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Hemp vs. Cannabis: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Updated on October 23, 2023
Hemp is a low-THC variety of the Cannabis sativa plant used mainly for industrial purposes, while cannabis generally refers to plants with higher THC levels, cultivated for medicinal or recreational use.

Key Differences

Hemp is a specific variety of the Cannabis sativa plant. It has been cultivated for thousands of years for its fibrous stalks, which are used to make textiles, ropes, and other industrial products. Cannabis, on the other hand, is a broader term that can refer to both hemp and other varieties of the plant, typically grown for their psychoactive properties.
The distinguishing feature between hemp and cannabis is their tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content. Hemp is defined by its notably low THC content, typically less than 0.3% on a dry weight basis. Cannabis plants intended for recreational or medicinal purposes have higher concentrations of THC, the compound responsible for the "high" feeling.
Both hemp and cannabis produce CBD (cannabidiol), a non-psychoactive compound. However, hemp is often grown specifically for CBD extraction due to its higher CBD to THC ratio. Cannabis, meanwhile, can contain varying levels of both THC and CBD, depending on the strain.
Cultivation practices differ between hemp and cannabis. Hemp is often grown outdoors in large quantities to maximize yield and size. Cannabis, especially strains cultivated for recreational use, is often grown indoors under controlled conditions to optimize potency and flower production.
While hemp is primarily an agricultural commodity with a wide range of industrial applications, cannabis is mainly grown for medical, recreational, or spiritual use. Despite their different purposes, both hemp and cannabis come from the same genus and share many botanical characteristics.

Comparison Chart

Primary Use

Industrial purposes
Medicinal or recreational use

THC Content

Less than 0.3%
Varies, typically higher than hemp

CBD Presence

High CBD to THC ratio
Varies, can be high or low


Outdoor, large-scale
Often indoor, controlled

General Definition

Low-THC Cannabis sativa variety
Plants of the Cannabis genus, including high-THC varieties

Hemp and Cannabis Definitions


Hemp is the low-THC variety of the Cannabis sativa plant.
Hemp has been used for centuries to produce durable textiles.


Cannabis has various strains with different THC and CBD ratios.
Certain cannabis strains are bred for high CBD content.


Hemp is cultivated primarily for industrial applications.
Farmers grow hemp for its strong fibers and seeds.


Cannabis contains psychoactive compounds, notably THC.
Consuming cannabis can produce a euphoric feeling due to its THC content.


Hemp is a source of CBD without significant THC.
Many CBD oils on the market are derived from hemp.


Cannabis refers to plants of the Cannabis genus, known for medicinal and recreational varieties.
Some states have legalized the use of cannabis for medical reasons.


Hemp contains minimal psychoactive compounds.
You won't get high from using hemp-derived products.


Cannabis flowers are its primary source of potency.
The dried flowers of the cannabis plant are commonly smoked or vaporized.


Hemp plants have long, fibrous stalks.
Hemp fibers are woven into ropes and fabrics.


Cannabis is used both recreationally and medicinally.
Doctors might prescribe cannabis for pain relief.




A tall annual dioecious plant (Cannabis sativa), native to Central Asia and having alternate, palmately divided leaves and tough bast fibers.


Can you get "high" from hemp?

No, hemp's THC content is too low to produce psychoactive effects.

Is it legal to grow hemp everywhere?

Hemp's legality varies by country and state, but many places have legalized its cultivation.

Is hemp the same as marijuana?

No, hemp has low THC content, while marijuana, a type of cannabis, has higher THC levels.

Is CBD only found in hemp?

No, CBD is found in both hemp and other cannabis varieties but hemp often has a higher CBD to THC ratio.

What are the effects of consuming cannabis?

Effects vary but can include euphoria, relaxation, altered perception, and increased appetite.

Why is cannabis used medically?

Cannabis can offer pain relief, reduce inflammation, and alleviate symptoms of various conditions.

Can you make clothing from hemp?

Yes, hemp fibers are used in textile production.

Why is hemp cultivation beneficial for the environment?

Hemp grows quickly, improves soil health, and requires less water and pesticides.

Are there side effects to using cannabis?

Yes, potential side effects include dry mouth, anxiety, and dizziness.

How do hemp and cannabis plants look different?

Hemp plants are typically taller with thinner leaves, while cannabis plants are bushier with broader leaves.

Can cannabis be used in industrial applications like hemp?

While cannabis can have some industrial uses, hemp is more widely used for this purpose.

Can hemp be used as food?

Yes, hemp seeds are nutritious and can be consumed.

How is THC content measured in cannabis?

It's measured as a percentage of the plant's dry weight.

How is medicinal cannabis different from recreational cannabis?

Medicinal cannabis is used for therapeutic purposes, while recreational is for personal enjoyment.

Does cannabis always come from the Cannabis sativa plant?

No, cannabis can come from Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, and other species.

Is CBD from hemp as effective as from cannabis?

CBD's effectiveness isn't necessarily dependent on its source, but the product's overall composition can influence results.

Can hemp be used in construction?

Yes, hemp can be processed into materials like hempcrete for building.

Are there different strains of cannabis?

Yes, there are numerous strains, each with unique effects and characteristics.

Is all cannabis high in THC?

No, THC content varies among cannabis strains. Some have low THC levels.

Is hemp oil the same as CBD oil?

Not always. Hemp oil is made from hemp seeds, while CBD oil is extracted from hemp flowers and leaves.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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