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How To Identify Hemp Plants [Marijuana VS Hemp]

how to identify hemp plants

Hemp’s multifunctional abilities have been treasured for thousands of years, although it’s only recently been in the spotlight of natural wellness. As hemp gains popularity for its therapeutic cannabidiol (CBD) content, many people wonder how to identify hemp plants.

Hemp and marijuana are the two variations of the Cannabis Sativa plant. The plants’ increasingly similar appearance has caused them to be frequently conflated. Their likeness has led people to wonder how hemp and CBD will affect them – and how to identify which plant is which. Follow along with us to find out more about the differences between hemp and marijuana and how to identify a hemp plant.


Hemp vs. Marijuana

Marijuana and hemp have one significant difference that sets them apart, both in terms of legality and effects: their THC content. According to the 2018 Farm Bill, a cannabis plant that contains 0.3% or less THC is classified as hemp and is 100% federally legal in America. 

If cannabis has more than 0.3% THC, it’s classified as marijuana. Although marijuana is illegal on the federal level, it has been legalized for recreational and medical use in several states. When it comes to hemp vs. marijuana, THC content rules the game.

THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) holds such a commanding position in the world of cannabis because of its psychoactive effects – it’s known for making people feel “high.” However, the low THC content in hemp is nowhere near enough to make someone feel high.

Hemp is valued in the natural wellness industry for its high CBD content (among other things). Modern hemp strains are rich in CBD; popular strains range from 10% to 20% CBD. CBD is non-psychoactive – it cannot get you high, and it may even diminish the psychoactive effects of THC. 

Marijuana typically has the opposite CBD and THC ratio of hemp; it has high THC levels and low CBD levels. This balance works well for those who want psychoactive effects, though some prefer to avoid intoxication. Hemp offers a therapeutic, non-psychoactive alternative. 

What Are the Similarities Between Hemp and Marijuana?

Hemp and marijuana are similar on the molecular level except for their THC levels. In terms of physical appearance, you probably already know that hemp and marijuana generally look alike. After all, this article is about identifying hemp plants.

Although hemp and marijuana have significant differences (the latter makes people “high”), they provide some of the same effects. Both varieties of the Cannabis Sativa plant may stimulate appetite, relieve tension/soreness, reduce swelling, calm nerves, aid digestion, and much more!

 However, the “high” feeling brought on by the THC in marijuana can often cause people to feel uncomfortably anxious and paranoid. That doesn’t happen to everyone – many people enjoy the euphoria of THC. But CBD offers soothing effects without the worry of a negative state of mind.


Legal Differences Between Hemp & Marijuana 

The 2018 Farm Bill revolutionized the hemp industry by making the legal distinction between hemp and marijuana. Intoxicating substances and plants have stirred many legal battles over the past century, and hemp’s conflation with marijuana caused some confusion over their differences.

The Farm Bill’s distinction between hemp and marijuana has helped the hemp industry thrive. As long as hemp meets the federal requirement of containing 0.3% or less THC, it’s 100% legal in the United States. This distinction has given CBD a chance to strut its stuff as a therapeutic compound. 

Hemp’s legalization has also allowed scientific research on CBD and hemp to flourish. As experts uncover more about CBD, we’re all learning about its many benefits and therapeutic effects together. Medical marijuana has many similar therapeutic benefits, but the “high” it provides isn’t for everyone.

Additionally, medical marijuana is only legal in certain states, making it widely unavailable to many people. On the other hand, hemp is federally legal, meaning it’s accessible to anyone searching for natural, non-intoxicating relief from mental and physical discomforts.


wooden gavel with cbd flower


How to Identify Hemp Plants from Marijuana

There are two types of hemp: premium and industrial. Premium hemp is grown for its flowers, which contain CBD and other beneficial compounds. In this article, we’ve been talking about premium hemp that is smoked or used to make CBD products.

