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Hemp Oil vs Cannabis Oil Overview

The majority of people still confuse cannabidiol vs hemp oil as the same thing. And we can’t blame them! For years, it is a topic that our government, institutions and society still lacks on research or educational studies.

Hemp Oil vs Cannabis Oil: How Are They Different?
Hemp Oil Vs Cannabis Oil Difference

While it is already known that the two really came from the same species- Cannabis sativa, it still varies from one to the other.

And since this topic has been a source of argument and debate for years, your doubt will finally come to an end as you read this article because this will give you the clarification that you’ve been longing for.

What Is Hemp Oil & Cannabis Oil?

Commonly mistaken as the same material, hemp and cannabis has its own definition and of course, variation. They are two different plants that are often used interchangeably with the wrong connotation.

Below are the distinct descriptions of the two.

According to the Leafy, Hemp also known as industrial hemp is mowed commercially for its seeds and stalks for it is used to manufacture food, nutritional hemp supplements, plastic composites, medicine, beauty products, construction materials, paper, auto parts, animal bedding, textiles, and even biofuels. [1]

It include strains with less than 0.3% which makes it non-psychoactive and this level also makes it qualified to be added in the EU Common Catalogue of agricultural plant species that can be cultivated as an industrial crop. It is mostly grown for industrial uses of its derived goods.

Industrial Crop

What Is Hemp Oil & Cannabis Oil?

Also, hemp is the fiber and food variation of the cannabis plant.

According to Health Canada, hemp are crops which comprise less than 0.3 percent THC. Meanwhile, US law defines hemp as all parts of any Cannabis Sativa plant having no psychoactive properties, except for defined exceptions. [2]

Cannabis on the other hand, are describe as strains of Cannabis sativa specifically reared for the compelling resinous glands (trichome) that is cultivated on the flowers and leaves (buds).  [3]

And it is also the one that is yielded to boost the chemicals that make you feel high or stoned. This is not usually harvested commercially.

History Of Mankind Along With Hemp Oil & Cannabis Oil

From the primordial times up to the Chinese and Turk people’s cultivation, hemp and cannabis might be the oldest plant sown by the people as these plants were first propagated at around 12,000 years ago.

In the statement by Barney Warf, a professor of geography at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, cannabis was instigated many years ago in Asia, and has since found its way to disseminate across many regions of the world including the Americas.

Majority of its use are for medicinal and spiritual functions before the modern times. In an example, Barney Warf also stated how the barbaric Vikings and Germans consumed cannabis as pain relief for toothaches and for the duration of childbearing.

After some time of marvelous subjugation, this plant has begun to bloom again and flaunt its medical and industrial functions when various countries around the world started legalizing the use of these plants for medical and research purposes.

However, some countries still consider these plants as the evil plant which will make a person do vile things which will result to a high number of the crime rate.

How Many People Use Hemp Oil & Cannabis Oil?

Use of Cannabis

Use Hemp Oil & Cannabis Oil

The range of the people using hemp and cannabis has a very wide gap. This is maybe because of the restrictions in several countries. Some laws prohibit the use of cannabis because of the claims of its narcotic and drug-like substance.

From the illegal consumers of hemp and cannabis which use them for addiction up to those who consume this product for medical purposes, it is estimated that around 147 million of people or 2.5% of the world population take hemp and cannabis. [4]

It is undeniably high compared to the number of people who use other substance such as cocaine with only 0.2% and opiates with also 0.2%. Also, the same study tagged hemp and cannabis as “the most widely cultivated, trafficked and abused illicit drug”.

According to the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health,in the U.S, approximately 2.4 million people aged 12 or older used marijuana for the first time within the past 12 months.

This means that there are about 6,600 new users each day which is about 7.3% of Americans within the previous 30 days. It is also found that the typical age of new users was 17.9 years.

Although hemp is also facing a lot of consumption and cultivation conflicts in several countries, it is used more compared to cannabis.

