Ditch weed and its hippie cousin

We all know that marijuana is the cannabis strain that can get a person “high”. And most of us know that hemp is its workhorse cousin, having many industrial and commercial uses. Both have unique properties but their classification under the cannabis genus has caused confusion when it comes to legality and regulations.

Cannabis is the genus. It’s made up of three species: cannabis indica, cannabis sativa and cannabis ruderalis. Hemp and marijuana are both classifications within that family. They each have properties that distinguish them from each other and determine their usage. Hemp is only derived from the cannabis sativa strain of the genus, whereas marijuana can come from either cannabis sativa or indica.


Hemp is one of the oldest cultivated crops – its origins go back almost 10,000 years! In Canada, in the early 1800’s, hemp seeds were given to farmers by the government to encourage cultivation. The Declaration of Independence in the United States was written on paper harvested from hemp. Since it is 3x stronger than cotton, hemp was used to make ship’s sails. Until the early 20th century the majority of clothing was made from hemp. Are you starting to see why we call it the workhorse? Indeed, the word canvas itself is derived from cannabis. Unfortunately, harvesting hemp was expensive since it was done by hand. With the invention of the cotton gin, hemp was soon taken over by the burgeoning cotton industry. Due to its strength, hemp still had many industrial uses but the post-WWII market decreased the value of hemp even more. To further the plant’s demise, it became synonymous with its psychoactive cousin marijuana and farming of hemp was banned in Canada with the exception of a select few cultivars until the 1990’s.

The hardiness of the plant, along with assistance from birds and other animals created a wild relative of hemp known as ditch weed. People have been known to harvest and smoke it, but the low THC levels of the plant make it more of a calming, rather than hallucinogenic experience.

The Industrial Hemp Regulations, which came into effect in 1998, gave licensed growers permission to harvest only the seed and fibre of hemp for industrial and food applications. They were prohibited from harvesting the CBD. Under the 2018 Cannabis Act, licensed hemp growers are now permitted to harvest the branches, leaves and flowers. For this reason, hemp has the potential to be a more lucrative crop than marijuana as all parts of the plant can be used. There are other key differences between the two plants which helps to distinguish them.

Physical differences

Hemp is a tall, hardy plant with long, thin leaves. It tends to be lighter in colour. Marijuana is relatively shorter, bushier with more flowers and buds. The leaves are broad and wide, while the buds are dense and tightly packed. And while marijuana needs to be cultivated indoors to produce female plants that yield many buds or flowers, hemp can be grown outdoors to achieve maximum size and yield.


Both hemp and marijuana produce the cannabinoid CBD (cannabidiol). The difference lies in the concentration of the other main cannabinoid, THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). In hemp there is less than 0.3% (dry weight) of the hallucinogenic THC, whereas marijuana contains more than 0.3% and up to 30%.  Cannabis contains hundreds of compounds including over 100 cannabinoids.  THC and CBD are the most common, but it’s the combination of all these cannabinoids plus the presence of terpenes (the component that gives each cannabis plant it’s distinct smell) that determine the therapeutic or psychotropic effect the plant has on the body.


Marijuana is typically consumed by those wishing to experience the psychoactive effects of cannabis. The Cannabis Act makes it legal for anyone in Canada over the age of 19 to legally purchase marijuana for recreational use. Medical marijuana has been legal in Canada since 1999 and has been used to treat nausea and pain as well as many different ailments including Alzheimer’s, Crohn’s, cancer, Multiple Sclerosis and anorexia.

Hemp is the more versatile of the cannabis strains as every part of the plant has a variety of uses. Rope, paper, lotions and clothing are just a few of the products that can be made from the leaves, seeds, stalk and roots.

hemp vesus marijuana what are the differences for beauty and skincare

empyri is the first company to use cannabis roots (both hemp and marijuana) in consumer products. Cannabis roots have a long history of therapeutic use in Traditional Chinese Medicine. And now through the use of advanced scientific methods, empyri offers you all the benefits of the cannabis root in one clean and conscious brand.

Because you are loved. 


  1. https://www.mit.edu/~thistle/v13/2/history.html
  2. https://www.thegrowthop.com/cannabis-culture/hempnomics-is-hemp-legal-in-canada-how-is-it-different-than-cannabis-and-whats-to-come
  3. https://manitobaharvest.com/hemp-academy/lessons/hemp-history-timeline/
  4. https://www.jennysbakedathome.com/ditch-weed/
  5. https://www.visualcapitalist.com/anatomy-cannabis-plant/
  6. https://globalnews.ca/news/4569831/cannabis-legalization-hemp-industry/
Jennifer Grant with Hemp Roots


Author Bio: Jennifer is the president and founder of empyri.  Jennifer’s passion for formulation and product development was set ablaze in 2019, when she incorporated the healing power of cannabis roots into her long-standing three-step skin care system. Armed with scientific evidence on the actives in cannabis roots and seeds, a clean and conscious brand was born. Using her masters degree in bio-chemical engineering, Jennifer is forging a path to ...READ FULL BIO