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Are Hemp & Cannabis The Same?

Here at Queensbridge Apothecary, we're often asked if the hemp plant and the cannabis/marijuana plant are the same, and it kinda depends on if you're asking scientists or the government. Keep reading to see what we mean.

Scientifically speaking, the answer is yes. There’s no actual taxonomical difference between the hemp plant and the cannabis/marijuana plant. They are the same species of the Cannabis sativa L plant. Over time, they've just been cultivated to grow in different ways, which produces different cannabinoid levels in each.

The result is a talk hemp plant with sturdy stalks, slim leaves and stringy fibers. Hemp fibers are better suited for making ropes, paper products, and textiles. Hemp fibers also contain higher levels of many non-psychoactive cannabinoids.

The cannabis/marijuana plant is a short, bushy plant with broader leave. The plant has been cultivated to have significantly higher levels of the cannabinoid known as Delta-9 THC. It's primarily grown for the psychoactive effects produced by its high THC levels.

Fun Fact: THC, CBD and many other cannabinoids can be derived from both hemp and marijuana plants.

Legally speaking, at least in the United States, the answer is a resounding No. Hemp and Cannabis have distinct definitions, and legal ramifications. The US government defines the plants like this:

  • Hemp is defined as a cannabis plant that contains 0.3 percent or less THC

  • Cannabis/Marijuana is a cannabis plant that contains more than 0.3 percent THC.

In the US, hemp and hemp and hemp-derived products are federally legal, as long as they contain less than .3% THC. This means hemp products can be used and/or consumed by adults in most states without any fear of legal consequences.

Meanwhile, cannabis/marijuana and its derivatives are still federally illegal (despite being legalized in at least US 23 states). This means, depending on your location, adults using and/or consuming cannabis may be subject to criminal consequences like fines, arrest & jail time.

Thanks for reading.

Have additional questions? Check out additional articles in our Learning Portal, or send us an email at

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