Premium hemp is grown in similar conditions to marijuana to produce abundant flowers (sometimes called nugs or buds). Over the past decade or so, premium hemp has increasingly looked more and more like marijuana. It isn’t easy to discern the two with the naked eye.

Industrial hemp has a distinctly different appearance from premium hemp. Industrial hemp is grown for its stalks to make fiber, and little to no attention is paid to its flowers. It tends to be taller and skinnier than premium hemp, with minimal flowers on the plant.

It’s relatively easy to distinguish industrial hemp from marijuana, but you’ll have difficulty finding someone who can distinguish premium hemp from marijuana. As the two plants look increasingly similar, the only way to tell the difference between them is to test and analyze their THC contents.


How To Tell The Difference Between Male and Female Hemp Plants

Telling the difference between male and female hemp plants is essential for the hemp growing process. In the cannabis world, females are the MVPs, the VIPs, the actual queens of the cannabis kingdom. Female hemp plants produce the CBD-rich flower that consumers are after.

For hemp growers, keeping male plants separate from female plants is essential. When a male plant is allowed to pollinate a female plant, the female plant will begin producing seeds. Weed seeds make the female plant less valuable as a consumer commodity, although they may be used for breeding.

Fertilized female hemp flowers are less valuable than unfertilized ones because the seeds grow in and around the flower. This results in less dense and less effective hemp buds that contain fewer cannabinoids. Unfertilized female plants produce the most high-quality premium hemp flower.

 Hemp growers need to identify and separate male and female plants as early as possible in the growth process to avoid this pollination. To do so, they’ll rely mostly on the appearance of the plant’s nodes. Nodes are where the branches and leaves begin to break away from the stem.


How to Identify Male Hemp Plants

Male hemp plants will grow small pollen sacks around the nodes – they almost look like tiny peas. The pollen sacks are the male hemp plant’s sex organs. When they’re ready to pollinate, the sacks burst, and the pollen travels through the air to the female plants. That’s why it’s so important to separate males and females as early as possible. 

How to Identify Female Hemp Plants

Female hemp plants grow wispy, hair-like stigmas around their nodes, which catch the male plant’s pollen. These stigmas are essentially the female plant’s sex organs. 

There can also be hermaphrodite hemp plants that grow both male and female sex organs. Like males, hermaphroditic hemp plants can pollinate females, so be sure to separate them.


closeup of hemp flower hairs


 How To Use Hemp?

People use the wonderfully beneficial hemp plant in a multitude of ways. The most classic (and one of the most popular) ways to use hemp flower is to grind it up and inhale it for its tranquil effects. The plant’s CBD content causes these feelings, which is why some refer to hemp buds as “CBD flower.”

When you inhale hemp, the CBD takes effect almost immediately, which is part of why people enjoy smoking and vaping it. All you need to do is take a puff, then wait about a minute to see how you feel. Keep taking puffs at your leisure until you feel the relaxing and therapeutic effects of CBD.

Manufacturers also use hemp-derived CBD extract to make tinctures (oils). CBD tincture is incredibly diverse and multifunctional; you can consume it on its own or add it to a range of soothing products. Eating CBD oil on its own is also an efficient and effective consumption method. 

CBD oil can be used to make edible products like CBD gummies or other CBD treats, which are popular due to their long-lasting effects. Topical CBD products like lotions and salves are also made with CBD oil and other soothing ingredients.

Final Thoughts – How to Identify Hemp Plant

Identifying a premium hemp plant in a field of marijuana is not an easy task – in fact, it may be nearly impossible. However, armed with more information about these plants, you can now identify hemp based on its THC and CBD contents.

People have valued hemp for many millennia as a unique, beneficial plant. Today, we know more about it than we ever have before. We love hemp for its benefits, properties, abilities, and, most importantly, how it differs from marijuana. Hemp’s non-intoxicating, calming effects are taking the world by storm, and now you can spot these beautiful plants!

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