Hemp and cannabis are both derived from the same species, which you may have heard of before, Cannabis Sativa. The first time ever that the cannabis and hemp plants were classified was by a Swiss botanist named Carl Linnaeus.
Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778) was a taxonomist, botanist, zoologist, and was known as the "father of taxonomy". He formalized binomial nomenclature, the scientific naming system we currently use. It was Linneaus who named cannabis sativa in 1753 and included the plant in his book Species Plantarum. This book included all the plants known to man at the time.
We're here to discuss the major difference in characteristics of the respective plant strains that produce industrial hemp on the one hand, and cannabis products on the other. Most people understand these differences in terms like “weed is a drug but hemp isn't”, and “hemp comes from the male plant and weed comes from the female plant.” However, the reality of the situation is a little more complex.
The main factor that determines the difference between hemp and marijuana is the amount of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) present in both. Therefore there is a difference in the chemical makeup resulting in a marked difference in the quality of intoxication or “high” cannabis provides. For the plant to be legally considered industrial hemp in most regions, the plant must have a concentration less than 0.3 THC.
However, that number is different in different countries. Industrial hemp is defined as a Cannabis sativa plant containing less than 0.3% THC in the USA. The European Union has set the limit at 0.2% THC, while in Great Britain the limit is zero THC, unless growers have a cultivation license to grow industrial hemp with no more than 0.2% THC.
0.3% was used as the benchmark for differentiating between hemp and marijuana in 1979 by Ernest Small in his novel "The Species Problem in Cannabis: Science & Semantics."
This number was chosen as it is very hard to distinguish between the two plants, as there are few taxonomic differences between the two plants. Small concluded that this number would help distinguish between the two plants, however at the end of the day the number is arbitrary.
There are other factors like the cultivation and appearance that marks the differences between the two. Marijuana and hemp can also be differentiated on the basis of their usages. Hemp is mainly used for industrial purposes whereas weed or cannabis is quite useful for medicinal and recreational purposes.
Fun Fact: CBD can be extracted from either hemp or a cannabis plant!
What is Hemp? Definition and Usages
In Short: Hemp is a strain of the Cannabis sativa plant that is grown primarily for use in industrial applications.
It has been specifically cultivated to produce a low tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content and a high cannabidiol (CBD) content.
THC is the psychoactive constituent of cannabis, and is responsible for producing the effects of the drug. CBD is another active ingredient present in Cannabis sativa plants, and it largely acts to neutralize the intoxicating effects of THC and has a lot of great health benefits, such as being anti- inflammatory, pain reducing, appetite stimulant, and much more.
Since hemp strains have very little THC and a lot of CBD (if grown to flower), they do not produce intoxicating effects when consumed.
Hemp Fibers are used for a wide range of industrial purposes including clothing and textiles to cosmetics!
Hemp also has important applications in plant-based pest control, and it has been used for many years as a natural method of controlling the growth of weeds and invasive plants. Because they have such dense growth characteristics, hemp plants effectively “crowd out” weeds that are present in the soil, killing them off without the need for pesticides.
Does Hemp Have Buds?Yes, hemp buds typically grow at the tip of the hemp stalk into dense clusters called colas.
These hemp buds or clusters of hemp buds, colas, are covered in trichomes. These trichomes produce cannabinoids and terpenes that provide a variety of benefits and therapeutic effects.
To a naked eye, hemp buds and cannabis buds look exactly a like, even their smell and taste are the same but they differ in a very important way. Hemp buds will not get you high where cannabis buds can.
Can You Smoke Hemp?
The simple answer is yes of course!
If smoking hemp, keep in mind it doesn't contain enough THC to have an intoxicating effect. However hemp does have many other cannabinoids that are efficient and enjoyable.
In fact, smoking hemp provides an added bonus. When inhaling hemp the CBD within it absorbs much faster than if you were to have an edible or use a tincture. Additionally, when CBD goes through your digestive tract some potency is lost in the process whereas if you inhale through smoking your body will be able to access a lot more CBD from the hemp.
The Endless Benefits of Hemp
Hemp is chosen for industrial purposes on the basis of several key factors.
These factors include:
- Stem Quality
- Resistance to diseases
- Resistance to pests
- Seed production per acre
- Time to cultivate their stem quality, resistance to diseases and pests, seed production per acre, time to cultivate are all taken into consideration.
