7 Differences between Cannabis, Hemp, Marijuana, Weed and Ganja


Cannabis, Hemp, Marijuana, Weed or Ganja? What’s the difference?

In short and right in advance: It’s all the same! First of all, hemp, marijuana, weed or ganja are popular names for the cannabis plant. Different names for different types, applications or users. Some are just sweet nicknames. Let’s get into the details of all these designations. Finally, we will explain you the 7 differences between cannabis, hemp, and marijuana.

1. Cannabis – One of the oldest domesticated and most diverse crops

Cannabis is a genus of flowering plant in the family Cannabaceae. The plant is an economically important supplier of fibers, food, textiles, oils, and medicine for over six millennia. Hense, an important plant. A raw material and source for the production of ropes, canvas, clothing textiles, paper and many other products. First ropes came from China, about 2,800 before Christ. World’s first cannabis paper came in the 3rd century before Christ on the market. In addition and throughout history, humans have grown different varieties of cannabis for industrial and medical uses.

2. Hemp – The industrial raw material source

Hemp is simply the cannabis for industrial purpose. A plant bred with other plants. Cultivation of Hemp seeds started in almost all European and Asian countries. Most important, hemp represented an important, partly the most important raw material source for the production of ropes, canvas, clothing textiles, paper and oil products. Hemp has repeatedly made history here.

3. Marijuana – The drug that makes you high

marijuana indoor plantation

Like many other plants (crops, fruits or mushrooms), cannabis can have psychoactive effects. There is a specific cannabinoid found, it’s called Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Over 113 different cannabinoids have been identified. THC is the psychoactive constituent, which can be found especially in the female flowers of the cannabis plant. THC is a lipid, assumed to be the plant’s self-defense against insect predation and environmental stress. Humans do use cannabis plants to get high (similar as with alcohol) and started to call THC-rich plants “Marijuana“. Increased restrictions and labeling of cannabis as a poison began from 1906 onward, and outright prohibitions began in 1920. Hense, as marijuana is illegal for decades, consumers became creative and started to use nicknames such as weed, ganja, pot or “mary jane“.

4. Differences in Genetics

cannabis sativa indica ruderalis differences

Cannabis plants can be divided into 3 different species:

Cannabis sativa

Sativa was indigenous to eastern Asia. Cultivated and distributed worldwide for decades. Tall, sturdy plants were grown by early civilizations to make it great for industrial use. These plants were bred with other plants with the same characteristics, leading to the type of cannabis we now know as hemp. Each part of the plant is harvested differently, depending on the purpose of its use. The flowers of cannabis sativa can be unisexual (male or female). More likely in nature, the cannabis sativa species is a monoecious plant (hermaphrodites). it can have fully functional reproductive organs. Most noteworthy, cannabis sativa is usually high in fiber but very low in cannabiniods. Meaning low in THC as well as low in CBD or CBG.

Cannabis indica

Broad-leafed Cannabis indica plants were traditionally cultivated in India, Nepal, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. These species tend to have a higher cannabinoid content than cannabis sativa strains. Some breeders have driven the genetic of indica strains to very high levels of THC (for the stoner market). Some plants were recognized for being psychoactive and were bred selectively for medical and religious purposes. This led to unique varieties of cannabis indica that we now know today as marijuana.

Cannabis ruderalis

This is a low-THC species of Cannabis which is native to Russia. Hense, Cannabis ruderalis got unique traits and phenotypes which distinguish it from Cannabis indica and Cannabis sativa.

Hybrid strains

Breeders all over the world have cannabis sativa and indica mixed together. These hybrid strains combine all or certain advantages in one single plant. Todays strongest THC strain on earth is provided by the LOS ANGELES KUSH COLLECTIVE, formerly known as California Herbal Remedies (CHR). The God Father OG, an indica-dominant hybrid (Cherry Pie x Granddaddy Purps x OG Kush), is the High Times world-cup winner with 34.04% THC. Due to the fact that THC is only one type of cannabinoid with great medical potentials, there are two other types of same properties. CBG and CBD are medicinal cannabinoids within the cannabis plant. Unlike THC, CBG and CBD don’t make you feel high. Therefore, other breeders like Mountain Grades, have successfully grown medical cannabis species with very high levels of CBG and CBD. Todays best CBD strain is MG Green Indica. Especially relevant, it’s a hybrid cannabis containing 21.8% CBD and THC lower than 0.8%. Therefore, a non-psychoactive type of cannabis with huge potential for the medical use.

5. Cannabinoids (THC vs CBD vs CBG)

Endocannabinoid system thc cbd cbg cannabinoids

Today, as cannabis is becoming more and more decriminalized, the huge differences of this famous plant is the content of cannabinoids. While THC remains illegal in most countries, CBD (cannabidiol) and CBG (cannabigerol) became legal in some parts of the world. Huge medical benefits! Overall, the main reason to legalize cannabis. While THC strains still called marijuana, hemp became an industrial crop, while CBD and CBG strains today became medical cannabis.

6. Cannabis Cultivation

cannabis industrial paperMarijuana grows for different use as already mentioned. Therefore require different growing conditions. Very short plants to push all the growth into the female buds of the weed. Selectively bred over generations. Optimized characteristics. Also farmers do grow mid-size plants to produce female buds (to smoke or vape) as well as cannabis leaves and stems to manufacture healthy hemp tea or hemp oil.

Achieving maximum THC, CBD or CBG levels in cannabis is very tricky. Growing medical cannabis requires knowledge and close attention. Therefore, mainly grown indoor (grow-rooms) or in greenhouses. Consequently, the grow-room conditions need to be very stable. It requires a lot of know-how, needs to maintain under stable light, temperature, humidity, CO2 and oxygen levels, among many other conditions. While high THC stains do need a lot of fertilizer, medical cannabis can be grown fully organic.

Hemp grows outdoor to maximize its size. Outdoor conditions are usually rough. It is mass production and most farmers do use a lot of fertilizer (herbicide, pesticide, fungicide). Finally, the downside of hemp cultivation is, that there is almost no control to grow female, male or monoecious plants.

7. Legal Status of Cannabis

World map legality of cannabis

The legal status of cannabis is still intransparent. Some countries like the Netherlands and some states in the US have completely legalized cannabis (under certain rules and conditions). Other countries try to find their own ways. Lately, the European Union legalized the cultivation of Hemp. Some EU countries have implemented a THC level lower than 0.3%., some others lower than 0.2%.

In Switzerland, cannabis is legal as long as the THC level is lower than 1%. Several studies have proven, that cannabis strains with a THC level under 1% are non-psychoactive and therefore not taken as a drug. If you like to know the legal status in your country or state, then we recommend calling a representative of your local government or a police station close to you. Finally, the most critical thing for all (producers as well as for consumers) is the unstable political landscape. We never know what is next. Not even what is tomorrow. Since we all know, a stable political environment is crucial for legal businesses to invest and to grow.

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7 Differences between Cannabis, Hemp and Marijuana

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7 Differences between Cannabis, Hemp and Marijuana


Hemp, marijuana, weed, ganja, pot, mary jane, are popular names for the cannabis plant. Here are the 7 major differences. The industrial cultivation of hemp for fuel, fiber, food or textiles. High THC strains for the drug abuse. Medicinal cannabis rich in cannabinoids (CBD and CBG).


Marcel Isler

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Mountain Grades LLC

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About Marcel

Marcel is a graduated Farmer and Economist. Since 1990 he is pursuing the development of organic cannabis cultivation worldwide. He writes about market news, trends and how to use medical CBD products.

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