What is Hemp? | Difference Between Marijuana, Hemp and Cannabis

Today, we dive into hemp, explain what it is – and give you notes on aspects of hemp like cannabidiol – or CBD, hemp flower, and everything else you need to know about hemp and how it is different from marijuana. 

What exactly is hemp?

What is hempHemp is the plant cannabis sativa, which is the same cannabis sativa that can make marijuana, or adult use cannabis.

The difference between hemp and marijuana has to do with one very specific cannabinoid called delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol, which we have known about since its discovery by Dr. Michalum in Israel in 1964, and how it works since his discovery of anandamide in 1992. 

Hemp is all parts of the cannabis sativa plant, whether growing or not, or the seeds thereof, with a delta-9 THC level of 0.3% or less by dry weight.

However, all states that permit the cultivation of hemp require a license. Hemp farming without a license may get you into legal trouble, which reminds me – none of this is legal advice.

Just because I’m a lawyer does not mean I’m your lawyer unless you have a written engagement with my firm, the Collateral Base. This is everything you need to know about hemp for informational purposes only. 

For example, there are over 120 cannabinoids – but only 1, delta-9 THC, is the only thing that makes cannabis either lawful hemp or schedule 1 marijuana under federal law. 

When did hemp become legal?

Hemp became legal for the entire United States with the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, which President Trump signed into law on December 20, 2018.

The USDA has finalized regulations for hemp farming to ensure uniformity for the 2021 crop year and those going forward as the this agricultural commodity will become like the others – with futures markets and crop insurance for the legal hemp farmers. Starting in 2020, hemp farmers can even apply for FSA farm loans. 

Of course, to grow hemp, the farmers must comply with their state and federal regulations – so be sure to consult your cannabis lawyer regarding your legal hemp farm. 

How much THC is in hemp?

By law, hemp must have only 0.3% or less delta-9 THC, the plant actually makes the acid form of THC, called THCa. Most THCa does not denature to THC until the plant is heated, which is why people smoke marijuana. 

Starting in 2021, hemp needs to keep its total THC level below 0.3% because the USDA regulations took the delta-9 THC statutory definition and regulated it to mean total THC instead of delta-9 THC – a lawsuit may challenge that, and it has led to pivoting toward CBG hemp. But before we get to that, what’s total THC for hemp?

In Hemp most of the THC level is THCa, but it is still a very low amount. All CBD hemp has about 1% total THC, usually a bit less than that. However, the genetics of the hemp dictates how much THC levels it has.

Unfortunately, THC levels for hemp are set by law, not by science.

Why .3% THC is wrong for CBD Hemp

We can break down why the 0.3% THC limit is crazy and causes more problems than good for the young hemp industry.

We believe that the CBD varietals of the hemp plant will grow the industry to the point where it can really get industrial hemp at a scale where lots more possibilities open up for legal hemp, but unfortunately, the federal government chose a line in the sand for what makes cannabis hemp that as little to do with the facts of the plant.

Because of the new USDA regulations – the agency estimates that 20% of the 2021 hemp crop will be hot. Which is silly considering the genetics behind the CBD hemp plant and why we need continued evolution on what the hemp laws are.

Let’s go to the Whiteboard to explain our points behind why we believe 1% hemp is better than 0.3% THC

Why 1% THC is better for hemp than 0.3%

  • Science Based 20/1 Ratio of CBD/THC
  • Not Arbitrary 0.3% number from random 1976 paper
  • No Crimes for Farming – 0.5% Total THC level is negligence
  • Synergy – CBD + Terpenes + Flavonoids

Is hemp a drug?

Hemp is no more a drug than a coffee bean is a drug.

Even the coffee you drink is not a drug, just like the hemp or even marijuana that you would smoke. The drug inside of coffee is caffeine, whereas the drug inside of hemp flowers is CBD. 

CBD has actually become a pharmaceutical drug called Epidolex that is used to treat certain forms of epilepsy. Hemp contains much more than CBD in ratios of approximately 20/1 to THC.

The dry hemp flowers can approach and maybe even exceed 20% CBD, while staying under the 0.3% delta-9 THC threshold. 