Both hemp and marijuana produce cannabidiol (CBD). However, hemp produces a much higher quantity of it - this refers to CBD dominant strains of cannabis.
The cannabidiol infused oil produced from marijuana (cannabis oil) contains a high amount of THC. Therefore hemp-derived CBD oil is also accepted and used. It is used to treat problems like acne, anxiety, depression, and more.
Cannabis is still illegal in many countries, although several of these countries will permit the use of CBD products derived from hemp. Are you curious where cannabis is legal? Click here to read about where cannabis is legal in the USA, and click here to read about where cannabis is legal in Europe.
More recently, hemp has also been considered as a potential source of biofuel, and hemp plants can also be specially treated to produce ethanol or alcohol fuel. Currently, most biofuel is produced from other sources, such as cereal grains and dead plant matter. However, research into the viability of hemp as an alternative fuel source is ongoing.
It is the seeds of the cannabis plant that could be used as biofuel. Researchers at the University of Connecticut found the seeds have good qualities to be used to produce biodiesel.
Graduate students at the university produced biodiesel made with cannabis seeds and found it has a 97% conversion efficiency. Who knows, in just a few years we could be driving hemp- powered cars!
Hemp Buds for CBD Oil?
You may think that since hemp contains very little THC it's an all round better choice for CBD oil since you can take it all day long without getting "high" from the higher concentrations of THC that is found in cannabis CBD oil.
Even though that's true as cannabis CBD oil contains under 2 mg/ml of THC and hemp derived CBD oil as we know is less than 0.3% THC. Cannabis CBD oil is still used medicinally as it contains more CBD, for example 20% CBD concentration to 3.5% CBD.
However, CBD oil extracted from hemp buds is becoming more and more popular as a wellness supplement.
Thus, in order to get the same therapeutic or medicinal benefit you would have to consume a lot more hemp CBD oil than cannabis CBD oil.
In all cases, it's up to you whether you prefer cannabis CBD oil or hemp CBD oil.
A Boon For the Human Body
Hemp is also a good source of protein, vitamins, minerals, and fiber for the body. It has omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids.
Therefore due to its nutritional value hemp can be consumed in the form of raw seeds, flour, hemp milk, or oil.
Some benefits of hemp include:
- Hemp seeds are a good source of arginine, gamma-linolenic acid that is said to reduce the chances of heart diseases.
- Digestive problems can be solved by the intake of hemp seeds as hemp is quite rich in fiber.
- Hemp seeds and oil prove to be beneficial for skin problems like dry skin, eczema, etc.
- Hemp is also said to bring about hormonal balance in the body. It relieves people of problems like breast pain, depression, menopause and it's other side effects, etc.
- Hemp seeds are a superfood, meaning you could survive off consuming just the seeds!
What is Cannabis?
A short introduction: Cannabis, commonly known by other colloquial names like weed, grass, pot, Mary Jane, etc is derived from cannabis Sativa. It belongs to the Cannabaceae family and has 3 primary species-cannabis Sativa, cannabis Indica, cannabis ruderalis.
Fun Fact: Hops (one of the ingredients in beer) is also in the Cannabaceae family. Cannabis and beer are basically cousins!
It's mainly cultivated for recreational purposes and gives the user a euphoric high. This variant can be used in various forms such as being smoked out of blunts, pipes and vaporizers.
It can also be consumed in the form of edibles such as cookies and brownies. However, they can also be used to brew tea or can be sold as medicines for various ailments like chronic pain, arthritis, diabetes, depression, seizures, etc. With new technology and the increasing demand for cannabis products, there is something for everyone on the market.
Female cannabis plants are usually preferred by cultivators. Female plants are the ones that produce flowers, aka the delicious buds you are familiar with. The main compound in cannabis that aids in determining the high is THC (tetrahydrocannabinol).
Some strains can contain up to 30% THC, making them quite potent. Male plants are responsible for developing pollen, and these plants are used to breed new genetics. Most people do not want any males near their female plants as they can pollinate the female plant, producing lower quality cannabis.
Fun Fact: Sinsemilla is the term used for cannabis buds that do not contain any seeds. It is considered the highest quality cannabis. The term originates from the Spanish word "sin" meaning "without" and "semilla"meaning "seed".
Why not to use the term "Marijuana"
You are most likely familiar with this nickname for cannabis. Marijuana is one of the most common slang terms for the plant, and most people know that it refers to the cannabis plant. However, this term has a racist past.