Currently, the production of hemp is legally cultivated in almost 30 countries which makes it available to a larger number of feasible users. [5]

How Do We Utilize Hemp Oil & Cannabis Oil In Our Everyday Lives?

Hemp and cannabis can be used in both medical and industrial field. One might not even notice that the foods or products they use already contain hemp and cannabis.

Nowadays, these two plants are used in manufacturing foods, clothes, textiles, carpentry tools and others.

Aside from that, it can also be utilized as a biofuel in two ways: the oil from the constrained hempseed can be transformed into biodiesel, or the fermented stalk can be made into ethanol and methanol. 

This is actually better than any other fuel because biodiesel are much cleaner when mixed with the air.

Cannabis, on the other hand, are widely known for its medicinal purposes. It cannot serve a lot of purposes in the industrial field since the plant itself does not possess the quality to make a good and strong product.

However, cannabis boasts in the number of diseases that it can cure ranging from a simple migraine up to the almost incurable cancer.

Are They The Same Thing?

Based on a study conducted by Ernest Small and Arthur Conquist entitled “A Practical and Natural Taxonomy for Cannabis” in 1976, it articulates that both hemp and cannabis came from the same genus of Cannabis.

In addition to that, they also found out that it belongs to the same species Cannabis sativa. Also, numerous kinds of species fall in the species of Cannabis sativa.

But this similarity is not enough to confirm that they are indeed the same thing. We need to consider all of the aspects including their chemical and physical properties in order to have a holistic and clear view.

So obviously, hemp and cannabis are two different things, but they came from the same ancestry.

How Do They Differ Then?

Although they came from the same roots, hemp and cannabis vary when it comes to its function, use, and production. Not because it has the same ancestry means it has the same look and properties.

There might be some similarities, and the difference might be quite vague at times. Here’s some of its difference that are grouped and listed below:

Physical Difference

Hemp and Cannabis Crop

Hemp Plants and Marijuana Plants

Even though they came from the same parent or ancestors, hemp and cannabis still possess numerous significant differences which can be seen by the naked eye. [6]

  • Height: Hemp grows up to 15 feet tall while cannabis, on the other hand, hardly exceeds five feet in height.
  • Appearance: Hemp has long, distinguishable, massive stalks. However, cannabis grows outwards blooming with more leaves and buds.
  • Growth: Hemp grows comfortably closely packed together. Though, cannabis needs a certain space to grow.
  • Stalk Strength: Hemp has fiber in it which makes it a hard and woody center material. This hemp characteristic makes it a candidate for the source of carpentry materials. On another note, cannabis wood is feeble in nature which makes it less suitable to be used in furniture or carpentry.
  • Climate: The two likewise differ in the climatic and soil ranges in which they can viably develop. Hemp can only thrive in well-drained loam soil that is less acidic. It also needs high rainfall throughout its growth period.

While in cannabis, soil type and climate aren’t really a big deal and can be grown easily.

Chemical Difference

Since the physical properties are quite noticeable, then, of course, its chemical properties will also differ.

One of the reasons hemp and cannabis have such a large gap and category when it comes to their specific cannabis oil uses in our daily lives is the difference in their chemical properties. And here is a few point to note about their difference:



  • Both hemp and cannabis have two chemicals in common- tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD).
  • Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the compound that builds up the most of the hemp plants. It is also the one responsible for the psychoactive reaction that a user boards on when using hemp for recreation.
  • Cannabidiol (CBD) is known for its medical uses, and is currently being utilized by a large number of people from all levels of society in different countries, each one cures a particular medical condition or health issue. 
  • Hemp has lesser THC content at around 0.03% or less while cannabis possesses a high concentration of THC ranging at 10%-14% mostly extracted from its flowers.
  • Hemp contains a lot of CBD ranging from 18%-27%. On the other hand, cannabis contains a lesser amount of CBD.
  • Since hemp has more CBD than THC naturally, it makes hemp oil as a preferred source of natural CBD for plenty of people.

