• Bridgett Graham

Hemp vs Marijuana: The DIfference Explained

by Aaron Cadena

Analysis by Doug Szeto


Mr. Aaron Cadena’s article is probably the best one I have personally read on explaining the difference between marijuana and hemp. Like Mr. Cadena said, hemp and marijuana are often incorrectly referred to as “strains” or “species” of cannabis. I have even heard from “experts” and those within the cannabis industry refer to marijuana and hemp as two species of cannabis or two different strains. This is totally incorrect and doesn’t make sense, especially referring to hemp and marijuana as species since cannabis sativa, cannabis indica, and cannabis ruderalis are 3 species under the genus, cannabis.

Mr. Cadena even uses a basic taxonomy chart diagram to break down the comparison with citrus and cannabis. He compares sweet and sour citrus fruit to hemp and marijuana. Mr. Cadena notes that marijuana is better suited for indoor conditions in a controlled environment whereas hemp (really industrial hemp) is only grown outdoors. Mr. Cadena says that the words hemp and marijuana are “broad classifications of Cannabis”, but I would really consider them misnomer adjectives as there is nothing scientific about either of them. This is especially with the word marijuana as it was a part of the 1930s propaganda to demonize cannabis as something foreign brought in by Latinos, specifically Mexicans. It was used to stir xenophobia and racism although Mexican is not a race, so it’s best we start using the word “ethnicism” as opposed to racism when it comes to discrimination towards Mexicans in relation to marijuana. Either way, the term marijuana should have never been used at all.

Another thing to mention is that hemp doesn’t seem a good term to use also when it comes to cannabis as it only describes any cannabis plant in which the THC (delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol) content is less .3%. The THC content can fluctuate when growing “hemp” depending on many variables such as the weather. Therefore, the legal definition of hemp is not a scientific definition. It is based on arbitrariness when you do the research on where the .3% THC content legality came from. I’ll save that for another day though.

Many people want to rid using the word marijuana as it is deemed offensive to the Latino community and other people of color and just refer to it as cannabis. Let’s not forget that hemp is cannabis as well. This is what creates so much of the confusion on the difference between not just marijuana and hemp but cannabis as well. In my opinion, it’s best to refer to both hemp and marijuana by only cannabis and to use new scientific descriptions or better adjectives denoting a cannabis plant that produces enough THC to create a psychoactive effect in the user or a cannabis plant that does not. It’s just that simple. Well, not really.

The analogy I use is comparing fried chicken with cannabis in which the adjective words spicy and mild are more or less the same in comparison to using the words hemp and marijuana. Marijuana in this case describes what gets you high while hemp describes what doesn’t get you high much the same way spicy fried chicken will make your mouth burn while mild fried chicken of course doesn’t create sensation of burning in your mouth. Hope this helps you readers out there who are trying to understand what the difference is between cannabis, marijuana, and hemp that are often used interchangeably.


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