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What's the Difference Between Cannabis, Marijuana, and Hemp? - Erth Wellness

What's the Difference Between Cannabis, Marijuana, and Hemp?


Cannabis. The very word instantly makes us think of the seven-point leaf that people use to smoke and get high. And it’s true, cannabis has been used for centuries as a means of getting high. But it’s also a way to help an overactive mind relax, can help with sleep issues, helps to stimulate the appetite, and so much more.

But is cannabis simple another name for marijuana? How does hemp plant factor into this weird family lineage? Is marijuana technically the same thing as hemp? If you’re confused by these questions, you’re not alone. There’s currently a lot of confusion surrounding these three terms: cannabis, marijuana, and hemp. In this article, we’ll be taking a closer look at each of these three terms and explaining exactly what the difference is between cannabis, maijuana, and hemp.

What Is Cannabis?

The term “cannabis” refers to the most popular flowering plant of the Cannabaceae family. Both hemp and marijuana are simply the different names for the cannabis plant. While there is no scientific differentiation between the two, there is a distinct legal definition when it comes to the classification of hemp and marijuana. In order to better understand what hemp and marijuana are, we need to understand what cannabinoids are. Once we understand what a cannabinoid is, it will help us better understand the legal distinction between hemp and marijuana.

What Are Cannabinoids?

The cannabis plant, more specifically the cannabis flowers, leaves, and stalks, contain a plethora of chemical compounds known as “cannabinoids.” Cannabinoids often have long scientific names but are shortened into simple abbreviations. You may recognize some of these abbreviations already as ones you’ve seen in the market today. THC, CBD, HHC, Delta-8 THC, and many others, are all chemical compounds found within the cannabis plant. Each cannabinoid has different uses, but THC is the most important one due to its ability to get the user “high.”

When the cannabinoids are derived from hemp, the cannabinoids must contain a THC content of 0.3% or less in order to be federally legal. There are a number of non-psychoactive cannabinoids (CBD, CBG, CBA, CBN, etc.) and psychoactive cannabinoids (Delta-8 THC, HHC, etc.) found in the hemp plant and are used for a variety of purposes. Cannabinoids are infused into a sprawling variety of products ranging from inhalables like vape cartridges and flowers to edibles such as gummies, capsules, tinctures, and others.

What Is Hemp?

Simply put, hemp is cannabis that has a 0.3% (or less) THC content on a dry weight basis. If this specific number seems random, that’s because it is. There is no exact reason why 0.3% became the golden number for THC content. In fact, back in 1979, a cannabis author named Ernest Small wrote a book titled “The Species Problem in Cannabis: Science & Semantics.” The book outlines the fact that there is no taxonomic difference between hemp and cannabis. To correct this, Ernest Small randomly proposed that 0.3% be the defining amount of THC that would legally differentiate hemp from cannabis. This arbitrary suggestion became the modern-day solution for the nation in 2018, when the Agricultural Act (also called the Farm Bill) was passed. Due to the very small quantity of THC, hemp is praised for its ability to deliver a plethora of health benefits without ever getting the user high.

What Is Marijuana?

Even if you’ve never smoked it, you’re undoubtedly familiar with the acrid skunky smell of marijuana. The term “marijunana” refers to cannabis that gets you high, also called include weed, MJ, Mary Jane, etc. Marijuana is legally defined as having more than 0.3% THC on a dry weight basis. Marijuana is typically divided into three categories (also called strains): sativa, indica, and hybrid. Many of these strains are specifically bred to have high THC content, so you’ll need to be aware of exactly how much THC is in the strain you’re using.

Each strain has unique properties and characteristics that endear them to the user. Indica is predominantly a drowsy relaxing strain, sativa is known for its energetic and uplifting properties, and hybrid is a fusion of the two, though a hybrid strain can lean towards being more sativa- or indica-dominant. There has yet to be any official scientific verification of these properties, but marijuana enthusiasts swear by them and many companies have adopted the characteristics as a means of specifying what to expect while using them.

Can Cannabinoids Be Derived From Marijuana Instead Of Hemp?

Since marijuana and hemp are virtually identical save for the amount of THC, it is entirely possible to derive cannabinoids from marijuana. Yet since the amount of THC in marijuana is substantially higher than that of hemp, the resulting cannabinoids will have a much higher THC content.

Legally this poses a problem, which is why many reputable brands offer the results of third-party independent lab testing. These tests are time-consuming and expensive, but necessary to build trust and consumer confidence. The FDA does not currently regulate the cannabis industry, which is why these tests are so important in remaining transparent about the THC content and original derivative of cannabinoid-infused products.


If you are entering the cannabis world for the first time, all of these terms can seem confusing and a bit overwhelming. The common misconception that cannabis is weed but not hemp, or that hemp is a completely different plant than cannabis, is something we’ve tried to rectify in this article. The truth is that hemp and marijuana are different species of the same exact plant: cannabis. If the cannabis species has 0.3% of THC, then it is hemp. If the cannabis species contains more than 0.3%, it’s marijuana!

Cannabinoids can be derived from both marijuana and hemp, but are only classified as federally legal when derived from hemp. There are many popular cannabinoids in the market today that are infused into a wide variety of products. In order to ensure you’re getting a premium product, companies will often offer the results of independent third-party lab tests to build consumer confidence and trust.

If you’re ready to experience the powerful high from hemp-derived cannabinoids, we highly encourage you to check out our premium selection of CBD, Delta-8 THC, Delta-9 THC Compliant, HHC, and THC-O products. Here at Erth Hemp, we’re serious about quality. If you have any questions about anything mentioned in this article or any product available on our site, we highly encourage you to reach out to us. Our knowledgeable team looks forward to helping you understand the ins and outs of this fascinating cannabis world. We look forward to hearing from you soon!

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