemp and pressed it into their pottery for decorative purposes. From about 5,000 to 300 BCE, the plant was also grown in Japan and used for fiber and paper.
Cannabis played a large role in the Greco-Roman cultures as a source of fiber, intoxication, and medicine. Cannabis seeds were discovered in the ruins of Pompeii, and Greek rhetorician Athenaeus made note of hemp being used to make rope between 170 and 230 CE. Roman author and naturalist Pliny the Elder also made reference to a cannabis root decoction as a treatment for joint stiffness and gout in the first century BCE.
Exactly how and when hemp originated in the New World is still highly debated. Though long thought to be introduced to the Americas by Christopher Columbus, hemp has been discovered in Native American civilizations that predate Columbus’ arrival. William Henry Holmes’ “Prehistoric Textile Art of Eastern United States” report from 1896 notes hemp from Native American tribes of the Great Lakes and Mississippi Valley.
Hemp products from pre-Columbian native civilizations were also found in Virginia. Vikings, who used the plant for making rope and sails, may also have brought seeds with them when they attempted to colonize the New World.
Jamestown settlers introduced hemp to colonial America in the early 1600s for rope, paper, and other fiber-based products; they even imposed fines on those who didn’t produce the crop themselves. US presidents George Washington and Thomas Jefferson grew hemp.
Hemp was a prominent crop in the United States until 1937, when the Marihuana Tax Act virtually obliterated the American hemp industry. During World War II, the crop saw a resurgence in the US as it was used extensively to make military items including uniforms, canvas, and rope. The Department of Agriculture even released a short documentary, “Hemp for Victory,” in 1942, which promoted the plant as a useful crop for the war cause.
The World War II hemp resurgence was short-lived, though. Until the passing of the 2014 Farm Bill, the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 kept industrial production dormant. Today, hemp is rapidly becoming an indispensable resource for CBD oil and other CBD products.
Frequently asked questions
Is hemp a drug?
Hemp itself is a plant. But CBD, which might be considered a drug, can be made from hemp. The US Food and Drug Administration has approved a CBD-based drug as a treatment for epilepsy. And many people worldwide use CBD products to treat a variety of ailments, though much more research needs to be done on CBD’s efficacy against everything from cancer to acne.
Is hemp legal in Australia?
Certain parts of the hemp plant are legal in Australia. The government has more information.
Is hemp legal in NZ?
The country has a licensing program for those interested in growing certain cultivars of hemp that contain less than 0.35% THC.
What is hemp used for medically?
As stated above, CBD derived from hemp has a variety of uses. The most official is the FDA-approved drug to treat childhood epilepsy. Beyond that, more research needs to be done but scientists are looking at CBD to treat or ease symptoms of:
- Parkinson’s disease
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Pain, including chronic and neuropathic pain
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Sleep disorders
- Bipolar Disorder
- Social Anxiety Disorder
Wang, Xian-Sheng, et al. “Characterization, Amino Acid Composition and in Vitro Digestibility of Hemp (Cannabis Sativa L.) Proteins.” Food Chemistry , vol. 107, no. 1, 1 Mar. 2008, pp. 11–18., doi:10.1016/j.foodchem.2007.06.064.
Callaway, J. C. “Hempseed as a Nutritional Resource: An Overview.” Euphytica , vol. 140, no. 1-2, 2004, pp. 65–72., doi:10.1007/s10681-004-4811-6.
Ryz, Natasha R., et al. “Cannabis Roots: A Traditional Therapy with Future Potential for Treating Inflammation and Pain.” Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research , vol. 2, no. 1, Jan. 2017, pp. 210–216., doi:10.1089/can.2017.0028.
Although hemp and marijuana are both varieties of cannabis, there is a difference between them. The differences between these cannabis varieties are primarily evident in the way each plant is used.
Do Hemp Seeds Have CBD?
In a still new market, the cannabis niche already seems a bit…overcrowded. After all, there are hemp seeds, hemp seed oil, broad spectrum hemp oil — it’s enough to make anyone’s head spin! Well, swivel your dome back the way you found it. We’re here to set your head right!
