What’s the Difference between Marijuana, Cannabis and Hemp?

Colorado is one of many states where marijuana is legal. Cannabis, hemp and marijuana are used interchangeably. While they’re part of the same plant family, they have some differences in terms of THC levels, legality and more.

Hemp vs. Marijuana
To compare hemp and marijuana, we need to discuss plant families. Hemp is part of the Cannabaceae family of flowering plants that includes 170 plant species grouped into about 11 categories. Cannabis is one of the categories, and includes both hemp and marijuana, scientifically called “Cannabis sativa” (hemp) and “Cannabis indica” (marijuana). Marijuana is the general name for Cannabis Indica (the female flowers containing high levels of phytocannabinoids).

Cannabis plants have two major players THC and CBD. CBD is the non-psychoactive portion of the plant, so users don’t feel intoxicated like when users consume THC. From a legal perspective, hemp has less than 0.3% of the medical and intoxicating cannabinoid, known as THC. There are no cannabinoids—CBD or THC—in hemp oil. Hemp oil contains healthy fats, which is why hemp oil is used in beauty products.

Why use CBD?
You’ve likely heard about products that include CBD. CBD, short for cannabidiol, is derived from the hemp plant. It's a naturally occurring substance that's used in products like oils and edibles to impart a feeling of relaxation and calm. Cannabidiol can only be included in "cosmetic" products and only if it contains less than 0.3% THC, according to WebMD. This amount allows CBD to be legal in states.Unlike its cousin, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the major active ingredient in marijuana, CBD is not psychoactive and won’t make you feel intoxicated.

What is Medical Marijuana?
Medical marijuana is the same product as recreational marijuana, but used for medical purposes. More than half of U.S. states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana in some form, and more are considering bills to do the same. While people use marijuana for a variety of reasons, the FDA has only approved it for treatment of two rare and severe forms of epilepsy, Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, according to WebMD. To get medical marijuana, you need a written recommendation from a licensed doctor in states where that is legal. And you’ll need to have a medical condition that qualifies per your doctor and your state. Your state may also require you to get a medical marijuana ID card. Once you have that card, you can buy medical marijuana at a store called a dispensary.


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