When discussing the vast world of cannabis and its contributions to humanity, the first thing that comes to mind are visions of billowing smoke coming from a weed laden bong or water pipe. It may surprise many people to know that recreational marijuana is only part of the providence provided by the benevolent cannabis genus.
The cannabis plant is one of the oldest cultivated crops grown by humans. Evidence suggests this trend began more than 10,000 years ago.1 We now know that industrial hemp has exceptional application as an alternative medicine and can also be used in the production of textiles, eco-friendly plastics, construction materials, recyclable papers and more.
So, this brings us to the important question: what is the difference between hemp used for CBD and the psychoactive herb called weed? As the lines between legal CBD products and illegal products produced from weed become fuzzy, staying informed on these finer points of the law can keep you safe from undesirable repercussions.
Cannabis is a genus of flowering plants from the cannabaceae family. The cannabis genus contains two or possibly three sub-species called cannabis sativa, cannabis indica, and cannabis ruderalis, which may or may not be a subcategory of cannabis sativa.2
Cannabis sativa is the most widely used variety of cannabis plant and is a fibrous and versatile crop. It can grow to reach a full height of 2.5 meters or much higher in the right conditions. The stalks, blossoms, leaves, seeds and roots can be a source of quality oils, sturdy fibers and even nutritious food.
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Some of these plants were selected and cultivated to promote these specific qualities. According to some sources, they were also cross-pollinated with other plants having similar features and this led to the crop we now call hemp or industrial hemp. Cultivation processes were also improved to create a superior hemp.
At the same time, other plants of the same type were being primed and prepared to produce a bumper crop of potent psychoactive properties. These were not only valued for their extensive medical and psychological benefits but for a variety of religious and spiritual purposes as well. This cultivation led to the production of the great variety of marijuana plants that have been interbred and crossbred with cannabis indica for a wide range of effects and higher THC content.
The two biggest differences between industrial hemp and marijuana is the genetic parentage of the plant itself and the environment in which it is cultivated.
Selective breeding and intelligent cultivation habits greatly enhance the differences between these two plants. One of the most notable differences is the levels of cannabinoids, the organic compounds unique to the cannabis plant.
Marijuana is cultivated for a signature high and can have THC content of 10% or much higher, depending on the specific strain. The strain called Ghost Train Haze contains a whopping 25.5% THC, one of the highest ratios of dry herb to THC on record.3
In contrast, industrial hemp contains exceptionally low levels of this psychoactive agent and this is the primary distinguishing factor between the two categories of cannabis. Industrial hemp can have higher quantities of CBD, the cannabinoid with the healthy benefits so sought after today.
Until recently, the restrictions that controlled the use of cannabis were severe and well-enforced. But last year the statutes of the 2018 Farm Bill and Hemp Farming Act went into effect. This effectively removed industrial hemp from the list of controlled substances and placed it on the list of agricultural commodities.
This has set the foundation for a hemp industry currently worth over $1 billion and growing.4 Industrial hemp has a wide range of applications that are in great need today when oil-based plastics, synthetic textiles, and pharmaceuticals are proving to be a greater harm than good. The recent adjustment in cannabis regulations has allowed for extensive research to be done on this versatile plant.
Even though marijuana has plenty of benefits as well, it is still considered a narcotic by many standards and remains on the list of controlled substances. Some states have legalized marijuana for medical purposes and others have gone as far as allowing recreational use. But the legalities that apply to industrial hemp in no way apply to the use and production of weed.
The benefits provided by these two diverse crops are also very different due to the special cultivation and development of desired traits. Marijuana benefits are primarily medical and have been found to treat conditions of chronic pain, muscle spasms, depression, and may even be a creativity booster.
Industrial hemp also provides medical benefits due to its elevated CBD content. CBD products derived from industrial hemp have been clinically proven to provide effective pain relief, modulate the inflammatory response, treat digestive and appetite conditions, and much more. Furthermore, the benefits available from CBD produced from industrial hemp are legal just about anywhere in the world and all across the US.
Even better, industrial hemp may hold some modern solutions to our current international problems. The unabated use of plastics, concrete, and synthetic materials in every aspect of our society is placing a heavy strain on the environment.
The fibrous composition of hemp has been successfully converted into eco-friendly papers, concrete, and plastics. Other research has suggested hemp could be a potential source of biofuel that will power our eco-friendly societies of tomorrow.
Final Notes on Hemp Vs. Weed
The most important takeaway here is that you can’t get high from ingesting, smoking, or using hemp. This non-psychoactive aspect of hemp makes it a legal commodity and the perfect raw material for the creation of top-quality CBD products of all types. While laws are still subject to change, weed is still a controlled substance and its use should always be in accordance with your local laws.
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