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Cannabis, Marijuana, and Hemp: What’s the difference?

Cannabis, Marijuana, and Hemp: What’s the difference?

The terms cannabis and marijuana are often used synonymously. But what is the difference between cannabis and marijuana? And what about hemp? How are these plants linked?

Both marijuana and hemp come from the flowering plant with the botanical name Cannabis sativa L.

People use the term cannabis to describe either marijuana or hemp. And there’s more.

Here, we will explore some distinctions, along with how hemp fits into this family of versatile plants.


What Is the Connection Between Marijuana, Cannabis, and Hemp?

Marijuana, cannabis, and hemp—with so many words for a single plant species, let’s create some clarity and distinction:

  • Cannabis sativa L. is the species to which both marijuana and hemp belong.
  • People in legal or formal contexts tend to use the term cannabis to describe the psychoactive, THC-containing plant.
  • In 1976, two subspecies of Cannabis sativa L, Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica, were named by a botanist and taxonomist.
  • In the past, sativa was used more for materials and commercial production, while indica was used for medicinal and recreational purposes. Now we use both for medicinal and recreational purposes.
  • Consumers sometimes refer to marijuana as the psychoactive buds or dried, smokable flowers and not the whole plant. Other terms used are bud and weed.
  • Some people consider “marijuana” derogatory and prefer to use the term cannabis.
  • Hemp contains 0.3% THC or less.
  • While hemp contains some CBD, it is more likely to be used for food and material production.
  • Psychoactive cannabis plants contain more CBD than hemp.

What Is the Difference Between Cannabis and Marijuana?

Because the terms are used interchangeably, the difference between cannabis and marijuana can be unclear.

Marijuana is a term that became commonly used in the 1930s. Cannabis is the genus. The first part of the species name is Cannabis sativa L. Cannabis sativa could also refer to hemp, which is different from marijuana due to THC content and psychoactive properties.

When you mail order marijuana, you are ordering the psychoactive part of the cannabis plant. If you were ordering cannabis products containing only hemp, you would see a THC content of 0.3% or less in the product description.

Different Groups Use Different Terminology

To offer further clarity, here are some ways different groups of people use the terms marijuana, cannabis, and hemp:

These four groups each use these terms in slightly different ways:

  • Scientific communities tend to use the botanical names of the species Cannabis sativa L. or the subspecies Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica.
  • Legal entities typically use “cannabis,” and in Canada, legislation is written using this term to cover both the psychoactive plant and the non-psychoactive hemp plants.
  • Online dispensaries that send mail order marijuana to clients may use all terms, and they will often use the term marijuana.
  • “Stoners,” those who smoke regularly, may also use all terms in addition to a variety of slang names including pot, flower, weed, bud, nugs, and more.

Cannabis, marijuana, and hemp have their differences, and this can be confusing. More context can be gained by observing who is describing these terms. As for commonality, they are all linked to the versatile Cannabis sativa L. plant, which offers various benefits in a variety of areas.

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