In the early 1900s, many Mexican people relocated to the United States due to the Mexican Revolution. The term "marijuana" had not been used much prior to this event, it was most often referred to as cannabis, the scientific name for the plant.
It was during the 1910s-1920s that the term "marijuana" became a popular term associated to Mexican individuals who were stereotyped to be frequent cannabis users.
The US government used the term as anti-cannabis propaganda, resulting in myths about the plant and those who use the plant. The term quickly became associated with the idea that the plant is a dangerous addictive drug rather than natural medicine.
Many individuals in the cannabis industry avoid using this term due to its racist roots, and choose to use the scientific name (cannabis) for the plant instead.
What is your favourite nickname for cannabis? Let us know in the comments below!
Principal Usages of Cannabis Include:
- It's most often referred to as a recreational drug which provides relaxation to the body and mind by soothing the nerves.
- It serves a sacred and spiritual status in various religions and therefore is offered as an entheogen or a mind-altering substance.
- It helps in fighting deadly ailments like cancer, Alzheimer's, diabetes, anorexia, etc.
Hemp Vs. Weed: Difference Between Hemp and Cannabis
The classification between hemp and marijuana can be made on the basis of:
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) Content
Cannabis sativa strains that produce cannabis contain much more THC than the strains the produce hemp. In Canada, Cannabis sativa can only be classified as a hemp plant if it contains 0.3 percent THC or less.
Anything exceeding that threshold is technically considered cannabis, though most Cannabis sativa plants that are cultivated for their cannabis actually contain between about 5 percent and 30 percent THC.
While it is true that most hemp plants are male and do not produce flowering cannabis buds, their lack of intoxicating effects is mainly the result of many years of selective breeding. Cannabis cultivators typically eliminate the male plants to ensure the maximum production of sinsemilla flowers.
While many cannot tell the plants apart, people have been studying the differences between the plants. A hemp plant is generally described as having skinnier leaves that are predominantly at the top of the plant. It also has fewer lateral branches than cannabis. In comparison, cannabis plants are shorter, bushier, and have fatter leaves.
Hemp is mostly grown outdoors and doesn't usually need a lot of maintenance and care. They have a growth cycle of 108-120 days. Cannabis plants, on the other hand, require much more carefully controlled growing conditions like proper temperature, lighting, and humidity to produce optimal results. Cannabis plants need a lot of maintenance as they are susceptible to diseases, molds, etc. They also have a shorter growth cycle.
Hemp was previously considered to be an illegal substance under the Controlled Substance Act(1970). Later, under the Agricultural Improvement Act (2018), industrial hemp and its products were declared legal, as it contains under 0.3% THC. However on the other hand marijuana is considered as a controlled or illegal substance in many parts of the world, under the Controlled Substance Act.
Hemp is still illegal in some countries, but in general it is much more accepted than the cannabis plant.
Marijuana is predominantly a recreational drug though studies have proved the several medical capabilities that it has. It is quite effective in chemotherapies, relieves patients from chronic pain, spasticity problems, etc. On the contrary, hemp is cultivated to produce industrial products including paper, paint, varnishes, cooking oil, plastic, skin products, hemp flour, etc. Hemp derived CBD has similar medicinal properties, such as being a pain- reliever.
Many of the differences in these respective forms of Cannabis sativa stem from decades of cannabis prohibition. While hemp plants are very versatile with a broad range of industrial uses, governments wanted to ensure they were incapable of producing intoxicating effects. This drove the production of cannabis plants almost exclusively underground for a long period of time, a situation that is only now beginning to change.
Both the cannabis plant and hemp plant have a lot to offer in their various forms. Cannabis and hemp are simply broad classifications of cannabis that have slowly been accepted in contemporary culture.
Both cannabis and hemp plants are part of the same family-Cannabis Sativa, therefore they tend to create a fair amount of confusion. They both are said to have originated in Central and South Asia (10,000 BC). These plants used to grow naturally for many years before we came to know of their varied properties through various studies.
People initially were incapable of distinguishing between hemp and weed, but with passing time the differences became quite obvious to us due to their varied characteristics. Having said that, many countries have started accepting and addressing the numerous benefits these plants can bring about. And undoubtedly the popularity of Hemp and Marijuana seems to be reaching new heights.