Cannabis sativa - L.
Other English Common Names: Hemp
Other Common Names: marijuana
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s): Cannabis sativa L. (TSN 19109)
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.131607
Element Code: PDCNB04010
Informal Taxonomy: Plants, Vascular - Flowering Plants - Other flowering plants
Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus
Plantae Anthophyta Dicotyledoneae Urticales Cannabaceae Cannabis
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Concept Reference
Concept Reference: Kartesz, J.T. 1994. A synonymized checklist of the vascular flora of the United States, Canada, and Greenland. 2nd edition. 2 vols. Timber Press, Portland, OR.
Concept Reference Code: B94KAR01HQUS
Name Used in Concept Reference: Cannabis sativa
Conservation Status

NatureServe Status

Global Status: GNR
Global Status Last Reviewed: 08Sep2002
Global Status Last Changed: 08Sep2002
Rounded Global Status: GNR - Not Yet Ranked
Reasons: Native of central Asia, naturalized through much of North America as well as other regions of the world. Important economic crop, grown for source of drugs or fibers.
Nation: United States
National Status: NNA
Nation: Canada
National Status: NNA (12Oct2016)

U.S. & Canada State/Province Status
United States Alabama (SNA), Arkansas (SNA), California (SNA), Colorado (SNA), Connecticut (SNA), Delaware (SNA), District of Columbia (SNA), Florida (SNA), Georgia (SNR), Hawaii (SNA), Idaho (SNA), Illinois (SNA), Indiana (SNA), Iowa (SNA), Kansas (SNA), Kentucky (SNA), Louisiana (SNA), Maine (SNA), Maryland (SNA), Massachusetts (SNR), Michigan (SNA), Minnesota (SNA), Missouri (SNA), Montana (SNA), Nebraska (SNA), New Hampshire (SNA), New Jersey (SNA), New Mexico (SNA), New York (SNA), North Carolina (SNA), North Dakota (SNA), Ohio (SNA), Oklahoma (SNA), Oregon (SNA), Pennsylvania (SNA), Rhode Island (SNA), South Carolina (SNA), South Dakota (SNA), Tennessee (SNA), Texas (SNA), Utah (SNA), Vermont (SNA), Virginia (SNA), Washington (SNA), West Virginia (SNA), Wisconsin (SNA), Wyoming (SNA)
Canada Alberta (SNA), British Columbia (SNA), Manitoba (SNA), New Brunswick (SNA), Ontario (SNA), Quebec (SNA)

Other Statuses

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

U.S. States and Canadian Provinces
Color legend for Distribution Map
NOTE: The distribution shown may be incomplete, particularly for some rapidly spreading exotic species.

U.S. & Canada State/Province Distribution
United States ALexotic, ARexotic, CAexotic, COexotic, CTexotic, DCexotic, DEexotic, FLexotic, GA, HIexotic, IAexotic, IDexotic, ILexotic, INexotic, KSexotic, KYexotic, LAexotic, MA, MDexotic, MEexotic, MIexotic, MNexotic, MOexotic, MTexotic, NCexotic, NDexotic, NEexotic, NHexotic, NJexotic, NMexotic, NYexotic, OHexotic, OKexotic, ORexotic, PAexotic, RIexotic, SCexotic, SDexotic, TNexotic, TXexotic, UTexotic, VAexotic, VTexotic, WAexotic, WIexotic, WVexotic, WYexotic
Canada ABexotic, BCexotic, MBexotic, NBexotic, ONexotic, QCexotic

Range Map
No map available.

Ecology & Life History Not yet assessed
Economic Attributes Not yet assessed
Management Summary Not yet assessed
Population/Occurrence Delineation Not yet assessed
Population/Occurrence Viability
U.S. Invasive Species Impact Rank (I-Rank)
Disclaimer: While I-Rank information is available over NatureServe Explorer, NatureServe is not actively developing or maintaining these data. Species with I-RANKs do not represent a random sample of species exotic in the United States; available assessments may be biased toward those species with higher-than-average impact.

I-Rank: Medium/Low
Rounded I-Rank: Medium
I-Rank Reasons Summary: Cannabis sativa is an unusual case for invasiveness ranking. In non-cultivated situations, C. sativa appears to be widespread throughout the US region, but in relatively poor quality habitats, giving it the common name "ditchweed." These plants are most likely offspring of the industrial hemp crops of the 1930's and 1940's. Some cultivated forms of C. sativa are grown on national forest, park and private lands, usually in the pristine mountain watersheds. The actual cultivation and the steps that law enforcement agencies take to remove C. sativa may be of conservation concern, but irrelevant to the IRANK. Plants that may escape from these cultivated fields, are of more concern as they are in otherwise pristine areas. It is unclear as to the frequency of these plants and if they have any significant effect on biodiversity.
Subrank I - Ecological Impact: Low/Insignificant
Subrank II - Current Distribution/Abundance: Medium
Subrank III - Trend in Distribution/Abundance: Medium/Low
Subrank IV - Management Difficulty: Medium
I-Rank Review Date: 16Aug2004
Evaluator: Fellows, M.
Native anywhere in the U.S?
Native Range: Native of Asia (Whitson et al. 1996).

