Hemp Vs Cannabis | What is the Difference?

Hemp Vs Cannabis

Hemp and Cannabis are often viewed as different; in many respects, they are but not as different as you may expect. Hemp is Cannabis. It is a very abundant member of the Cannabis family and still contains all of the active compounds which make weed, well, weed.

It is strange though – why are certain aspects of Hemp legal and not cannabis? Let us talk you through the main differences between Hemp and Cannabis so that you can make your own mind up.


While hemp products are very easy to find, it is still illegal to cultivate either a Hemp or Cannabis plant. You can purchase the seeds, but the act of germinating them strays into the realm of illegal. So while you can purchase a perfectly harmless bunch of hemp seeds from Holland & Barrett, if you innocently decided to put a bunch of these seeds in the garden, then you may have just broken the law.

Hemp contains a much higher percentage of the cannabinoid CBD. This is currently completely legal in the UK and product infused with CBD are exploding. CBD oils, tinctures, capsules and pillowcases (yes, they are a thing) are sold everywhere from your local highstreet to budget wholesalers. THC, the second most abundant cannabinoid is currently prohibited by the misuse of drugs act 1971.

The Cannabinoids!

Both Hemp and Illegal strains of cannabis contain cannabinoids: these are compounds which directly interact with the Endocannabinoid system. While Cannabis are not the only plants to produce cannabinoids, their discovery was sparked by research into cannabis which is where they got their name.

As we have mentioned above – most cannabinoids are technically legal but are still found in a grey area of the law. Simply put- not enough research has been done to understand exactly what they actually do to our body. The two most abundant cannabinoids have been researched a little more.


CBD is not considered illegal and is mostly derived from Hemp. The oil from the hemp seeds are mostly a nutritious oil and is quite easily infused with CBD to produce a tincture. Many ‘illegal’ cannabis strains also contain large levels of CBD – CBD dominant strains (like Harlequin) contain large amounts of CBD and relatively small amounts of THC.

The Hemp Flower is a contentious issue. Although it looks, smells and feels like a cannabis bud, it only contains between 0.2% and 0.3%  THC. This means that you are very unlikely to get high from the flower, but you can enjoy all of the therapeutic benefits of the active cannabinoids and terpenes. Hemp flower is technically illegal still in the UK as it is considered ‘Cannabis’.


THC is what makes ‘illegal cannabis’ so much fun. Unlike, CBD, THC is psychoactive and can have a huge impact on your mood, appetite and a whole lot more.

The only real difference between these strains, and hemp flower, is the fact that THC is in abundance. Although ‘the man’ would like to suggest otherwise, THC is unlocking a whole new way of thinking about natural medicine. There is so much research going into THC that we are very quickly starting to realise that cannabis isn’t quite as harmful as once suggested. Consider Alcohol and Coffee? These are two things we drink openly and often in excess – THC certainly not as harmful (even in moderation) in the long, or short term.

The Plant Itself

The hemp plant is much more robust and can be used to produce a wide range of materials; including plastics, building materials, clothes and biofuels. It can also produce a huge amount of seed which are used to produce healthy oils that are consumed as a daily supplement. Hemp is often considered to be part of the Sativa family which grows tall, branchy and has long leaves (compared to indica which is short, dense and shrubby).

The fact is, that hemp is just a slightly more branchy form of cannabis.