Don’t let hemp products overwhelm you. They are all beneficial (and delicious). However, each type of hemp product does react with the body in its own unique way. Therefore, some products like hemp seeds and hemp seed oil may not have all the nutrients you are looking for. Let’s take a look at the differences between the major hemp products and get to the bottom of the question, “Do hemp seeds have CBD?”
Getting to Know the Hemp Plant
Before getting into the nuances of hemp products, let’s get to know the plant in the first place. Hemp is a member of the Cannabis sativa genus and comes with a hoard of unique properties. One of those is that it doesn’t contain the psychoactive molecules that its cousin, marijuana, does.
Hemp plants are chock full of terpenes. These are the aromatic chemical compounds that give Cannabis sativa plants their distinct smell. All plants scents’ have evolved from genetic structures known as terpenes. Terpenes are not only responsible for the scent of a plant, but they include wellness-promoting benefits as well.
What sets Cannabis sativa apart from other plants is that this genus contains at least 120 unique phytocannabinoids. Of all of these distinct phytochemicals, there are two that are most prominent in cannabis plants. Those chemical compounds are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD).
THC is most common in marijuana. It’s the psychoactive element of the plant and is the number one reason why cannabis was outlawed. However, hemp contains only small traces of THC. The hemp version of Cannabis sativa is often cultivated to produce an abundance of CBD instead. This is the component that has sparked the healing cannabis movement.
To be legally sold in the United States, hemp products must contain less than 0.3% THC. With such low amounts of THC, it is safe to presume that hemp can’t get you high.
Where Does Hemp Come From?
Hemp comes from central Asia, which still remains one of the main cultivation places. It quickly spread across the world, starting with Europe and then moving to the Americas and Australia. It’s a plant that grows very fast and has many different uses and purposes, which makes it easy to produce and very versatile.
When people ask about the products they buy, they often ask about where the hemp comes from and we are proud to say that Joy Organics uses American hemp.
Where Does CBD Grow?
The way CBD comes to fruition is through the miracle of life. When a seed gets planted, it soaks up all the water and nutrition from the soil. From there, light beams down onto the ground. During the germination period, the light excites microorganisms in the soil, including the seed. As moisture is pulled up to the sky through evaporation, it creates pressure on the seed. Thus, the hemp plant begins to blossom.
While the plant grows toward the light, it’s drawing up as much moisture and nutrients as it can through its roots. This creates a push-and-pull effect on the plant itself. A tug-of-war is created because the plant’s roots are firmly entrenched in its grow medium.
Rays from the light above cause evaporation. Light draws water from the stems and leaves up into the atmosphere. Being anchored by roots while being tugged by light causes stress on the hemp plant. Think of any time we stretch ourselves at the gym. What happens? We sweat.
While our sweat is nothing to write home about, the resin excreting from the tiny hairs on the hemp leaves contain phytocannabinoids. So, to extract CBD oil, you must apply pressure on the leaves and stems of the hemp plant. When this happens, trichomes burst open, exposing oil rich with rare phytochemicals.
Do Hemp Seeds Have CBD?
We can confirm that CBD lives in the leaves and flowers of the hemp plant. Unfortunately, there isn’t any CBD in seeds.
If you purchase hemp seeds or hemp seed oil, you will not get any benefits of CBD. To get the full benefits, you want to get CBD products that tout they are “broad or full spectrum hemp oil.”
This means most of the plant is used in the process. Seeing as each part of the plant brings a different set of phytochemicals to the table, Joy Organics figured we’d have it all! The only thing we opt out of is THC.
As some hemp may have traces of THC, we remove it from the final formula so that you have all the benefits of unique phytocannabinoids without the worry of THC. In fact, third-party labs have found 0.0% levels of THC in our products.
Benefits of Hemp Seeds
Seeds are the unsung hero in nutrition. Chia seeds are a great energy booster and make a killer pudding. Sunflower seeds are full of protein and awesome to enjoy at ball games. Then there are hemp seeds.
