Is Hemp the Same as Cannabis or Marijuana? Understanding the Cannabis Plant Family

New to cannabis? If so, you’ve probably heard the terms “hemp,” “marijuana,” and “cannabis” thrown around a lot in dispensaries and online. A lot of people tend to use them interchangeably, but each word actually has its own meaning.

In this post, we’ll look at the differences between the terms hemp, marijuana, and cannabis. We’ll also discuss the differences between the plants and their uses.

Defining Cannabis, Hemp, and Marijuana

Cannabis, hemp, and marijuana are all related terms, but they each have their own distinct definitions. Here is what these terms mean.

Cannabis: The Umbrella Term

Cannabis in general refers to a genus of flowering plants in the Cannabaceae family, which includes several species and varieties of plants. Hemp and marijuana fall under this umbrella. Cannabis plants are known for their psychoactive and non-psychoactive compounds, or cannabinoids. Some of these include THC, CBD, CBG, and more.

Cannabis does not directly refer to psychoactive or non-psychoactive plants. It refers to the cannabis plant family in general, encompassing both marijuana and hemp (whose definitions are below).

Hemp: The Industrial Crop (Sometimes)

The term hemp typically refers to the industrial crop grown for its strong fibers and numerous uses in a variety of industries like textiles or building materials. Hemp has been grown for centuries because of this, and it is one of the most eco-friendly crops with a large range of applications. It can also, however, be used to extract and synthesize cannabinoids. A lot of companies that produce CBD products or cannabis products that contain cannabinoids like Delta 8 THC, HHC, or THCA use hemp to do so because of its legal status. 

Hemp naturally contains significantly fewer cannabinoids than marijuana and minuscule amounts of Delta 9 THC, the primary cannabinoid found in marijuana. That is why most hemp-derived cannabinoids are concentrated or synthesized from other cannabinoids. Most CBD topicals, like the ones we carry in our stores, contain hemp-derived CBD.

Marijuana: The Psychoactive Superstar

Marijuana is the plant under the cannabis umbrella responsible for most of the products you can find in dispensaries across New Mexico and in many U.S. states. It is specifically bred to alter its cannabinoid content and concentration. This results in different cultivars that also have varying flavor profiles and terpenes. Most dispensary-grade products contain flower or cannabinoids from marijuana. 

Marijuana is naturally more potent than hemp and does not have the same industrial uses. It is grown to produce flower from the plant, harvested, and used to create the cannabinoid and terpene-rich product you know and love at your favorite dispensary.

What Do Hemp and Marijuana Look Like?

Because hemp and marijuana are two different plants under the same species umbrella, they have a few similarities and distinct differences. Here is a quick look at their traits.

The Appearance of Marijuana

Marijuana plants can vary greatly in their appearance due to years of selective breeding. But, in general, they tend to be bushier plants that produce a lot of leaves and flowers. Its leaves are spread out evenly throughout its branches, and it tends to grow outward rather than upwards. Marijuana plants usually have a main stalk in the middle. This stalk is relatively soft compared to that of the hemp plant.

Hemp and marijuana plants share similar shapes of leaves, but the concentration of these leaves differs.

The Appearance of Hemp

Hemp plants are typically tall and skinny with fewer leaves and buds than the marijuana plant. They have a strong, fibrous stalk that makes the plant sturdy despite its tall stature. Despite having similarly shaped leaves to the marijuana plant, hemp usually grows leaves closer to the top of the plant rather than down the stem like its bushier cousin. Hemp is also typically grown outdoors due to its hardy nature and easy harvesting. Marijuana is typically grown indoors in heavily controlled environments.

The Uses of Hemp and Marijuana

Despite their similarities, hemp and marijuana have wildly different uses in today’s world based on their history and the research behind them.

How We Use Hemp

Hemp has a large variety of uses: Textiles, hygiene, food, cosmetics, construction, and even more. Overall, there are over 5,000 uses of hemp ranging from insulation for buildings to some medications and supplements. 

Now, hemp is returning to the marketplace as a valuable crop for a variety of industries. You can find hemp products in grocery stores, in clothing, in paper products, and more. Hemp is also one of the most sustainable crops available to farmers and manufacturers today. The plant is easy to grow outside in large quantities. It doesn’t deplete the soil of its nutrients nearly as much as other crops, and nearly every part of the hemp plant has some use.

Hemp is also grown for its potentially therapeutic properties as a source of various cannabinoids, some naturally occurring and some synthesized. You can find wellness products like CBD topicals, alternative cannabinoids to THC, and more in online shops and storefronts all over the United States.

How We Use Marijuana

Marijuana is largely known for its recreational uses nowadays, but it has a lot of potential therapeutic and medicinal uses as well. There is more research being done now more than ever into the potential benefits of THC and other cannabinoids. The FDA has active guidelines for cannabis research. Plus, the potential for more cannabis-powered medical treatments is on the horizon.

On the recreational side, millions of Americans use cannabis for recreational purposes through dispensaries. Some find that it can help with anxiety, depression, stress, and more. It can help with getting a better night’s sleep, improve digestion issues, and offer a relaxing and calming experience. There is a cultivar for everything, and marijuana is getting more and more diverse in what it can do for us!

Cannabis, Hemp, and Marijuana: Final Thoughts

Understanding the differences between the terms cannabis, hemp, and marijuana can help you better understand the products you are buying and what they are made with. Most cannabis products available in dispensaries are made with marijuana, but you can find other products like CBD topicals, for example, that may be made with hemp instead. These two distinct plants, although similar, have so much to offer in the worlds of wellness, industry, and more.

To learn more about cannabis, check out the rest of our blog for lots of information on products, common questions, and more. Let us know if you have any questions on our contact page, and check out any of our Dreamz Dispensary locations across New Mexico. Looking to order online? Check out our products page for a list of our stores and online shopping links.