Cannabis, Hemp and Marijuana- Are they the same?

Cannabis, Hemp and Marijuana- Are they the same?

April 21, 2019

We'll step away from talking about hemp CBD for a post and focus on some botany.  Do you know the difference between cannabis, hemp and marijuana.  What about Sativa and Indica? There's more to it than meets the eye and they are not the same.  I will admit that I didn't know and still don't know all the fine details but this is a good start.  I'll update the article with more information and pictures of the plants, leaves, flowers to further point out some differences in the species.

Let's get this out of the way. Cannabis is the Genus of the 3 different species in question.  You may notice that hemp and marijuana aren't listed.  We'll get there.

Kingdom: Plantae
clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Rosids
Order: Rosales
Family: Cannabaceae
Genus: Cannabis
Species Sativa , Indica, Ruderalis


If we look at this chart all of the plants we're going to talk about fall into the Cannabis Genus, but there's some differences in the three species: Sativa, Indica, and Ruderalis.

leaves of ruderalis indica and sativa

  • Cannabis Sativa
    • Cannabis sativa is the species that Hemp belongs.  Marijuana can be either Sativa or Indica.  It originates in Asia but now experiences widespread cultivation.  Typically Sativa is taller, longer branched and has thinner leaves when compared to Indica
  • Cannabis Indica
    • Cannabis Indica originates in India and is a shorter bush, tightly leaved with shorter, broader leaves and has denser, shorter flowers. Both species can be highly variable the in the amount of THC and CBD contained.
  • Cannabis Ruderalis
    • Cannabis Ruderalis is thought to be a species similar to sativa, while others think it to be a feral sativa.  It tends to grow further north with a slightly different appearance than sativa but the CBD and THC profiles appear similar.

differences in sativa and indica

So why haven't we talked about marijuana and hemp yet? It's not that simple.  Hemp always comes from the Sativa species, whereas marijuana can be from the sativa or indica species.  Hemp will be recognizable by being a taller, skinnier plant that grows up to 20 ft, with skinny leaves located primarily near the top of the plant.  Marijuana tends to be a short fat bush with broader leaves. 

Hemp can be cultivated in a variety of conditions and is hardy.  Marijuana on the other hand is delicate and requires lots of tender loving care to reach it's potential.  If your hemp pollinates your marijuana your entire crop can be ruined.

Chemically is where it all matters.  These plants are considered hemp it had a THC content of less that 0.3%.  Marijuana can have up THC concentrations over 50%. 

  • Hemp
    • Hemp belongs to the Cannabis Sativa Species and contains up to a maximum of 0.3% THC
  • Marijuana 
    • Marijuana belongs to the Cannabis Sativa or Indica Species and contains more than 0.3% THC

 To sum it all up, there are 2 or 3 different plants in the cannabis family depending on how you view ruderalis.  Hemp is a hardier plant whereas Marijuana requires lots of tender loving care to grow.  But it all boils down to the THC content.  Hemp is all plants with less than <0.3% whereas marijuana is anything over 0.3% THC content.

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