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Cannabis, Marijuana and Hemp--What's the difference?

Updated: Mar 3, 2021

A couple of blog posts ago, we went over Stoner Slang and in that blog post there was a section about the different names for cannabis.

Today, we wanted to go over the differences between cannabis, marijuana and hemp.

Why, you may ask? Aren’t they all the same? They actually aren’t and each play a specific role in society and laws.

What’s the similarity between cannabis, hemp, and marijuana?

The similarity between these three terms is that they all refer to plants in the Cannabacaeae family.

What is cannabis?

If we look at taxonomy, a branch of science that concerns classification, it is broken down to: domain > kingdom > phylum > class > order > family > genus > species.

Like we said earlier, all three terms are under the Cannabacaeae family. If you go down a level to genus we have Cannabis. Cannabis is the genus term! Go down another level to species and we see the three most recognized Cannabis species: Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica and Cannabis ruderalis. All three species can be classified as the general C. sativa species.

Remember, we are talking about it from a scientific point of view, the cannabis industry has used the classification of sativa, indica, and hybrid to categorize strains and both their physical attributes and effects. We wrote a whole article about that if you want to learn more about those differences: Does Cannabis Strain Matter? Indica, Sativa vs Hybrid.

So...then what is hemp and marijuana?

Hemp and marijauna fall under the genus cannabis and aren’t scientific terms. Science doesn’t differentiate between hemp and marijuana, the law does that!

Laws have classified plants in the cannabis genus as either hemp or marijuana depending how much THC are in the cannabis plant.

What is hemp?

Firstly, hemp plants can only be found in the cannabis sativa species.

Hemp contains low levels of THC and high levels of CBD. They are cannabis sativa plants that contain 0.3% THC or less, defined by the 2018 Farm Bill.

Consuming hemp won’t get you high!

Hemp is also one of the most versatile plants in the world. The stalk of the plant can be used for manufacturing textiles or developing biofuels. Seeds can be eaten or used to create hemp seed oil for cooking.. Because of the higher CBD content, hemp flowers can be used to extract CBD oil which is used in a number of applications.

What is marijuana?

Considered hemp's intoxicated cousin, marijuana can be found from any cannabis species.

Marijuana contains higher levels of THC and can have comparably high levels of CBD depending on the strain. Under the 2018 Farm Bill, marijuana is any cannabis plant that contains more than 0.3% THC. Federally, marijuana remains illegal and is classified as a Schedule I drug. But, some states have legalized marijuana either medically, or medically and recreationally with more and more states trying to put it on the ballot.

Marijuana: History and Racism

Let’s take a deeper dive to where the word “marijuana” comes from.

Marijuana is actually quite a controversial term with racist roots.

In the beginning of the 20th century, the Mexican Revolution caused many Mexicans to migrate to the United States. Back then, cannabis was a legal cross-border import. Growing racism and anti-immigrant sentiment led to the term “marijauna” being associated with Mexicans, who were stereotyped as frequent cannabis consumers. Before that, people pretty much only used the term cannabis.

The U.S. government used the term “marijuana” in anti-cannabis propaganda to further negatively associate cannabis and Mexican immigrants. This anti-cannabis propaganda tactic spread myths around cannabis and perpetuated racist stereotypes.

This led to the illegalization of cannabis in the 1930s.

The racist roots of the term “marijuana” has led to some people in the industry only using the word cannabis. Now, cannabis and marijuana are often used interchangeably. But it can be very confusing since, like we said earlier, cannabis encompasses both “marijuana” and “hemp” plants.

Looking for cannabis products?

Look no further, we got you covered!

Complement Cannabis offers a unique, innovative product offering of canna gum and jello shots at different THC doses. Perfect for microdosing, beginner cannabis users and people looking to have an active high. But hey, if you wanna get lit, we support that too! Find us in stores throughout California.

Complement Cannabis cannabis infused, THC canna jello shots and chewing gum in cherry ginger ale, blood orange & honey and strawberry watermelon

Sources: Prima, Healthline, Ministry of Hemp, Medium,

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