Legal Difference

Hemp and cannabis are still a topic of argument between several politicians and medical experts around the world. It is still hard to legalize the two in most of the countries although some are already allowing its cultivation.

Both Hemp and Cannabis are categorized as drugs in the US. That is because they are both Cannabis plants and contain THC, even though the THC concentration in Hemp is almost unnoticeable which is under 0.3%.

However, cannabis is legal in some states for recreational, educational or medicinal use, Hemp is also legal in others for industrial and research use.

Almost 30 countries around the world allows the cultivation or the use of hemp with its residents and here are some of the countries that are included in the list: [7]

Australia, Austria, Canada, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, India, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, Thailand and Ukraine

Grassroots advocacy organization Vote Hemp stated that 32 states have industrial legalization laws in place, seven states authorize hemp research crops, and five states allow registered farmers to grow hemp if they register under a state law in spite of federal embargo. [8]

This came after the approval of the U.S. Farm Bill in 2014, permitting cultivation by state departments of agriculture and higher-education institutions.

Aside from that, U.S is already importing raw hemp from several countries such as Canada, China, and some European countries.

Meanwhile, the legalization of cannabis faces a harder battle than legalizing hemp. Many still consider the narcotic and drug-like effect of cannabis to its users instead of it medicinal functions.

Production of all cannabis

Production of All Cannabis

One of the countries that bans the production of all cannabis is the United States. Both hemp and cannabis are categorized as Schedule I drugs under the Controlled Substances Act.

But even though cannabis production is not allowed in the US, importing this product is permitted. And according to the Hemp Industry Association, about $500 million worth of hemp product is imported every year.

Even if that is the case, several countries somehow allowed the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes. Below are the 20 countries where the use of cannabis is currently authorized by their government. [9]

Argentina, Australia, Austria, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Croatia, Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Macedonia, Netherlands, Portugal, Romania and Spain

Although in the US, a large amount of people already supports the legalization of hemp and cannabis.

Some studies confirmed that both hemp and cannabis hold dozens of cannabinoids, certainly stirring up chemical compounds, but it is cannabidiol (CBD), in particular, that offers many health and healing hemp oil benefits without the risk of getting high.

Hemp plants typically contain a higher amount of CBD which improves health, but by description, it possesses a small portion of THC.

This gives the hemp plant a huge potential to those seeking an antioxidant bounty lifestyle, but this does not include the recreational users because it may inhibit some side effects.

The table below shows the statistics of how people in the US are divided when it comes to supporting hemp and cannabis and the amount currently at stake. [10]

Cultivation Difference

Cultivation Difference

Cultivation Difference

If hemp and cannabis are almost the same plants, then why aren’t cannabis and hemp considered as one? One of the answers lies in its cultivation.

According to Dan Sutton of Tantulus Labs, a Canadian company that specializes in cannabis cultivation technology, the main agricultural variances between medical cannabis and hemp lies chiefly in their genetic parentage and cultivation environment. [11]

Hemp and cannabis have different physical structures even though they might share some similarities. But both hemp and cannabis need to be cultivated in different ways.

  • Hemp is an agricultural plant yielded in many countries for food, oil, and fiber. On the other hand, cannabis is a horticultural plant grown majorly for its THC content.
  • The whole hemp plant can be utilized, not just its flowers. Meanwhile, cannabis focuses generally in the trichomes which is a resin-wealthy gland on the flowers of the cannabis plant because THC is highly concentrated there.
  • While you can find the said chemical all over cannabis plant, it is the sprouts or flowers that can give enough chemicals for recreational cannabis.

  • Hemp can be grown outdoors like any ordinary plant. Cannabis is commonly planted indoors so that the conditions will be given focus.
  • This hemp variation, male and female plants are propagated very close to each other, letting easier wind fertilization and flocking out wild plants. This fallout in towering, resilient plants with lesser splitting that appear as very disparate compared to the tiny and shaggy cannabis.

However, cannabis is seen physically as a short and bushy plant that grows lots of flowers.

