Hemp vs Marijuana

Hemp vs Marijuana

This is an article created by Fundacion CANNA, a Spanish non-profit organization that carries out studies and conducts research on Cannabis and its active compounds. Its main focus is on Cannabis plants and their active compounds, related studies and scientific research, especially regarding its effects on the human body and mind and regarding Cannabis use and its derivatives. Fundación CANNA has it’s own laboratory where different kind of tests are performed.
Hemp and its sexier cousin marijuana both come from cannabis sativa. This one plant species embraces thousands of different cultivars and strains, bred for different purposes.

By Hana Gabrielová

Hemp has been very closely connected with human history for centuries, satisfying a variety of needs. Hemp fibre, seeds, flowers and stalks have played a part in major historical events throughout the world. Columbus, for example, could never have made it to America without strong hemp ropes and sails. And throughout history, education in China was furthered by the use of cheap hemp paper to disseminate information.

Finally, hemp has provided medicinal relief to millions over the last 5,000 years.

Hemp vs Marijuana

However, in 1961, the United Nations placed hemp on a “black list,” resulting in a global ban on the growing of the crop. THC (the psychoactive cannabinoid content) was discovered in 1964 and joined the list of prohibited substances in 1968. It was not until 20 years later that scientists in France, which has a strong tradition of hemp growing, developed strains with a very low THC content, allowing the plant to be used once more for such things as food, fabrics and building materials etc. with no legal complications. That scientific development was coupled with strong lobbying in the European Parliament, eventually resulting in new regulations allowing EU countries to grow industrial hemp with a maximum THC content of 0.3%.

Industrial hemp is currently defined as comprising strains with less than 0.3% THC (some countries set the maximum at 0.2%). Strains under this 0.3% level qualify to be registered in the EU Common Catalogue of agricultural plant species that can be grown as an industrial crop.

Legal status in Europe

Hemp vs Marijuana

Legislation for growing hemp is still not common in all EU countries. In some countries, farmers have to acquire a special license; in others, they need only inform local authorities and governmental departments that they intend to plant a hemp crop. Broadly speaking, across the EU hemp growers are required to use seeds that have been certified by seed breeders who guarantee low THC content (0.3%). Seed sellers are required to provide documentation in a process that establishes a form of legal protection for growers against prosecution.

In the field, hemp and marijuana are barely distinguishable. Marijuana —known by a variety of slang terms such as “ganja,” “weed,” “pot,” etc.– comes from the dried flowers of female cannabis plants that contain (technically) more than 0.3% THC, although most marijuana used for recreational and medicinal purposes is taken from plants with much higher THC concentrations. Medical marijuana has been legalized on a limited basis for growth in a few member states, under government supervision.

While the EU has yet to recognize marijuana as a legal substance, European-wide rules regarding industrial hemp basically define it as that with less than 0.3% THC.

Potential of cannabis

Although the prohibition on marijuana in place since 1961 has hindered cannabis research, nonetheless many benefits of consumption of the plant have been identified, especially for medical uses.

Patients mostly come to cannabis because they have no other choice or because they have found that it works better than conventional medicine with no risk of side effects.

Medicinal applications of cannabis include treatment for:

  • Glaucoma
  • Epileptic seizures
  • Cancer
  • Anxiety reduction
  • Slowing the progression of Alzheimer's disease
  • Easing the pain of multiple sclerosis
  • Possible help with other types of muscle spasm.
  • Lessening the side effects of Hepatitis C treatment and increasing the effectiveness of treatment.
  • Treatment of inflammatory bowel diseases, including Crohn's disease.
  • Arthritic discomfort.
  • Tremors in people with Parkinson's disease.
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Helping to protect the brain after a stroke.
  • Eliminating nightmares.
  • Relieving nausea from chemotherapy, and stimulating appetite.
  • Helping to reduce alcohol consumption

To give a fuller picture, it should also be noted that cannabis entails some risks for mental health.

  • It can have negative effects on cognitive function
  • It can have negative effects on short and medium-term memory and concentration
  • It can overly impact emotions
  • It can heighten depression or agitation in predisposed consumers
  • It carries a risk of psychiatric disorders

The potential of hemp

While the hemp industry has made great strides in recent years there is still insufficient awareness among policy makers, civil servants and government officials. This means that legislation lags behind, as do standards for hemp farming and processing. Inconsistencies in the methodology used for analysing samples and guaranteeing contents is also holding back progress.

Yet hemp offers a wide variety of benefits ranging from job creation and economic development to specific medical and well-being applications. It also makes excellent textiles, and offers a sustainable alternative to the construction industry.

Hemp vs Marijuana

Hemp in the field

As a crop, hemp is eminently sustainable; it actually absorbs CO2, and has proven effective as a remedy to deforestation.

Environmental benefits of hemp agriculture:

  • It improves soil structure
  • It works as good bio regime for farmers; no chemicals needed
  • It protects the soil against erosion
  • It is an ideal rotation crop
  • It prevents deforestation - hemp can replace timber-based products

Read more about the potential of hemp here


Read about the nutritional benefits of hemp seeds

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