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The Differences Between Marijuana and Hemp

Seeing as Greeley Gallery is a recreational and medicinal cannabis dispensary, our focus revolves around marijuana. However, there is another plant similar to marijuana. One that looks and even smells like marijuana but isn’t – hemp, but any confusion between the two plants is understandable.

As similar as they seem, though, hemp and marijuana plants are not interchangeable. While the two plants have essential distinctions, both are on our list of favorite plants — and we’re excited to tell you about them.


Cannabis is often used to describe marijuana; however, Cannabis is actually a genus, or family, of plants—one both hemp and marijuana belong to. Marijuana comes from the cannabis sativa and cannabis indica plants. Meanwhile, hemp is found only within cannabis sativa.

Both plants belong to the Cannabis family, so they look very similar and are often easily confused. They have near identical leaves at first glance, though, at a closer look, the leaves of a hemp plant are thinner and are located higher up on the plant. Meanwhile, marijuana plants within cannabis sativa also have narrow leaves, which are more abundant and may include tiny crystals. Cannabis indica plants, however, have short, broad leaves.

For mature plants, height might be the easiest way to the two apart. Hemp plants can grow as tall as 16 feet, while marijuana plants are short and squat by comparison, typically growing only a few feet high. Additionally, marijuana plants usually have more branches than hemp plants to promote flower and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) production.

As you know, smoking is the most common consumption method for marijuana. But did you know you can smoke hemp too? It’s a fantastic way to boost cannabidiol (CBD) levels, the compound touted for its many medicinal benefits. Though, hemp won’t get you high for reasons we’ll tell you in the next section!


Beyond the subtle distinctions in appearance, the largest difference between marijuana and hemp plants is the amount of THC the plant produces. THC is one of over a hundred known cannabinoids within a cannabis plant and is responsible for the psychoactive high weed is known for. Both marijuana and hemp contain THC but in significantly different levels.

Marijuana has far higher THC levels, sometimes reaching 30 percent or more. The higher the percentage, the stronger the effects. Conversely, hemp plants contain a fraction of the amount, often with less than 0.3 percent THC, which is insufficient to produce psychoactive effects. Legally, any cannabis plant with more than 0.3 percent THC is classified as marijuana.

Even though you can smoke either plant, marijuana is often used and thought of as a drug, whether for medicinal or psychoactive purposes while the hemp plant has medicinal uses too but is more well known for dozens of other uses. If marijuana has a reputation for being basically a miracle drug, hemp might just be the most versatile plant on the planet.

The hemp plant has abundant health benefits not just from smoking it but also from eating it. Hemp can be made into flour for baking, protein powder, teas, milk, and many other forms. But it can also be used as various building materials ranging from insulation to rope to hempcrete. Not to mention hemp can make biodegradable plastics, soft textiles, and no-chemical fertilizers. And this is just a short list!

Final Thoughts

The cannabis plant family is perhaps one of humankind’s greatest discoveries, one we are just beginning to learn the potential of. When consumed responsibly, marijuana is unmatched regarding the number of health benefits. Meanwhile, some experts believe hemp could help us combat global warming thanks to its many uses and the fact it’s easy, cheap, and fast to grow.

We here at Greeley Gallery believe in the power of nature and are thrilled to share our passions with you. At our north Portland cannabis dispensary, you will find locally made, high-quality cannabis products you can trust. Stop by any day of the week between 7am and 10pm. We’d love to see you!

Written by: Katrina Paulson

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