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Hemp, Marijuana, Cannabis and Weed: What’s the Difference?


Different names for cannabis

Cannabis terminology can be a little confusing, but it’s not deliberate. It comes from the fact that various groups of people have specific reasons for deploying different naming conventions historically.

Botanists–people who study plants–for instance, like using Latinate words. They call the cannabis plant formal names like Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica to fit in with their general plant naming conventions. 

Then there is the recreational community–people who use cannabis as a way to kick back and relax. They see cannabis as a kind of friend–something that allows them to go through life with a little more peace and joy.

Then there are the mystics; people who use plants, like cannabis, to achieve spiritual awakening. Again, these folks have their own system of classifying plants. And so the words they use for cannabis tend to vary. 

Lastly, there is the government that has its own preferred way of talking about cannabis. Over time, terms like “marijuana” and “hemp” have made their way into the law. 

Hence, the difficulty in understanding cannabis doesn’t come from the plant itself. That’s the easy part. It actually comes from knowing why people use so many different terms–like hemp, marijuana, and weed–and what they all mean. 

In this article, we take a look at precisely what these words signify to clear up any confusion. 

What is Cannabis?

Cannabis generally refers to three closely-related cultivars of the cannabis plant: Cannabis sativa, Cannabis ruderalis, and Cannabis indica. 

Cannabis sativa is a tall plant that can grow to over six meters. It requires higher growing temperatures and humidities than the indica strain, and it usually produces outstretched branches with 3 to 6 nodes. 

The indica plant is opposite to sativa in many ways. It has a much denser branch structure and the leaves are smaller and broader. Indica plants, when grown correctly, look a bit like a Christmas tree. People typically use the plant to soothe muscle aches and pains. 

Ruderalis sits somewhere in between indica and sativa. Plants typically have small, thick leaves, and a highly fibrous stem. Rudaralis plants do not grow tall, perhaps reaching just four feet before topping out. The subspecies is popular in cultivation because of its ability to thrive in harsh conditions.

These plants (in their conventional form) are all psychoactive because they contain high levels of the cannabinoid, THC. Traditionally, people harvested them for their buds, first cutting them, then drying them, then smoking them in pipes. These days, people may also cook with cannabis or rub it on their skin (once the oils are extracted from the original plant). 

In the modern world, cannabis is becoming more legalized. It used to be illegal to either grow or consume it, but that’s changing, thanks to various acts of federal and state legislatures in the more recent years. Cannabis contains the highly-renowned compound, CBD or Cannabidiol. Despite being a relatively recent discovery, the FDA already approves some CBD-containing drugs, indicating the plant’s wellbeing-enhancing potential.

What is Hemp?

Many people believe that hemp and cannabis are different species. However, they are actually the same. 

The reason people believe that there’s a difference is because of the way the law defines these plants. Legislation considers hemp to be any plant that contains less than 0.3% of the psychoactive component, THC. Anything over that, lawmakers call cannabis. 

However, scientifically speaking there is very little difference between them. The main distinction is the fact that the hemp plant doesn’t contain genes that code for high levels of THC, but cannabis does. 

It’s a little bit like a person who doesn’t have genes to make insulin. They’re still recognizable as human beings. And they can still reproduce themselves by mating with other humans. They just happen to produce a particular compound in lower quantities than normal.

What is Marijuana?

Marijuana is a name that public authorities like to use when referring to cannabis. 

Are marijuana and cannabis the same thing?

Marijuana and cannabis are the same thing. Both refer to the same class of plants with psychoactive properties.

However, the use of the term “marijuana” has been falling out of fashion recently. That’s partly because this slang term for “cannabis” has racial roots. The word marijuana comes originally from Mexico, according to Cannabis: A History, by Martin Booth. Mexican soldiers and laborers would carry cannabis across the border into the U.S. and then sell it to locals. 

Later, people began associating the word “marijuana” with the idea that the herb was some sort of dangerous intoxicant, prompting authorities to target racial communities, sending them to prison if they were found in possession of it. 

Now, many in the industry want to leave that dark past behind. And so cannabis is becoming the preferred name once more. 

What are the different names for marijuana?

Over the years, people have developed many different names for marijuana. There’s a vast list you might come across, so the following is by no means exhaustive.

These include: 

  • Grass 
  • Dope
  • Ganja
  • Reefer
  • Herb
  • Chronic
  • Pot
  • Hash
  • Gangster
  • Blaze
  • Boom
  • Burnie
  • Charge
  • Block
  • Ashes
  • Buds
  • Mary Jane
  • Blunt
  • Joint
  • 420



On many occasions, people developed these words as a kind of code. They didn’t want to expose themselves to the wrath of the authorities. Other times, they simply used them because the existing words “marijuana” and “cannabis” had too many syllables. For many, words like “weed” are a term of endearment and an abiding symbol of their appreciation for the plant.

is hemp weed?

