How to Identify Hemp Buds.

While marijuana and hemp are both from the same family and genus, hemp is classified as cannabis with less than 0.3% Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. Hemp buds often contain a high amount of Cannabidiol, or CBD, meaning they may calm you and relieve pain, but they won’t give you a typical “high” that comes from THC. The only surefire way to know if your buds are hemp or marijuana is to get them tested in a lab, but you can use context clues and your best judgement to see for yourself. Be sure to check the regulations in your state and county to see if hemp or marijuana buds are legal to own and cultivate where you live.


Examining Physical Characteristics

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    Look for a light shade of red or purple to find hemp buds. While both hemp buds and marijuana buds are primarily green, hemp buds can often have a shade of red or light purple mixed in. Dark purple buds are more likely to be marijuana.

    • It is often impossible to differentiate marijuana and hemp based solely on physical characteristics. While it can steer you in the right direction, the only surefire way to tell the difference is with a chemical composition test.
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    Check to see if the buds have small, crystallized hairs on them. Trichomes are the small crystallized hairs that grow on the outside of the cannabis flowers. Sometimes you can see them with the naked eye, but other times, you’ll need a magnifying glass to really zoom in. If there are a lot of trichomes on the buds or they have a frosty look to them, there’s a good chance that the buds are hemp.

    • A lot of trichomes indicates the potency of the CBD in the flower, which is why more trichomes can mean a higher CBD content.
    • A lot of trichomes doesn’t automatically mean it’s a hemp bud, so use caution with this characteristic.
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    Find skinny leaves growing on the cannabis plant. If you can see the plant that the buds grew on, look for the typical marijuana leaves with 5 to 9 clustered leaflets, only skinnier. If they’re thin, spindly, and serrated, chances are that you’re looking at a hemp plant.

    • Long, thin leaves can also indicate a sativa strain of marijuana, so looking at the leaves isn’t a perfect science.
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    Look for fewer branches or leaves below the top part of the plant. While marijuana plants will grow into a bush or shrub shape, hemp plants often keep their branches and leaves near the top 1/3 of the plant. If most of the leaves are clustered near the top part of the plant, there’s a good chance that it’s a hemp plant.

    • Again, this could also be an indication that it’s a sativa plant, so it’s not a surefire way to tell hemp apart.
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    Assume that the plant is hemp if it’s around 20 feet (6.1 m) tall. Since most marijuana plants grow into a shrub shape, they’re usually shorter and closer to the ground. If the plant is around 20 feet (6.1 m) tall, it could be a hemp plant, since they tend to have longer stalks and deeper roots.

    • Hemp plants usually reach their peak height in early to mid August.

Looking at Chemical Composition

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    Look for CBD products to indicate hemp buds. While marijuana buds are primarily smoked or eaten, hemp buds are usually used in skin and body care, textiles, paper construction, and supplements. While some of these products can contain marijuana buds, they often contain hemp buds because of the high CBD content.

    • Most of these products will have the CBD and THC content written on the back somewhere, so you can check it before you buy.
    • Hemp has over 25,000 possible applications.
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    Ask about the THC content to see if they’re hemp buds. If you’re at a dispensary or a grower, ask the seller about the THC content of the buds. If they have less than 0.3% THC in them, they’re technically hemp buds.

    • THC is the component in marijuana that gives you a typical high.
    • Legal marijuana strains often contain 5%-20% THC.
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    Clarify if there’s a high amount of CBD in the buds. Along with a low amount of THC, hemp buds also usually have a high CBD content. If there’s 20% or more CBD in the buds, they’re probably hemp buds.

    • CBD is a calming, soothing chemical that can help lower anxiety and relieve pain.
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    Send the buds to a lab to get the chemical content tested. Unfortunately, the only surefire way to know whether your buds are hemp or marijuana buds is to have their THC and CBD content tested. Get in contact with a marijuana testing lab and send them a sample of your buds to see what the chemical composition is. If they contain less than 0.3% THC, then they are definitely hemp buds.