What’s the Difference between Hemp and Marijuana? – More Than Meets the Eye

The Plant(s) of Controversy Pose a Question

Cannabis sativa is the plant of controversy. With so many hemp products on the market, it leaves many people asking, what’s the difference between hemp and marijuana? I turned to the internet to answer this question for myself as I was considering a hemp oil product in 2018. I had developed some health issues for which I had learned may be alleviated by a quality hemp oil product. As a result, I have become increasingly interested in hemp products. I created this site to document my research.  My hope is to gain a better understanding of these plants and share my findings with you.  There is healing in nature, but we want to make sure that we have the correct information at our disposal to help us make the right choices for our personal well-being.


An Overview of the Hemp Plant

  • Hemp contains virtually no THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol).
  • Hemp contains (<.3% THC)
  • Hemp was an important crop in the early years of America.
  • Hemp is an annual, herbaceous plant.
  • hemp is one of the fastest-growing plants.
  • Hemp seed contains an oil that is rich in gamma-linolenic acid (GLA).
  • The hemp plant is highly resistant to most insects and disease, thus eliminating the need for most (maybe all) pesticides and herbicides.
  • Hemp grown for CBD is planted 1,000-1,600 plants per acre.  They are planted and tended to as separate plants.
  • Hemp, grown for mass-market products such as textiles and bioplastics, is planted at 400,000 plants per acre.
  • The tops are harvested for seeds.

Anatomy of the Hemp Plant


The sex of the hemp plant and how closely they are planted together determine the size of the hemp stalk.  Male stalks are thinner and are generally 10-15% taller than female stalks.Female plants have shorter, thicker stalks.  Female plants have a vegetative period of 6-7 weeks longer than the male plants.


Hemp has finely formed pinnate leaves. Three factors determine their numbers: variety, age of the plant, and the position of the leaves on the stalk. Stiff leaf stems called petioles support the leaves. Numerous top hairs and a few glandular hairs cover the surface of the leaf. These are capable of excreting varying amounts of THC.


Male flowers develop in pairs and consist of a simple floral sheath with five yellowish-green petals. Open male flowers appear star-shaped when viewed from above.

Female flowers are very short and tightly clustered. The hidden ovary containing one seed is surrounded by one green, single-leaf floral sheath. Initially, the flowers are white but later become crimson red.


Hemp seeds are not true seeds, but rather nuts. Hemp seeds are either round or oval-shaped. Often marbled, the color varies from gray to light brown.


The hemp plant has well-developed primary roots from which numerous branched secondary roots form. The primary root can reach depths of six to eight feet while the secondary roots can extend more than two feet. Hemp has such deep roots that it can easily grow in a wide variety of soil and terrain. The root structure of the male plant is not as strong as that of the female plant due to the shorter vegetation period.

Overview of the Marijuana Plant

  • Marijuana (may contain >5-15% THC)
  • Cannabis was used as a medicinal drug in the 1800s.
  • Cannabis is a psychoactive drug that causes changes in perception and sensation by altering the chemistry of the brain.
  • The primary psychoactive component of the cannabis plant is THC (tetrahydrocannabinol)
  • Cannabis (marijuana) can produce a high.
  • Cannabis plants are annuals.
  • The anatomy of a Cannabis plant does not differ much between the male and female plants, other than the flowers.

Anatomy of the Marijuana Plant


Each new pair of leaves pushes up on a stem growing from the previous pair of leaves. As this main stem grows, it elongates and thickens, becoming the portion of marijuana plant anatomy that forms the structure of the plant and supports the leaves and flowers.


The marijuana plant leaves have the characteristic pointed tip and serrated edge. The maximum number of leaflets per leaf can be five, seven, nine, or even more, depending on the strain.


Cannabis plants have male or female flowers that grow on separate plants. Some plants with both types of flowers are not uncommon. Male flowers produce pollen that fertilizes female flowers. This process produces seeds.

Closed male flowers resemble tiny pale yellow or light green bananas. Female flowers have a teardrop-shaped base from which protrude the fine hair-like structures called pistils. The pistils capture wind-borne pollen from the air to fertilize the flower and produce seed.


A cannabis seed is a tiny plant embryo tucked inside a hard shell.


A root tip emerges from the seed which lengthens and thickens and becomes the taproot of the plant. Lateral roots grow from the taproot.

More Than Meets the Eye

  • The presence or absence of certain enzymes in these plants creates a different chemical composition.
  • Marijuana and hemp contain a chemical substance called cannabigerol (CBGA).
  • Marijuana contains an enzyme that converts CBGA into THC.
  • Hemp contains a different enzyme that converts CBGA into CBD (cannabidiol).
  • Marijuana contains both THC and CBD.
  • Hemp contains almost exclusively CBD. Cannabis with less than 0.3% THC can be legally classified as hemp.
  • Hemp contains less than or equal to 0.3% ~Marijuana contains 3%-15% THC by weight.

What’s the Difference Between Hemp and Marijuana?

  • Hemp does not produce a high or exaggerated sense of confidence.
  • Hemp has trace amounts of THC
  • Marijuana does produce a high
  • Marijuana has a significant amount of THC

It is All About You

You have the freedom to use the rights available to you to choose what is best for you, your body, and your life. I hope this information enlightens you and empowers you to feel more comfortable with the use of hemp oil products.

Best wishes to you,


River Akers


  1. Hello River and very nice article about the difference between hemp and marijuana. I was in the gas station the other day and they had CBD plants in a container. For a second I thought it was marijuana because it looked exactly the same. It even smelled the same. I was shocked to find out it wasn’t. Thank you for putting it in context for me.

    • Thank you, Travis, for stopping by and sharing your comment. Educating potential consumers alleviates fears and helps people to discover the amazing potential of the hemp plant.
      I appreciate your time,

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