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Hemp vs Marijuana: Understanding the Differences

Updated: Jan 20, 2021

When we tell people we are a craft organic hemp grower, we get a range of reactions. We explain that we plant, harvest, dry, and cure hemp as part of our services and many wonder how that is possible. How could it be legal to cultivate hemp in Tennessee? Isn’t that the same as marijuana, which is illegal in the state?

To answer that, we need to explain the differences between hemp vs. marijuana. Let’s dive in.

What is hemp?

Before we get too deep into the world of hemp, we’ll point out that hemp and marijuana are very similar with some key differences. First, they are both a form of cannabis. Both belong to the Cannabacea family, which consists of cannabis sativa, cannabis indica, and cannabis ruderalis.

In general, we separate the terms “hemp” and “marijuana” based on their legal status, THC content, and appearance.

The 2018 US Farm Bill legalized hemp across the United States with very specific regulations. It cannot contain more than 0.3% THC and must be grown in accordance with governmental guidelines.

The biggest difference between hemp vs. marijuana is THC content. Hemp tends to have low levels of THC, while still containing high amounts of CBD. This is ideal for CBD extraction and also fits under the governmental regulations, deeming it legal.

Another defining characteristic of hemp is its appearance. While it may look identical to marijuana to the untrained eye, hemp tends to be taller and thinner than other cannabis plants.

Additionally, hemp has plenty of industrial use. It’s used to make shoes, ropes, clothing, and many other textiles.

What is marijuana?

Marijuana is the same plant as hemp, biologically speaking, since they are both types of cannabis. However, marijuana contains more than 0.3% THC.

In fact, marijuana can contain very large amounts of THC, reaching up to over 30%. But in order to be classified as marijuana, the plant just needs to contain more than 0.3%.

The physical differences between hemp vs. marijuana are slight. Marijuana tends to be shorter and stockier than hemp since it is grown to harvest buds rather than stalks.

Legal differences between hemp vs. marijuana

The defining difference between hemp vs. marijuana, and the reason we are able to grow Tennessee hemp here at THS Farm, is the law. Hemp is legal, marijuana is not.

With the passage of the 2018 US Farm Bill, hemp and its derivatives were removed from the Controlled Substances Act. No longer was hemp considered marijuana under federal law because of its industrial uses.

Marijuana is not legal in Tennessee. There is no legal route to purchase recreational cannabis in the state. There is, however, a legal route to purchase CBD products with a higher THC content, as part of Tennessee’s medical CBD laws.

Our Tennessee hemp, grown here in Hendersonville, is in accordance with all governmental regulations. Therefore, our hemp cultivation is legal, along with the products we make and sell.