Weed is another common term people use to identify the cannabis plant, just like marijuana.

Where does Hemp come from?

Hemp comes from specialist growers. Usually, farmers grow it in vast greenhouses for security purposes and to provide organic growing conditions. 

What is the difference between hemp and weed?

Is hemp the same thing as weed? Technically speaking, hemp and weed are the same species because you can interbreed the cultivars. However, hemp and weed have different effects on the body because weed contains high levels of THC, while hemp does not. 

If you’re struggling to characterize this difference in your mind, think of it in the following way. Domesticated dogs are all the same species because they can all produce offspring after mating. However, the dogs themselves can have strikingly different characteristics, both on the inside and outside. 

It’s a similar story with hemp and weed. Hemp is cannabis with less than 0.3% THC, while weed usually contains more.

buy hemp-derived
CBD Oil from Veré

CBD can be derived from hemp or weed (marijuana). The source is important because it currently determines the legality of the product. In short, hemp-derived CBD is legal federally but marijuana-derived CBD is not. 

All of Veré CBD and Hemp Extract products are sourced from industrial hemp and have either 0% THC or no more than 0.3% THC.

What is the difference between hemp and marijuana?

Since marijuana is just weed (cannabis), it is also the same species as hemp. However, as discussed earlier, there are important legal differences between hemp and cannabis.

Before the 1930s, attitudes towards cannabis were quite liberal. People used it as a kind of herbal remedy for all sorts of medical conditions. They smoked it, applied it on their skin, or ate it in food. There were also other hemp uses. For instance, a vibrant cannabis fiber industry made it into paper and clothing.

Then, in the 1930s, there was a campaign against cannabis and public opinion began to change. The government introduced the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937, which specifically restricted how people could use the herb. 

This law had a bunch of knock-on effects, including damaging the cannabis industry to the point where most of it went out of business. 

Soon, the word marijuana entered legal diction. State officials would use this terminology to characterize cannabis as a dangerous invader from a foreign land. Marijuana became a schedule 1 drug under federal law, meaning that the plant itself and products derived from it (including CBD) were illegal. 

For decades, hemp occupied the same legal status as cannabis. The government restricted the use of hemp under the 1937 tax laws and then outlawed it completely under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. 

However, things began to change when pilot programs began labeling hemp as “industrial hemp.”

What is industrial hemp?

Industrial hemp is simply hemp grown for industrial purposes, like paper-making. The Farm Bill 2018 allowed the cultivation of industrial hemp to expand. Combined with more liberal state-level laws, this allowed the industry to develop to where it is today. 

does hemp have thc?

Hemp and marijuana are different. Hemp cannot contain more than 0.3% THC under section 10113 of the Farm Bill. If it does, it is legally defined as marijuana. All of Veré CBD products are hemp-derived and contain no more than 0.3% THC. Some, like our Pure CBD Oil or Broad Spectrum Hemp Oil contain 0% THC. Whereas our Full Spectrum CBD Gummies and Hemp Extract Oil have THC—albeit no more than 0.3%. 

The Farm Bill, however, isn’t a true liberalization of hemp. You can’t just start growing it in your back garden, as you might tomatoes. However, it does treat hemp farmers in the same way as other farmers, turning hemp from a relatively unknown outlier into a “main crop.” For instance, hemp farmers can get support via section 11101 of the Farm Bill for crop losses and the effects of climate change.

wrapping up

Here are some main takeaways from this articlee: 

  • Hemp, marijuana, weed, and cannabis are the same species of plant.
  • Hemp is a legal term to describe cannabis plants containing less than 0.3% THC–the psychoactive compound. 
  • Weed is just a slang word for cannabis.
  • There are three species of cannabis, many of which contain high levels of THC, except when specifically grown from low-THC hemp cultivars.
  • The term marijuana is the Mexican word for cannabis and is now enshrined in legal diction. Today, the term marijuana refers to cannabis plants with more than 0.3% THC. 
  • All of Veré CBD products are derived from hemp and have either 0% THC or less than 0.3% THC.

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  1. Holland, Kimberley, A Quick take On Cannabis and Its Effects, Healthline. Medically reviewed by Femi Aremu. July 23, 2020. Link
  2. NIH, US National Library Of Medicine, “ Drug Label Information”, October 29, 2020. Link
  3. Pollio, Antonino. “The name of Cannabis: a short guide for nonbotanists.” Cannabis and cannabinoid research 1.1 (2016): 234-238. Link 
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  6. The United States Drug Enforcement Administration, Drug Scheduling. Link
  7. Hudak, John, “The Farm Bill, hemp legalization and the status of CBD: An Explainer. Dec 14, 2018. Link
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