THC vs. CBD | Organic Maine CBD Products | Casco Bay Hemp

There tends to be a lot of confusion around the terms cannabis, hemp, and marijuana. This confusion is understandable given the emerging nature of these markets and the inconsistent naming conventions, especially when government standards are not clearly defined or uniformly enforced.


Cannabis is defined by the Oxford dictionary as a tall plant with a stiff upright stem, divided serrated leaves, and glandular hairs. This plant is used to produce both hemp fiber and as a drug. The word “cannabis” originates from the Greek word “kannabis,” which later became the Latin word “cannabis.” This broad definition encompasses all uses of the plant, whether for industrial purposes or for its psychoactive properties. Essentially, both hemp and marijuana fall under the umbrella of cannabis.

The versatility of the cannabis plant means it can be cultivated and utilized in various forms. It can be processed into products like textiles, rope, and paper, as well as for medicinal and recreational drugs. This wide range of uses is why the term “cannabis” is often used as an overarching term for anything derived from this plant.


The term hemp has a long and evolving history. Traditionally, hemp referred specifically to the cannabis plant when it was grown for its fiber, which was used in a wide variety of products such as clothing, ropes, paper, grain bags, and wagon covers. The fiber from the hemp plant is extremely strong and versatile, making it a valuable resource for many industries.

The Oxford dictionary defines hemp as the cannabis plant, especially when grown for fiber. The etymology of the word “hemp” comes from Old English “henep” and is related to the Dutch “hennep” and German “Hanf,” which also connect back to the Greek “kannabis.”

Today, the definition of hemp has expanded. In the context of modern markets, hemp refers not only to the plant grown for industrial fiber but also to those varieties of cannabis that contain very low levels of THC (less than 0.3% by weight, according to U.S. federal law). This includes various non-psychoactive extracts like CBD, CBN, and CBG. These extracts have gained popularity for their potential health benefits and are used in a wide range of products from oils and supplements to skincare items.

Despite its long history and many uses, hemp production in the United States was severely restricted by the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937. This act lumped hemp together with other forms of cannabis, leading to its decline as a major agricultural product. However, recent changes in legislation, such as the 2018 Farm Bill, have begun to revive the hemp industry.


In the United States, the term marijuana has a more complex and politically charged history. The word itself originated from Mexican Americans who used the term “marihuana” to describe the method of smoking cannabis through cigarettes. This method, popularized in Mexico, was found to produce milder and more controllable effects compared to smoking hashish or ingesting it sublingually.

During the early 20th century, the term “marijuana” was co-opted by anti-cannabis factions in the United States. It was used strategically to associate the plant with Mexican immigrants and to stoke xenophobic fears. This negative connotation played a significant role in the successful effort to ban the plant through legislation like the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937.

Today, some advocacy groups argue that the term “marijuana” is tied to these historical racial prejudices and should no longer be used. They advocate for the use of the term “cannabis” in state statutes and official documents. The Oxford dictionary defines marijuana as cannabis, especially when smoked or consumed as a psychoactive drug. The word “marijuana” comes from Latin American Spanish and dates back to the late 19th century.

Why the Confusion?

The confusion around these terms arises from the patchwork of laws and regulations in the United States. The federal government has not moved forward with comprehensive regulation of cannabis at a national level, leading to a situation where each state creates its own laws and definitions. When state laws are passed, the terms and definitions used in those laws become legally binding within that state.

This lack of standardization leads to a multitude of definitions that are not standardized, creating confusion in the marketplace and making it difficult for consumers and businesses to navigate the legal landscape.

In summary, the terms cannabis, hemp, and marijuana refer to different aspects of the same plant but are used in various contexts and have different legal implications. Understanding these distinctions is crucial for navigating the evolving legal and commercial landscape surrounding cannabis products.

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