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What is the difference between Hemp and Cannabis

Aug 21, 2020 10:07:00 AM

The cannabis industry seems like it's been exploding with each state that passes laws that legalize medical or recreational marijuana. This has provided millions of people access to cannabis medicine though marijuana is still federally illegal and considered a schedule one narcotic. To add to the wave of the booming cannabis industry, the 2018 farm bill made industrial hemp federally legal. While these advancements are positive, we are still feeling the growing pains of the slow legalization of hemp and marijuana. The uneven legal landscape paired with the advancing industry have led to confusion regarding the differences between hemp and regulated cannabis.

Cannabis in the name and history

Technically speaking, both are cannabis because Cannabaceae is the family of plants that these two categories fall under. There are multiple varieties of cannabis that have been debated throughout history. The most well known are; Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, and Cannabis ruderalis. The “hemp” variety is called Cannabis sativa l. While the majority of people are more familiar with Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica, Cannabis sativa l is actually by far the oldest. Cannabis is one of the oldest plants that people have cultivated. According to an article by MIT, it is the oldest plant cultivated specifically for textiles.
A hemp cloth was discovered in ancient Mesopotamia dating back to 8,000 BC. We have evidence from ancient China that hemp is also the oldest industry in general. This comes from evidence from Emperor Shen-Nung (2,700 BC) who taught his people to cultivate hemp. It is also legend that he discovered the medicinal properties of the plant. It is believed that cannabis spread across the globe from central Asia and the plants mutated over time to adapt to the various climates that we know as native homes of landrace strains today. Since hemp and THC containing plants are both considered cannabis, we’ll refer to the THC rich varieties as marijuana. 

Legal differences

The legal difference between marijuana and hemp is purely chemical. According to the farm bill that federally legalized hemp in 2018, in order for an industrial hemp product to be considered hemp, it must contain less than .3% THC. Hemp plants can produce higher amounts of THC, in which case the products cannot be sold since hemp products.This is because any hemp containing more than.3% THC are considered to me marijuana and are illegal. This is also the case in states that have legalized marijuana for recreational purposes as these plants fall outside of the strictly regulated marijuana industry. Since the 2018 farm bill was passed CBD products and CBD stores have popped up across the United States. Not all states have welcomed the industrial hemp industry and have passed laws banning all CBD products. 

Myths and Facts

  • Myth: CBD is not at all psychoactive.

By definition, a psychoactive substance is any compound that works with the central nervous system and makes changes to perception, mood, or behavior. Under this definition CBD is technically psychoactive, but it doesn’t work the same way as THC. CBD can change our mood, but doesn’t get us high. 

  • Myth: All CBD products are the same.

This is a huge myth. Just like any product there will be higher and lower quality, and different formulas. Some companies that sell CBD don’t actually produce the hemp that their products are made from or make the products themselves. This can be an issue because when a company puts a label on a product in that way, there is no way to stand behind its quality. There is also the matter of isolated CBD and broad spectrum CBD oil. Broad spectrum has all of the cannabinoids present (minus THC). 

  • Myth: CBD is the only therapeutic part of the cannabis plant

It has been proven that there are many other cannabinoids in the cannabis plant that are therapeutic including THC, DBG, CBC, THCA, and CBN. CBD is just one of two most abundant cannabinoids present in the cannabis plant. 

  • Myth: Hemp is the male cannabis plant

As we’ve discussed above, hemp plants are their own variety of cannabis plant rather than a different gender. Cannabis sativa l can be both male or female and still be considered hemp. 

  • Myth: You can’t smoke hemp. Hemp is only used for its fiber.

While industrial hemp is made for its fiber and for creating textiles, it is also cultivated for CBD. The hemp plant produces flowers just like the marijuana plant. The flowers or “buds” are dried and can be smoked the same way as marijuana, only the THC is missing. 

  • Myth: Hemp and cannabis can cure anything!

It has been proven that cannabis can be used as a medicine to treat a wide range of conditions, it is not a cure all. This myth is dangerous and should be smashed. If you think cannabis might help with a condition, please reach out to a qualified physician. 

  • Fact: Hemp pants were used to clean the soil at Chernobyl. 

This one sounds absolutely false, but it’s true! According to Charlotte’s Web, hemp plants were used along with phytoremediation technology to clean the soil of Chernobyl! 

  • Fact: Many of the founding fathers grew and consumed hemp. 

This one is absolutely true! In the beginning, King James ordered that residents of the new world grow 100 hemp plants for export. The presidential love for hemp didn’t stop there. James Monroe, James Madison, and Abraham Lincoln all were known to smoke hemp. 

Hemp and marijuana are subtly different, but are beneficial in their own unique ways. The regulated cannabis industry and the industrial hemp industry are both in the midst of unprecedented growth and with that growth comes confusion. Either way, it is a wonderful thing to experience this history unfolding before our eyes. 

Topics: cannabis 101 hemp

Rio Kaplan
Written by Rio Kaplan

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