There tends to be a lot of confusion regarding plant terminology these days, and despite the fact that hemp and marijuana come from the same family, their differences are vast.
Generally speaking, most folks are aware of the basic facts about marijuana and hemp but their knowledge doesn’t extend much further, as they often have a tendency to use marijuana and cannabis interchangeably, resulting in confusion.
Cannabis is a species of a plant including all aspects of the plant. The Cannabis plant has different strains, and the strains that get you stoned are referred to as marijuana. Cannabis also has strains bred for industrial use which are referred to as hemp.
Cannabis is a family of plants with two primary classifications — Indica and Sativa. Hemp and Marijuana are species of Cannabis that are both members of the Cannabis Sativa family.
Due to Hemp and Marijuana both deriving from the Cannabis Sativa family, they do share certain similarities; however, due to each plant’s biological structure, they have several very distinct and crucial differences.
There are a few major distinguishable differences between the strains of cannabis that produce hemp and marijuana. Marijuana features broad leaves, dense buds and has a short, bushy appearance. In stark contrast, Hemp features skinny leaves that are concentrated towards the top of the plant and grows taller and skinnier than Marijuana, with few branches beneath its upper portion.
Hemp is completely different from marijuana in its function, cultivation and application. Although cannabis is a drug and industrial hemp both derive from the species “Cannabis Sativa” and contain the psychoactive component tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), they are distinct strains with unique chemical compositions and uses. Hemp has lower concentrations of THC and higher concentrations of cannabidiol (otherwise referred to as CBD), which decreases or eliminates its psychoactive effects entirely.
Marijuana plants contain 5-20 percent THC on average, and if it contains less than 0.3 percent THC it is hemp, and more than 0.3 is marijuana. In most of the United States, the required THC content for hemp to be classified as legal is 0.3%, while in much of the rest of the world it is 0.2%.
Marijuana is abundant in THC, thus it is naturally grown for its psychoactive properties, whether it be for recreational or medicinal use. It can be smoked, inhaled, ingested or injected directly into the body. THC is also commonly extracted from the plant and used in a variety of methods including vaporizers, capsules, edibles and more.
Although there are small degrees of THC in hemp, there isn’t enough of it to create an effect or get you stoned if you smoke it. Hemp is grown primarily for industrial purposes, while Marijuana is grown for recreational and medicinal purposes.
Hemp was one of the first plants to be spun into usable fiber 10,000 years ago and has over 25,000 documented uses. It is a sacred plant used to create a variety of commercial and industrial products including rope, textiles, clothing, shoes, food, paper, bio-plastics, insulation, and bio-fuel.
The bast fibers can be used to make textiles that are 100% hemp, but they are commonly blended with other fibers such as flax, cotton, silk as well as virgin and recycled polyester which is typically utilized to make woven fabrics for apparel and furnishings.
The inner two fibers of the plant are woodier and typically have industrial applications such as mulch, animal bedding and litter. When oxidized hemp oil from the seeds becomes solid and can be used in the manufacturing processes of oil-based paints, creams as a moisturizing agent, cooking, and in plastics. Hemp seeds have been used in bird feed mix as well.
Hemp seeds are also becoming more popular for those who desire wellness and health. They are rich in nutrients and fiber and can be eaten raw, ground into hemp meal, sprouted or made into dried sprout powder. The leaves of the hemp plant can be consumed raw in salads. Hemp seeds can also be made into a liquid and used for baking or for beverages such as hemp milk, hemp juice, and tea. Hemp oil is cold-pressed from the seed and is high in unsaturated fatty acids.
With the fast-growing popularity of CBD across the globe, hemp is also used to produce a wide variety of THC-free CBD products to help benefit the health of many.
The earliest cultivation of the hemp plant known to date was roughly 10,000 years ago in what is now known as Taiwan. Hemp is an extremely durable plant, whereas the weed plant has flowers. Until the 20th century hemp plants were harvested for strong fibers and 80 percent of the world’s textiles and fabrics were in fact made of hemp.
75-90 percent of the world’s paper in the world before 1883 was made of hemp fibers, and it was even considered to be legal tender up until the 1800s. At the time you could even pay your taxes in hemp, and when European settlers first made it to Canada they were required to grow hemp in Virginia, Massachusetts, and Connecticut due to their mandatory hemp growing laws in the early 1600s.
Hemp and marijuana came from the same plant and as a result the industrial cultivation of hemp was banned with the passing of the controlled substances act of the 1970’s classifying cannabis as a schedule 1 drug.
More recently Trump signed an agriculture bill that allows the legislative to make CBD legal at a federal level, the bill also allows farmers to legally grow industrial hemp again.
Legalizing hemp in the states could easily result in doubling or tripling domestic cultivation and easily improve the economy and environment. There really is no reason not to re-integrate it into society.
It’s amazing when we take the time to consider the versatility and power of one seemingly simple plant. The power that cannabis can have is unimaginable, and it is mother nature’s gift to us. It’s so ingrained into the fabric of our culture, thus it is a monument and symbol of our collective human history. I firmly believe that we need to re-integrate it’s use back into our society in a deeper way, embracing all of the fantastic gifts that this incredible plant desires to offer us.