The cannabis plant has so many uses, it’s no surprise that it goes by so many names. Two of the most prevalent are hemp and marijuana. Although both of these terms are used to talk about cannabis, they are not interchangeable. Understanding the difference is integral to properly navigating the growing cannabis industry.
What is cannabis?
Before digging into hemp and marijuana, it is important to have a clear definition of cannabis.
All known plants have a taxonomy that qualifies their genetic makeup and resulting characteristics. Starting at the highest order or magnitude, every plant falls into a kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, and species. Some plants may also have subspecies.
Within the cannabaceae family is the cannabis genus. Cannabis can then be broken down into three different species, cannabis sativa, cannabis indica, and cannabis ruderalis. This is where things start to get a bit complicated.
Since cannabis sativa was first categorized in the 18th century, there has been an ongoing debate in terms of how many cannabis species exist. Today, there are still some who consider cannabis sativa the only distinct version of this plant, conceptualizing the others as subspecies despite their distinct features. It is also important to note that whether they are distinct species or not, all types of cannabis can interbreed with each other, which has only added to the confusion.
Hemp vs. marijuana
With this taxonomy in mind, hemp and marijuana are both ways of referring to cannabis. More specifically, hemp refers to the subspecies cannabis sativa L. while marijuana refers to cannabis of any species that has high levels of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC.
THC is at the heart of what differentiates hemp from marijuana, a fact that is connected to the history of cannabis within the United States. Historically, neither of these words existed, and all versions were simply considered cannabis. This changed in the early part of the 20th century, when an influx of Mexican immigrants heightened racial tensions. The Mexican Spanish word “marijuana” then became a derogatory way of referring to the herb that was popular among new immigrant populations. Over the years this word has continued to be used as a way to reference cannabis that is taken recreationally to produce a high.
Hemp, on the other hand, is defined as cannabis that has far less THC and therefore does not produce the same psychoactive effects. At the root of it though, hemp and marijuana are the same plant, which is why—until recently—the law applied the same controlled-substance prohibitions to all kinds of cannabis. That all changed in 2018 with the passage of a new Farm Bill, which legally differentiated marajuana and hemp.
This brings us back to THC, which is the singular factor that legally distinguishes marijuana from hemp. Since 2018, the U.S. government considers cannabis sativa L. with less than .3% THC in dry weight to be hemp, while cannabis with any more THC than that remains a Schedule 1 controlled substance.
Where CBD comes from matters
Although CBD can come from marijuana or hemp plants, CBD that comes from marijuana plants is illegal in places where the herb has not been medically or recreationally legalized, even if the product contains no THC. (All CBD must legally contain less than .3% THC.) Because our products are made with hemp, you can rest assured that they are legal in every state. (Read more about our organic farm—and our herd of cute alpaca that fertilize it.)
Furthermore, CBD from marijuana plants is usually extracted as an isolate, which means it contains zero THC. Contrast this to Miraflora’s CBD, which comes only from hemp that contains a trace amount of THC along with other cannabinoids, which is why it’s called “full spectrum.” Full-spectrum CBD keeps the range of compounds found in hemp—like phytocannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids—intact, which work together to heighten the benefits of CBD. This is called the “entourage effect.” CBD isolate, which is pure cannabidiol without terpenes, has been shown to be generally less effective.
We know, it’s all very confusing—and we’re here to help. If you’d like to know more about our CBD products and how they can help you, check out our beginner’s guide, explore our blog and website, or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.