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Hemp 101

Hemp 101: Hemp & Marijuana

Q: How is hemp not marijuana?

A: Words like cannabis, hemp and marijuana are used interchangeably by many, but what’s the real difference? Most recognizably, "marijuana" (a word with a mysterious roots) is a plant grown to get high, to shift your senses. Hemp is an industrial crop containing little to no THC – the psychoactive compound in marijuana – and is used for everything from food to fuel to shelter.

Hemp 101-1 Hemp vs. Marijuana - Picture of Cannabis leaf

January 25, 2017

Much of the controversy and confusion around the plants is really just poor word choice. The species known as Cannabis sativa is only complicated by the fact that there are two common varieties, each containing distinct properties: the agricultural crop – generally known as hemp – and the pharmacological variety of the plant commonly called marijuana. As a standard, hemp generally contains an average of less than 0.3% Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – the average international regulatory limit.

To compare, cannabis grown for medicinal or recreational use can contain anywhere from 5%-25% THC. Trying to get high from a substance with less than 1% THC would be akin to drinking non-alcoholic beer for the buzz. Studies show that a concentration of less than 1% produces the same physical effects as placebo. Hemp does however contain high levels of cannabidiol (CBD), which has proven useful in various medical therapies. Most have heard it used in treating a rare form of epilepsy called Dravet Syndrome.

Contrary to common belief, hemp is not only the male plant variety of cannabis. Again, it’s the same genus and species as some psychotropic marijuana strains but has taken a different path of genetic evolution based on humanity's wishes (food, fiber, medicine, spirituality, imagination, etc.).

Consider the history of dog breeding, with which most of us are more familiar: some track scents well, some are great sprinters, and still a few are destined for their own strange existence inside a chic designer purse. And so, new strains are always in breeding development for desirable characteristics like robust seeds for oil or longer fibers for hemp textiles.

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