So much controversy happens over this useful, medicinal plant; more controversy, perhaps than most other illegal psychotropic substances. It all boils down to one ingredient: THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol), the main ingredient that gets people “high” out of over 60 different cannabinoids found in Cannabis sativa. Cannabis, a historically important and incredibly versatile plant, has been researched up, down and sideways. The simple answer to the question, about the difference between hemp and marijuana is that there is no difference. They are the same Genus: Cannabis and the same species: Cannabis sativa.
The more complex answer is that the cannabis plant has been cultivated into different strains to isolate compounds in the plant needed for specific uses; thus necessitating the semantic definitions of hemp vs marijuana. It boils down to THC content; many countries have established the arbitrary 0.3% rule; if the plant contains less than 0.3% THC, it is legal; there is not enough THC to get you high. Thus, we can refer to Cannabis sativa with less than 0.3% as “hemp” and anything higher as “marijuana”. Typically the THC percentage in medicinal or psychotropic bred cannabis is 5% or greater.
Hemp is a strain of Cannabis sativa that is bred for its strong fibres; it is used in cloth, rope and paper production and not for its THC content. Although the United States does not differentiate between Cannabis sativa grown for cloth, paper, etc, and Cannabis sativa grown for its psychotropic effects, the US allows “hemp” containing less than 0.3% THC content to be imported and used in manufacturing; so Americans can use it; but not legally grow it.
Marijuana refers to Cannabis sativa that has been bred to have a higher THC content. People use marijuana for medicinal purposes like pain management, spiritual enlightenment like Rastafaris, and recreational use: to get high. Marijuana typically contains 5-20% THC, with some strains reaching as high as 30% THC.
Many of the world’s governments are revisiting the legalization of Cannabis as an alternative to the environmental problems associated with deforestation and monocultures because it grows fast, in abundance and in almost every climate. In addition, scientists are uncovering new medical uses every year.
There are three subspecies of Cannabis Sativa: sativa, indica and ruderalis. While THC is the main psychotropic ingredient in marijuana, CBD or cannabidiol is an antipsychotic and seems to have a wider scope of medicinal uses than the cannabinoid THC. The subspecies Cannabis indica has higher levels of CBD; while the subspecies sativa has a higher level of THC. There have been studies showing CBD to be a viable alternative to some antipsychotic drugs in the treatment of Schizophrenia because it produces less side effects. In addition, CBD has been used to treat Social Anxiety Disorder. It is used, under the brand name Epidiolex to treat a rare form of Epilepsy called Dravet Syndrome