Consumption Practical Effects


Consumption Practical Effects

Subsequently, hemp and cannabis will have a variety of uses and effects to its users because of the difference in their chemical properties.

It is merely because of the amount of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) they possess.

Since hemp plants have a high THC content while maintaining a low CBD content, it will make its consumers feel:

  • Relaxing
  • Moisturizing
  • Soothing
  • Calming
  • Non-psychoactive

Meanwhile, cannabis may have the opposite effects because it contains low THC level while having a high CBD level that is why it will make its users feel:

  • Recreational
  • High
  • Psychoactive
  • Stoned

Hemp Oil & Cannabis Oil As Treatment

Hemp And Cannabis As Treatment

Hemp Oil & Cannabis Oil As Treatment

Others might only think of hemp and cannabis as dangerous substance since that is how they are entitled by our society in the past years. But we are not shaded when it comes to the medicinal uses for hemp oil and cannabis.

The list of the medicinal functions of hemp and cannabis might go on tons of paper but here’s some of it to give you a quick view.

Even if cannabis lacks on completed researches, it still showed potent cure for various diseases.

One study that could back this up is the research at the VA Palo Alto Health Care System at a California dispensary which surveyed 217 patients to determine what health conditions could be helped with cannabis.

Here is a rundown of some ailments that showed feasible treatment by cannabis:

Headaches, Nausea, Insomnia, Chronic pain, Multiple sclerosis, Epilepsy, Muscle spasms, Reduce stress level, Anxiety, Depression, Increase appetite, Schizophrenia and psychosis, Fibromyalgia, Psoriasis, Diabetes, Back pain, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PSTD)

On the other hand, the uses of hemp plant vary mostly within skin and hair concerns. This is mainly because of the nutrients hemp contains.

It has Omega-3, Omega 6 and Omega 9, polyunsaturated fatty acids, Gamma Linoleic Acids (GLAs), and linoleic acid.

Also, hemp seeds contain every essential amino acids you will need, making them a complete protein source.

Some of the disease or concerns that it can treat are:

  • PMS and menopause symptoms
  • Boost digestion
  • Prevents skin cancer
  • Relieves dry skin and itchiness
  • Provides relief for eczema
  • Reduction of cardiovascular disease
  • Lessen the symptoms of bipolar disease
  • Lessen the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.

Final Verdict

Hemp and cannabis are often confused by many people up to this day. Although it’s relatively hard to distinguish which is which, it is possible by looking at its physical appearance and knowing its chemical properties.

Hemp is the one that is commonly used in various industries, while cannabis is mostly used for its THC in hemp oil, which is responsible for the feeling of being high or stoned after consumption.

Despite all of these, both hemp and cannabis poses many medicinal functions and will be very helpful to mankind once utilized properly with enough studies.

In short, hemp and cannabis is a proven alternative that can serve various function is a different field, especially the medical field and could save thousands of lives.

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11 Sources

We review published medical research in respected scientific journals to arrive at our conclusions about a product or health topic. This ensures the highest standard of scientific accuracy.

[1] Hemp 101: What Is Hemp, What’s It Used for, and Why Is It Illegal?:
[2] What Is Hemp? Understanding The Differences Between Hemp and Cannabis:
[3] What's the Difference Between Hemp and Marijuana?:
[4] Alcohol, Drugs and Addictive Behaviours Unit:
[5] Top 6 Hemp Growing Countries: USA Now Ranks Number 3!:
[6] Cannabis Oil vs Hemp Oil – What’s The Difference?:
[7] Industrial hemp at the Hemp University!:
[8] Marijuana Industry Overview:
[9] Hemp/CBD:
[10] Self-reported cannabis use characteristics, patterns and helpfulness among medical cannabis users:
[11] Marijuana vs. Hemp:


Sam Kramer is a Registered Dietitian, Licensed Dietitian Nutritionist, Six Sigma Green Belt Certified, and Certified Sports Nutritionis