Member Blog: Hemp and Marijuana Genetics – A Closer Look At The Differences

by George Mouratidis, Industrial Hemp Farms There are many ways to classify cannabis variants, but the most popular distinction is between hemp and marijuana. Although most of us take these classifications for granted, perhaps you’ve wondered if they are really…
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by George Mouratidis, Industrial Hemp Farms

There are many ways to classify cannabis variants, but the most popular distinction is between hemp and marijuana. Although most of us take these classifications for granted, perhaps you’ve wondered if they are really legit? Put another way: are there real genetic and anatomical differences between marijuana and hemp? And, if so, what are they?

The hemp/marijuana classification is still a major debate within the cannabis community. Although up-to-date research suggests there are genetic differences, critics contend these distinctions have much more to do with legality than botany.

To better understand the complexity of the hemp v. marijuana classification, let’s quickly go through a primer on the cannabis genus. Afterward, we’ll take a closer look at the differences often associated with hemp v. marijuana and why these terms have gained such prominence.

The Basics Of Cannabis Distinctions

The first thing we should clear up is that the word “cannabis” is reserved for the plant genus. This means that both hemp and marijuana technically fall under the cannabis label. For many years, botanists have categorized the cannabis genus into the following three groups:

Cannabis sativa Cannabis indica Cannabis ruderalis

Of these three, sativa and indica are probably the most familiar to you. Usually, cannabis connoisseurs draw the sativa v. indica distinction to help differentiate the physiological effects of each strain. Sativa-heavy strains are said to be more energizing while indicas are supposedly more sedating.

It’s important to remember, however, that sativas and indicas were first split up due to their flowering patterns and features. Here are just a few of the key distinctions often ascribed to these two cannabis variants:

Indicas Short Fat leaves Fast-growing Enjoys mild climate Sativas Tall Thin leaves Slow-growing Enjoys a humid climate

Ruderalis is a shrub-like variety of cannabis that evolved in harsh northern environments. Due to its history in regions with little light or warmth, ruderalis strains evolved unique genetics that allows them to flower automatically rather than relying on specific amounts of light.

Cultivators nowadays cross-breed ruderalis strains with indicas, sativas, or hybrids to create what are known as “autoflowering seeds.” These auto varieties are convenient due to their predictable flowering period, but they tend to have fewer cannabinoids than standard sativas or indicas. Most often new cannabis cultivators use auto seeds to gain valuable growing experience.

Hemp v. Marijuana: The Legal Distinction

So, why do we need

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