Hemp and cannabis are both derived from the same species (Cannabis Sativa). The first time ever that the cannabis and hemp plants were classified was by a Swiss botanist called Carl Linnaeus. He was the one to call it Cannabis Sativa.
We’re here to discuss the major difference in characteristic of the respective plant strains that produce industrial hemp on the one hand, and cannabis products on the other. Most people understand these difference in terms like “cannabis is a drug but hemp isn’t”, and “hemp comes from the male plant and cannabis 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 provide.
There are other factors like the cultivation, genotypes, appearance that clearly 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.
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. Since hemp strains have very little THC and a lot of CBD (if grown to flower), they do not produce intoxicating effects when consumed.
In the U.S., industrial hemp is defined as a Cannabis sativa plant not containing more than 0.3% THC. 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.
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.
The Endless Benefits of Hemp
Hemp is chosen for industrial purposes on the basis of several key factors.
- 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 cannabidiol is more widely accepted and used. It is used to treat problems like acne, anxiety, depression, and more. It also has anti-cancer, anti-tumor properties and can also benefit heart health.
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.
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.
- 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.
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.
It’s mainly cultivated for recreational purposes and gives the user euphoric high. This variant can be used in various forms like blunts, pipes, vaporizers, edibles like cookies, brownies, etc. 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.
Female cannabis plants are usually preferred by the cultivators. The main ingredient in cannabis that decides the high is THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). Some strains can contain up to 30% THC, making them quite potent.
Principal Usages of Marijuana Include:
1. It’s most often referred to as a recreational drug which provides relaxation to the body and mind by soothing the nerves.
2. It serves a sacred and spiritual status in various religions and therefore is offered as an entheogen or a mind-altering substance.
3. It helps in fighting deadly diseases like cancer, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, anorexia, etc.
Hemp Vs. Weed: How Hemp Differs from Cannabis
The classification between hemp and marijuana can be made on the basis of:
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) Content
Cannabis sativa strains that produce cannabis contain many times more THC than the strains the produce hemp. In Canada, a Cannabis sativa plant can only be classified as hemp 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.
The examination of the genotypes of 43 hemp samples and 81 marijuana samples have brought up a major difference between the two. Hemp is genetically more similar to cannabis Indica, unlike marijuana which is similar to cannabis Sativa.
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. The marijuana cultivators, typically eliminate the male plants to ensure the maximum production of sinsemilla flowers.
Marijuana appears a lot different from hemp plants. It has broader leaves, tight buds, and appears like a short thick bush (5ft) whereas hemp plants tend to be hardier and taller (up to 20ft) and have skinnier leaves, mostly concentrated on top. They mainly tend to grow upwards rather than growing side branches.
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 have a growth cycle of 60-90 days.
Cannabis plants need a lot of space to be grown, they are planted at one plant per four square feet. Whereas hemp plants grown for oil are planted at about 40-60 plants per four square feet and the ones grown for industrial usages are more densely packed i.e 100-120 plants per four square feet.
Hemp was previously considered to be an illegal substance under the Controlled Substance Act(1970). Later, under the Agricultural Improvement Act (2018), 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.
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.
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 cannabis and hemp plants have a lot to offer in their various forms. Cannabis and hemp are simply broad classifications of cannabis that has slowly been accepted in contemporary culture.
Both cannabis and hemp 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.