Although science doesn’t see a difference between hemp and cannabis, the law does, and this is purely down to the amount of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content.
For so long now, decades in fact, it’s been a common misconception that the two are a different species of plant when, in fact, they are two names for the same type of plant from the Cannabaceae family.
While science doesn’t differentiate between “hemp” and “marijuana,” the law does.
Primarily responsible for the ‘high’ users have with cannabis, THC is one of many chemicals in the cannabis plant.
What is hemp?
The definition of hemp was first proposed in 1979.
‘The Species Problem in Cannabis: Science & Semantics’ book wanted to address the issue of it being difficult to distinguish between the two (hemp and cannabis), given that no taxonomical difference exists.
Author, Ernest Small, suggested an arbitrary number of 0.3 percent THC content by dry weight, to be the differential, and this was in fact used in the legal definition specified by laws in the US and in the Agricultural Act of 2018.
Users are unlikely to get high on hemp given that the THC level is so low.
What is marijuana?
By definition, if hemp is distinguished by having less than 0.3 percent of THC, marijuana (cannabis/weed etc) has more than 0.3 percent and this will get users high.
In fact, some plants are often manipulated to give a far higher quantity of THC.
Science has yet to verify that the various plants, including Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica which have their own purported characteristics and effects.
Those people who are instantly opposed to even the thought of cannabis being legalised, most likely due to historic and outdated attitudes, will not realise the good that it can do.
For example, hemp seed is high in fibre and extremely nutritious, and therefore a great source of protein.
Further, clothing, paper, plastics, textiles and food products (hemp protein powder, hemp milk etc) can all be made from a hemp plant with less then 0.3 percent THC.
The higher strains of THC are often used to assist with pain management, whilst there are some strains which are low in THC but higher in other cannabinoids, and in these cases, cannabidiol (CBD) may produce a beneficial effect but won’t allow the user to get high.
The latter would only be achieved by smoking the cannabis flower, or eating a cannabis edible with enough THC.
It’s also worth pondering on how hemp is a plant that grows quicker than trees and is therefore often considered to be a more sustainable way of making paper and the like.
In the US for example, the 2018 Farm Bill made hemp-derived CBD products federally legal throughout the country, as well as the growing of hemp (containing less than 0.3 percent THC).
Marijuana (containing more than 0.3 percent THC) still isn’t federally legal. Furthermore, certain states will allow cannabis to be used both recreationally and medicinally, whilst others will allow it for medicinal purposes only.
In some it’s still completely illegal, as it is throughout much of the western world, even though attitudes are beginning to change.
It’s long been contended that Cannabidiol (CBD) has numerous health benefits.
Most people will have seen Parkinson’s Disease sufferers miraculously stop shaking as a result of using cannabis oils or similar for example.
All cannabis plants will have an amount of CBD in them, meaning that they can be derived from either marijuana or hemp, albeit CBD products can only be classified as legal (in certain countries/states) if they contain less than 0.3 percent THC.
CBD can be derived from both hemp and marijuana plants. Both are the same species.
Hemp contains 0.3 percent THC or less, marijuana contains more than 0.3 percent.