Hemp and Cannabis for Medicinal Purposes: Is There a Difference?

byhellomdSeptember 12, 20153 minutes

With 23 states and the District of Columbia having legalized medical marijuana to some degree, health-related cannabis products are growing. Some of these products are hemp-based and some are marijuana-based, but what is the difference?

Hemp Versus Marijuana

Hemp and marijuana are two varieties of the same plant, cannabis sativa. Hemp refers to a variety that has agricultural and manufacturing uses, while marijuana is the name traditionally given to plants grown for their psychotropic effects. Differences include:

  • How they are cultivated. Hemp is grown outdoors whereas marijuana is grown both outdoors and indoors.
  • Their size and structure. Hemp grows between 10 and 16 feet in height and looks like bamboo. Marijuana is less than 5 feet tall, is bushy and has more flowers.
  • Their utility. Hemp is used to make textiles, rope, paper, plastic, food, body care products, nutritional supplements, essential oils and medicine. Marijuana is primarily used for recreational and medicinal purposes.
  • The cannabinoid composition. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, hemp contains less than 1 percent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the chemical associated with marijuana's high. In contrast, marijuana contains between 3 percent and 15 percent THC.

Legal Usage

Another distinction between hemp-based and marijuana-based products is their legality. Products derived from marijuana can only be sold in states that have passed medical marijuana legislation. Hemp-derived products, on the other hand, are legal in all 50 states.

Until recently, hemp was illegal to grow in the United States, so all hemp-based products were imported. In the past few years, some states began allowing for academic and agricultural hemp research, as well as exploration for potential commercial opportunities. In 2014, federal legislation was signed approving hemp research in states that had previously passed hemp laws.

Hemp Oil

One medical product on the market is hemp oil. Hemp oil is made from seeds or from processed hemp stalks. While touted to be full of CBD, which is used to treat nausea, vomiting, seizures, inflammation, mood disorders and pain, hemp oil is not regulated. Thus, the amount of CBD may not be optimal for medical purposes.

In addition, hemp oil is high in polyunsaturated fats. Excess polyunsaturated fats have been linked to cardiac problems, increased risk of inflammation and tumor growth. Some who have taken hemp oil report side effects including diarrhea, cramping, anxiety, hallucinations and problems with excess bleeding.

Finally, hemp oil may contain soil contaminants, such as heavy metals, that may not be filtered out of the final product. So when seeking medical cannabis solutions, be sure to purchase your cannabis product from a reputable dispensary that has had its product tested for purity and safety.


Both Hemp and Cannabis have noticeable levels of CBD, which is beneficial in many medical applications. Many experts, however, believe that CBD derived from Cannabis can be more effective. It is seen as more effective because of the 'entourage effect', how the cannabinoids all work together in the body.

Photo Credit.

  • 101
  • CBD
  • Hemp Related
  • Inflammation
  • Nausea
  • Seizures