Difference between hemp and cannabis

What’s the difference between hemp and cannabis?


Here’s a question for you: do you know what the difference between hemp and cannabis is?

If you answered, “hemp is a form of cannabis that is free from the psychoactive component THC (Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol)”, you’d be right! In Australia, any cannabis plant with a THC concentration of 1% or less is considered hemp by the Food Standards Code

Unlike cannabis, hemp isn’t psychoactive, and it can’t get you “high”. But if you asked most people, you’d get mixed messages on that fact. While it may seem obvious to those of us in the cannabis-science sphere, recent research shows hemp confusion is far from uncommon. 

Hemp vs. Cannabis Research 

Back in 2014, researchers at Murray State University gathered 224 people and asked them questions about hemp. They found some pretty interesting results. 

First, over 17% of those surveyed think you can “get high” from smoking hemp. In a similar vein, 13.8% of those surveyed think hemp and cannabis have similar THC levels. (Although interestingly, 46% of participants also described themselves as knowledgeable about hemp.)

A similar piece of research was then carried out on a group of 300 adults in Poland in 2019. In this study, 60% of participants confused hemp and cannabis, while 40% didn’t. Like the 2014 study, however, 13% of participants still thought hemp could get you high. 

This left the researchers to conclude the following:

To the majority of society, the term “hemp” is unfamiliar.

But is that still true two years on? 

That brings us to the third piece of research published in March by American researchers. In this study, 120 people took part in a short lesson about hemp. Before the lesson, researchers gave each participant a test about hemp. 

This led researchers to observe that only 36% of the participants could correctly identify the differences between hemp and cannabis before the lesson. After the lesson, however, this increased to 87.5%. 

These results, in particular, are pretty telling – as people corrected their misinformation once they learned more about hemp.  


So what’s the takeaway here? 

I’d say it’s three things. 

  • Because of cannabis prohibition, most people don’t know the difference between cannabis and hemp
  • If people are confusing hemp and cannabis, they are applying anti-cannabis stigma to hemp. 
  • This stigma impacts people’s attitudes towards hemp goods, which is bad news for Australia’s hemp industry. 

From the research on the topic, it’s clear that misinformation about hemp is a huge problem. But there are things you can do to help. 

First, you can educate the people around you about hemp – including why it’s used in paper, clothing, and biofuels. You can also support pro-cannabis legislation and buy things from local Aussie hemp businesses

As research shows misinformation about hemp is rampant, we need to talk about hemp’s true nature if we want to watch Australia’s hemp industry grow. 

Stay informed with the latest cannabis news in Australia.


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Stay informed with the latest cannabis news in Australia.

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