Download "An Invasive Species Assessment Protocol: Evaluating Non-Native Plants for their Impact on Biodiversity". (PDF, 1.03MB)
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Screening Questions

S-1. Established outside cultivation as a non-native? YES
Comments: Established throughout the U.S. (Kartesz 1999).

S-2. Present in conservation areas or other native species habitat? Yes
Comments: Reported from Glen Canyon National Recreation Area (Utah) (Plant Conservation Alliance 2003). Also, C. sativa is regularly cultivated in natural areas on public lands; these cultivated plots are likely sources for escapes. Reported as naturalized throughout the U.S. (Flora of North America Editorial Committee 1997), perhaps as a result of persistent plants from a U.S. government crop subsidy during World War II (Armentano 1998).

Subrank I - Ecological Impact: Low/Insignificant

1. Impact on Ecosystem Processes and System-wide Parameters:Low significance/Insignificant
Comments: Some cultivated varieties are known to release long-acting chemicals into the soil that prevent other species germination for at least one year (Armentano 1998), however there are no reports of feral C. sativa having negative effects on ecosystem processes.

2. Impact on Ecological Community Structure:Low significance/Insignificant
Comments: Cultivated C. sativa can reach over 20 ft in height, and be planted so densly that the plant doesn't produce leaves, but feral C. sativa is usally much shorter.

3. Impact on Ecological Community Composition:Low significance/Insignificant
Comments: Cultivated C. sativa can be dense enough to exclude all other vegetation, however there are no reports of feral C. sativa affecting native community composition.

4. Impact on Individual Native Plant or Animal Species:Low significance/Insignificant
Comments: There are no reports.

5. Conservation Significance of the Communities and Native Species Threatened:Medium/Low significance
Comments: Most occurences are in waste places with low habitat quality, but also occurs in open woods from 0 -2000m (Flora of North America Editorial Committee 1997). May be found in riparian areas (Miller 1991).

Subrank II. Current Distribution and Abundance: Medium

6. Current Range Size in Nation:High significance
Comments: Inferred from Kartesz (1999), Flora of North America (1997) and county distribution maps on the Plants Database (NRCS 2004).

7. Proportion of Current Range Where the Species is Negatively Impacting Biodiversity:Low significance/Insignificant
Comments: "Wild" ditchweed appears to be common in old fields or roadside right-of-ways, having little effect, despite the widespread abundance. Escapes from cultivated C. sativa may have a much more significant, if narrow, effect because of its presence in high quality natural habitats.

8. Proportion of Nation's Biogeographic Units Invaded:High significance
Comments: Occurs in at least 36 ecoregions, but in potentially many more. Inferred from Kartesz (1999), TNC (2001) and the Plants Database (NRCS 2004).

9. Diversity of Habitats or Ecological Systems Invaded in Nation:High/Moderate significance
Comments: Disturbed human-created habitats (farmyards, roadsides, railways, vacant lots, fallow fields) and less frequently in open woods (Flora of North America Editorial Committee 1997).

Subrank III. Trend in Distribution and Abundance: Medium/Low

10. Current Trend in Total Range within Nation:Medium/Low significance
Comments: Inferred from current range (Kartesz 1999) and the low inherent ability to invade.

11. Proportion of Potential Range Currently Occupied:Moderate significance
Comments: Cannibis sativa outside of cultivation is apparently limited to disturbed sites (Miller 1991), therefore, although widespread, it is probably limited in it's current range.

12. Long-distance Dispersal Potential within Nation:High significance
Comments: Spread by human cultivation or through animal (e.g. livestock, bird) dispersal (Miller 1991).

13. Local Range Expansion or Change in Abundance:Low significance/Insignificant
Comments: Local expansion is limited to area of disturbance (Miller 1991).

14. Inherent Ability to Invade Conservation Areas and Other Native Species Habitats:Low significance
Comments: Germination requires disturbed soils as in cultivated fields or riparian areas (Miller 1991).

15. Similar Habitats Invaded Elsewhere:High/Low significance
Comments: Cannabis sativa is cultivated, and therefore likely to escape, throughout the world.

