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What is the difference between Hemp and Cannabis

Hempura Blog Featured Image Hemp Vs. Cannabis - what's the difference?
Estimated Read Time: 3 ½ minutes



Another of the questions we get asked frequently here at Hempura is ‘What’s the difference between Hemp and Marijuana?’. The simplest answer is that Hemp is used to denote the non-psychoactive variety of the Cannabis Sativa plant, whilst Cannabis or Marijuana is used to denote the psychoactive variety of the same.

Health Canada has created a helpful definition of hemp, stating that ‘Industrial hemp is the cannabis that contains 0.3% THC or less in the flowering head and leaves’ [1]  American law describes hemp as the following: “The plant Cannabis sativa L. and any part of that plant… with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol [delta-9 THC] concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis” (from Section 297A of the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946 (AMA)).[2]

Both hemp plants and marijuana varieties stem from the same genus (which is called Cannabis), and from the same species (Cannabis Sativa). The marijuana variety of the Cannabis Sativa plant is grown for its trichomes (strong, viscous glands), and contains high amounts of the psychoactive cannabinoid tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).  In contrast, only small amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol can be found in the Cannabis Sativa cultivar bred for hemp, which is usually grown for industrial purposes, including fibre for clothing, ointments, oils and construction materials.

The distinction between what is legal to sell and what isn’t can be defined by the THC content present in the product. Products with less than 0.3% THC are defined as hemp and are thus legal to sell, use and distribute.


How is Hemp used?

Hemp is widely used in the health and beauty industry. Oil from hemp seeds is used in a variety of products, including lotions and oils for skin and hair care. The vital nutrients and essential fatty acid (EFA) content in hemp seed oil make it an excellent moisturiser, and therefore a popular product to help with dry skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis. Cannabidiol is also a powerful antioxidant which minimises the damage done to the skin by the sun, smoking, pollution and poor nutrition. The fatty acids in hemp seed oil (including omega-3, omega-6 & omega-9 and gamma linoleic acids) are all excellent for skincare.

The cellulose fibres of the industrial hemp plant are also widely used in the manufacture of clothing, bags and even building materials, and have been for hundreds – if not thousands – of years. In fact, evidence of hemp-based fabric was found in Turkey in the ancient city of Çatalhöyük, dating back 9000 years.[3]


The Hemp vs. Cannabis Classification Controversy

Ernest Small, a Canadian researcher, developed the definition of hemp (distinct from cannabis) in 1971. Small determined the 0.3% THC distinction in his book ‘The Species Problem in Cannabis[4].  In his highly influential book, Small argues that there is no point at which the cannabinoid properties are able to be used to distinguish between different marijuana and hemp strains. In spite of this, he also decided to make the choice that 0.3% of THC (from the flowering heads and leaves) should be the defining difference between the two. Naturally, this contradiction has caused a lot of controversies and confused many – in terms of defining the distinction between hemp and cannabis.


Cannabis Oil, Hemp Seed Oil or Hemp Extract?

Whole-plant cannabis oil has high proportions of cannabinoids, commonly CBD, and other substances which are found to be highly effective in the treatment of a wide assortment of complaints and to help improve overall balance and wellbeing.  Hemp seed oil, in contrast, can be found in lots of products at your local store as it lacks the cannabinoids present in cannabis oil but is high in nutritional value, containing only half the calories of olive oil and twice the omega-3!

Hemp extract, also known as CBD, is very different from Hemp seed oil – it does contain cannabinoids, just not the THC. It is legal for sale in the UK as long as it meets the strict THC content regulations (less than 0.2% THC) – as all Hempura products do.

If you’re considering trying out CBD products for yourself, then make sure that you purchase them from a reputable seller. For a full range of some of the best CBD oil UK products, all of which meet the regulations for legal sale in the UK, you can also take a look at our store.



Last Updated on 14/01/2022

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