However, allowing the flower to ripen to that extent may cause the crop to go bad because higher levels of CBD bring higher levels of THC. 

Can states ban smokable hemp flower?

Smokable hemp flower is one of the most popular aspects of the legal hemp industry – but many states believe that it is too similar to marijuana and try to ban it because law enforcement gets confused between the differences with CBD hemp and regular weed. 

Here’s the list of states that have banned, or tried to ban, smokable hemp flower:

  1. North Carolina
  2. Iowa
  3. Texas
  4. Indiana
  5. Massachusetts
  6. Louisiana

We think that these bans should be struck down under the farm bill that legalized industrial hemp because they are an unwarranted prohibition of interstate commerce in hemp, but we will see what the courts say about that over the coming years.

So subscribe to cannabis legalization news to say on top of what is going on in hemp.

Is hemp the same as CBD?

No hemp is not the same as CBD – however if you are looking at flowers that look like marijuana but people tell you that it is hemp – then it is all about the CBD in that flower – unless it is 2021, then CBG will be getting big.

CBG is Cannabigerol. You will hear a lot more about it because of the regulations from the USDA on the difference between hemp and marijuana – with the low total THC levels, many farmers are going to pivot from CBD to CBG hemp flower.

What is hemp used for medically?

CBD in Epidiolex is used for certain forms of hard to treat epilepsy. Youtube is filled with videos on the uses for hemp, so we are just going to mention two more and the CB2 receptor.

One way that hemp is different from marijuana to do with the cannabinoid receptors they bind to. THC binds to the CB1 receptors – typically in your brain that cause the high, while CBD, and CBG binds to CB2 receptors.

We are not going to get into the endocannabinoid system on this brief what is hemp story, but google it.  You’ll see that the CB2 receptors help with pain, nausea, and anxiety. 

In fact another difference between hemp and marijuana has to do with how they make you feel. If you get too high, reach for a CBD hemp joint – it will counteract the anxiety provoking effect of high THC strains of cannabis.

Where does THC and CBD come from in Hemp?

Interestingly, CBG is called the father of all cannabinoids – also discovered by Dr. Mechoulam in 1964 – it begins the development of CBD and in turn THC. That’s when some complex organic chemistry comes into play – so please research that on your own.

When will industrial hemp be bigger than CBD Hemp?

Industrial hemp has to do with the applications of the cannabis plant beyond its flowering females. But those flowering females are laying the groundwork in creating a brand new industry. Industrial hemp applications that can take on plastics, paper, building materials and hydrocarbon fuels require immense amounts of capital investments – and they are starting right now. 

So let’s get 1% THC hemp to be the law of the land, make ourselves carbon neutral and create millions of new green jobs right here in America.  And if you want to learn more about cannabis, give us that thumbs up, click subscribe and tune in wednesdays for new episodes of cannabis legalization news.

What’s the difference between cannabis and hemp?

If you have ever asked yourself that question – this blog post is for you.  Here you will find out exactly what makes the difference between these three types of the single plant.  Often, hemp is called marijuana’s cousin – but that is misleading.  Both marijuana and hemp are cannabis.

In fact, cannabis is the genus of a flowering plant in the Cannabacae family.  Further, cannabis sativa contains three subgroups: sativa, indica and ruderalis – but all of them are sub-species of cannabis sativa.

So when you hear people talking about cannabis, that means that they are talking about both marijuana and hemp – so you may want to ask them which ones they are talking about specifically.  More on the differences between cannabis (marijuana) and hemp below.

what's the difference between cannabis and marijuana
what’s the difference between cannabis and marijuana

Contact our Cannabis Lawyers

If you want to grow hemp in Illinois – complete the chat bot on this website – or call our cannabis lawyers today at (309) 740-4033



Licensed to practice since 2008, Thomas Howard has represented numerous financial institutions in litigation to enforce their security interests.
Homegrown Cannabis Co's Cannabis Seeds


Licensed to practice since 2008, Thomas Howard has represented numerous financial institutions in litigation to enforce their security interests.

Table of Contents

Related Posts

Want to win a license?

Here’s where you can learn how we’ve won before and will again.