Much like the plant itself, hemp seeds contain a litany of unique phytochemicals that makes this a heart-healthy food choice. For one, over 25% of the calories in a tiny hemp seed comes from high-quality protein sources. In fact, just 30 grams of seeds contains 9.47 grams of protein!
What makes this such a heart-healthy food is the fact that get you so much protein, and it comes with dietary fiber. Main protein sources, such as animal fats, contain a ton of LDL cholesterol and little fiber to flush it out. Not to mention, these animal fats are filling. Therefore, we aren’t getting an adequate amount of greens to help push some of these toxins out of the system.
Consuming high-caloric fats makes it harder for your body to digest foods. As a result, they build up in your system, causing a backlog of blood flow. Naturally, your heart gets fewer supplies of oxygenated red blood cells, which may lead to a myriad of heart conditions.
By eating a protein-rich, fiber-dense product like hemp seeds, you are helping clear out the clogged up system. Not to mention, they’re easier for your body to break down and as a result, disperse the nutrients into the bloodstream.
Another leg-up hemp seeds have as a source of protein are their abundance of omega-3 fatty acids. Rule of thumb, we should have a ratio of 3:1 when comparing omega-3s to omega-6s. Unfortunately, evolution has seen a 1:1 ratio become the norm. Alarmingly enough, studies say today, many hover at “20:1 or higher.”
These statistics correlate with the fact that one-third of the population is considered overweight. It all makes sense. Not eating your phytochemicals because you’re full from animals fats will cause your system to clog up. Hemp seeds are a great way to find that balance and help fight off some excess weight gain.
How to Use Hemp Seeds
Seeds are a diverse tool in the kitchen. You can use them in a number of ways. Hemp seeds are no different. The most common way to consume hemp seeds is like any other nut — you can consume them raw by the handful. Personally, we think their nutty flavor can accentuate any salad in need of some crunch!
Otherwise, you can roast hemp seed to sprinkle over a delicious butternut squash soup. Toast them on the stovetop and sprinkle them in with some breadcrumbs to bake over chicken. Or mill the seeds and toss them into a batter for a healthier baked good. To get more creative, you can even soak hemp seeds in water to formulate hemp seed milk.
For those looking to use hemp seed oil, this liquid contains many of the same nutritious benefits as the seeds. Seeing as hemp seed oil is extracted from CBD-free seeds, these oils don’t contain any cannabinoids. Don’t let this deter you from using the delicious health accessory in your next dish.
Like the seed itself, hemp seed oil has a nutty flavor that works wonderfully in bulletproof coffees. It’s like having a hazelnut syrup without all the additives! Being a complete protein, you can actually swap MCT oil for the cheaper alternative in hemp seed oil!
While we wouldn’t suggest cooking with hemp seed oil, it does work wonderfully as a dressing. Mix up this earthy flavor with some citrusy nodes like a white orange balsamic vinegar. It will have your taste buds dancing and your micronutrient intake booming!
Storing Hemp Products
Whether you opt for hemp seed, hemp seed oil, or broad or full spectrum hemp oil, store them all the same! You want to keep hemp and CBD products in a cool, dry and dark place. In fact, many hemp seed oils recommend you keep them in the refrigerator.
By keeping the products away from light, it allows their chemical compounds to maintain integrity. Otherwise, rays within the light will excite the phytochemicals and cause them to oxidize. Sounds familiar? It’s the circle of life, indeed.
Thanks for reading! To show how much we appreciate you, we’re going to give you 16% off your next order. Just use code READER16 at checkout!
Hannah Smith is Joy Organics Director of Communications. She is driven by her passion for providing clear and accessible wellness and CBD education. In 2015, she received her BA in Media, Culture and the Arts from The King’s College in New York City and before Joy Organics, worked as writer and photographer in the Middle East and North Africa. Her work has been featured on Forbes, Vice, Vox, Denver Post, and the Coloradoan.
Hemp seeds have many benefits. They are the unsung hero in nutrition. Heart-healthy, high in protein and dietary fiber …. but, do hemp seeds have CBD?