16. Reproductive Characteristics:Low significance/Insignificant
Comments: Seed bank is not viable beyond 3 years (Miller 1991).

Subrank IV. General Management Difficulty: Medium

17. General Management Difficulty:Moderate significance
Comments: Unlike most non-native species, it is illegal to grow Cannabis sativa in the US region. Because of the laws against C. sativa, there is a significant budget and effort to eradicate plants. In 1996, the DEA spent over $9 million attempting to eradicate C. sativa (Armentano 1998). There are two main varieties of C. sativa, that grown for the drug effect and the "wild" plants that are thought to be persistent leftovers from the widespread World War II hemp fiber crops (Armentano 1998). Both offer separate concerns for eradication.
The DEA have used herbicides (2,4-D, glycophoate, and paraquat) to control C. sativa (Edmundson 1998). Prosecution for drug crimes requires the root ball to be present as evidence, therefore, the DEA also digs up individual plants (M. Nemier, pers. comm. 2004). Hand pulling (of ditchweed) and mechanical removal (both forms) should also be possible.

18. Minimum Time Commitment:Low significance
Comments: Cannabis sativa is an annual plant without a long-lived seed bank (Miller 1991).

19. Impacts of Management on Native Species:High/Moderate significance
Comments: Armentano (1998) expresses some concern for native plants from non-target herbicide effects. Given it is often law enforcement and not natural areas managers using the herbicides, there may be a higher incidence of non-target damage. Herbicide is probably one of the least used methods of control (M. Nemier, pers. comm. 2004).

20. Accessibility of Invaded Areas:High significance
Comments: "Wild" ditchweed is extremely accessible and often on roadsides. Cultivated C. sativa may be protected by armed guards (Brice 2002; Markey 2003).
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Edition Date: 08May1991
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Author: Broaddus, Lynn (1991)

Botanical data developed by NatureServe and its network of natural heritage programs (see Local Programs), The North Carolina Botanical Garden, and other contributors and cooperators (see Sources).

  • Armentano, P. 1998. Public Testimony of NORML Opposing U.S. Government's Domestic Hemp Eradiction Program. Presented to The United States Department of Agriculture, APHIS May 27, 1998. Available ONLINE Accessed 2004.

  • Brice, J. 2002. Cartels Replacing Hippies as Pot Farmers. Associated Press. Available ONLINE: Accesssed 2004.

  • Edmundson, J. 1998. Drug Enforcement Agency Readies Itself to Eradicate Cannabis with Herbicides. Pesticides and You. News from the National Coalition Against the Misuse of Pesticides (NCAMP). 18(1&2):5.

  • Flora of North America Editorial Committee. 1997. Flora of North America north of Mexico. Vol. 3. Magnoliophyta: Magnoliidae and Hamamelidae. Oxford Univ. Press, New York. xxiii + 590 pp.

  • Kartesz, J.T. 1994. A synonymized checklist of the vascular flora of the United States, Canada, and Greenland. 2nd edition. 2 vols. Timber Press, Portland, OR.

  • Kartesz, J.T. 1996. Species distribution data at state and province level for vascular plant taxa of the United States, Canada, and Greenland (accepted records), from unpublished data files at the North Carolina Botanical Garden, December, 1996.

  • Kartesz, J.T. 1999. A synonymized checklist and atlas with biological attributes for the vascular flora of the United States, Canada, and Greenland. First edition. In: Kartesz, J.T., and C.A. Meacham. Synthesis of the North American Flora, Version 1.0. North Carolina Botanical Garden, Chapel Hill, N.C.

  • Markey, S. 2003. Marijuana war smolders on U.S. public lands. National Geographic News. Available ONLINE: Accessed 2004.

  • Miller, R. L. 1991. Hemp as a crop for Missouri farmers. Markets, economics, cultivation, law. Report to Agriculture Task Force Missouri House of Representatives Summer 1991. Available ONLINE: Accessed 2004.

  • Plant Conservation Alliance. 2003. Alien plant invaders of natural areas. Last updated August 2003. Available at: Accessed 2004.

  • The Nature Conservancy. 2001. Map: TNC Ecoregions of the United States. Modification of Bailey Ecoregions. Online . Accessed May 2003.

  • USDA, NRCS. 2004. The PLANTS Database, Version 3.5 ( . National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA.

  • Whitson, T.D. (ed.), L.C. Burrill, S.A. Dewey, D.W. Cudney, B.E. Nelson, R.D. Lee, R. Parker. 1996. Weeds of the West. 5th edition. The Western Society of Weed Science in cooperation with the Western United States Land Grant Universities Cooperative Extension Services, Newark, CA. 630 pp.

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