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Hemp Vs Cannabis: What’s the difference?

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Table of Contents

Hemp and cannabis are plants that share certain similarities but also have distinct differences. While both plants belong to the Cannabis sativa species, they vary in terms of their chemical composition and purpose.

Hemp, often referred to as industrial hemp, is known for its versatility and various practical uses. It is grown for its fibres, which can be used in the production of textiles, ropes, and paper. Hemp also produces seeds that are a rich source of protein and can be used in the manufacturing of oils, cosmetics, and food products.

Legal Definition

The legal definition of hemp in the EU is outlined in EU Regulation 1307/2013, which defines hemp as a strain of the Cannabis sativa plant containing less than 0.2% THC. This low THC content distinguishes hemp from high-THC cannabis strains, which are regulated differently under EU law. Hemp cultivation is permitted in the EU, subject to compliance with relevant regulations and licensing requirements. The EU regulates hemp cultivation through various measures, including seed certification requirements, THC testing and monitoring, and labelling and marketing standards. Additionally, member states may impose their own restrictions or regulations on hemp cultivation and use. Overall, the legal definition of hemp in the EU reflects its non-intoxicating nature and its potential applications in various industrial and agricultural sectors.

Cannabis, on the other hand, is primarily grown for its psychoactive properties. The plant contains high levels of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the compound responsible for the plant’s mind-altering effects. Cannabis is commonly used for recreational and medicinal purposes, as it can induce feelings of relaxation, euphoria, and pain relief.

In terms of appearance, hemp and cannabis plants can be visually distinct. Cannabis plants often have dense clusters of flowers, known as buds, which are typically covered in resinous trichomes. These trichomes contain high concentrations of cannabinoids, including THC. Hemp plants, on the other hand, have thinner leaves and can grow taller and less bushy compared to cannabis varieties.


Can you smoke hemp?

Yes, you can smoke hemp. However, unlike cannabis, smoking hemp is not typically done for its psychoactive effects. Hemp contains very low levels of THC, the compound responsible for the “high” associated with cannabis. Instead, smoking hemp is done primarily for its potential therapeutic effects. Some people believe that smoking hemp can provide relaxation and stress relief, similar to cannabis, but without the intoxicating effects. It’s important to note that smoking of any substance may have health risks and should be done responsibly. Vaping is considered a healthier choice for cannabis consumption than smoking.

Can you breed hemp and cannabis together?

Yes, it is possible to breed hemp with cannabis, and the outcomes can vary depending on the specific genetic traits being targeted. Breeding these two plants can lead to hybrids that exhibit a combination of characteristics from both hemp and cannabis.

When breeding hemp with cannabis, the key objective is often to increase the CBD (cannabidiol) content in the offspring. CBD is a non-psychoactive compound that has gained popularity for its potential therapeutic benefits. By crossing hemp strains with high levels of CBD and cannabis strains with desirable genetic traits, breeders can produce offspring with increased CBD content.

Additionally, breeding hemp with cannabis can also impact the levels of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) in the offspring. Cannabis strains known for their high THC content can be crossed with hemp strains containing low THC levels to create hybrids with varying THC concentrations.

The specific outcomes of breeding hemp with cannabis can be influenced by various factors, including the genetic traits of the parent plants and the breeding techniques employed. Through strategic breeding, it is possible to create hybrids that exhibit a wide range of characteristics, including variations in CBD and THC content, plant structure, and overall medicinal properties.

It is important to note that the breeding of hemp with cannabis may have legal implications, as the THC content in the offspring could potentially exceed legal limits for hemp cultivation. Before engaging in any breeding activities, it is essential to understand and comply with local laws and regulations regarding cannabis cultivation and use.

What is hemp used for?

Hemp is used for various purposes such as:

  1. Textile production
  2. Ropes and cordage
  3. Papermaking
  4. Building materials
  5. Biofuels and energy production
  6. Food products, including hemp oil and hemp protein powder
  7. Beauty and personal care products, including soaps, shampoos, and lotions
  8. Animal feed and bedding
  9. Environmental applications, such as bioremediation and soil improvement
  10. CBD (cannabidiol) extraction for use in medicinal and wellness products

What is cannabis used for?

Cannabis is used for various purposes such as:

  1. Pain relief
  2. Anxiety
  3. Depression management
  4. Increasing appetite in people undergoing chemotherapy
  5. Muscle relaxation
  6. Glaucoma treatment
  7. Epilepsy management
  8. Cancer treatment
  9. Nausea and vomiting relief
  10. PTSD management
  11. Insomnia management.

Did you know medical cannabis is legally prescriptible in the United Kingdom? Medical Cannabis Clinics like Releaf offer video consultations with specialist doctors who are able to prescribe cannabis for a number of conditions, providing the patient has tried at least two other medications for their condition.


While both hemp and cannabis belong to the same plant species, their differences lie in their genetic makeup and intended use. Hemp is cultivated primarily for its fibres and seeds, while cannabis is cultivated for its psychoactive properties. Understanding these distinctions is crucial when considering the legal and practical aspects of these plants. The genetic makeup of hemp plants is characterized by low levels of THC, the compound responsible for the psychoactive effects of cannabis. This genetic difference allows hemp to be cultivated and used for a wide range of industrial purposes, such as textile production and the manufacturing of biodegradable plastics. On the other hand, cannabis strains are cultivated specifically for their high levels of THC, which is sought after for its medicinal and recreational properties. Due to the psychoactive nature of cannabis, its cultivation, possession, and use are subject to varying legal regulations around the world. In contrast, hemp cultivation is often more widely accepted and regulated due to its non-intoxicating nature and versatile applications in industries like agriculture, construction, and healthcare. Consequently, understanding the distinctions between hemp and cannabis is not only important for plant enthusiasts but also for lawmakers, farmers, and consumers who interact with these plants in various ways.