What is Hemp Guide
Many people get confused between hemp and marijuana. The two plant products are closely related, but also fundamentally different.
Both hemp and marijuana come from the cannabis plant. Hemp, however, comes from a distinct variety of the Cannabis plant known as Cannabis sativa and contains little to no THC. THC is the chemical compound in cannabis (the cannabinoid) that gets you high and has psychoactive effects.
Hemp has many of the same other chemical compounds as marijuana, but because it lacks THC, it will never get you high.
Most hemp actually contains some THC, but not nearly enough to be used for recreational purposes. A typical hemp product will have 0.5% THC. The marijuana plants you smoke to get high typically have 15% or higher levels of THC.
Hemp also has higher levels of a cannabinoid called cannabidiol, better known as CBD. New research has shown that CBD carries many of the health properties of marijuana, although it has 0 psychoactive effects.
When a marijuana strain has high levels of CBD, it actually prevents you from getting high. The CBD blocks the effects of THC, which is why you will feel nothing if you try to use hemp.
How is Hemp Used?
Over the years, hemp has primarily been used for industrial purposes. The first usage of hemp dates back to 3000 years ago in ancient China, where dynasties considered it one of their six most important crops. In those days, hemp was used to make rope, cloth for clothes, and even armor.
After thousands of years of natural selection, farmers were able to grow taller and taller plants. They continuously selected the plants that grew fastest and tallest. Today, hemp plants are often distinguished from traditional marijuana plants by their height and the appearance of their leaves. Modern hemp strains can grow as high as 16 feet, or 5 meters, into the air.
Because hemp has high levels of cellulose, it’s also very valuable to certain industries. The high cellulose levels give hemp high tensile strength, which means it’s ideal for making thread, string, and rope. There is even new technology and insight into using hemp-based products as a base for skin care lotions and creams.
Some manufacturers also use modern processing techniques to turn hemp into a fiberglass-like material which is surprisingly strong and light (unlike fiberglass, which is typically neither strong nor light).
Hemp is also a huge cash crop for certain countries around the world. Hemp is still illegal in certain countries – including America, where it’s a schedule 1 banned substance. But in neighboring Canada, hemp is a popular agricultural product that can earn farmers up to $250 per acre, according to one report by the LA Times. Hemp became legal again in Canada in 1998 (although it was illegal between 1938 and 1998).
Farmers in England and China have also been able to boost the country’s economy using hemp, primarily by trading with the more restrictive hemp-importing countries across Europe, Asia and the United States.
Is Hemp Legal?
As mentioned above, hemp is legal in many countries around the world, but is still harshly controlled in certain other countries.
In the United States, for example, hemp is restricted and illegal. It’s a schedule 1 controlled substance according to the FDA, which is the same classification given to marijuana. Nevertheless, it’s legal to import hemp into the United States provided it has 0 THC.
The legality of hemp, however, is actively challenged. Many hemp supporters argue that legalizing hemp would add safe, sustainable local jobs to the economy – especially farmers across America.
Things are slowly changing in the United States. In 2014, President Obama signed a U.S. Farm Bill that included a provision to remove federal barriers to hemp production. That provision also more specifically defined the differences between industrial hemp and marijuana.
Today, hemp is legal in dozens of countries around the world. Over 30 countries actively produce industrial hemp. According to Food and Agriculture Organization statistics posted on Wikipedia, China produces more hemp than all other countries in the world combined. The top 5 biggest hemp producing countries (according to hemp production in tonnes between 2003 and 2004) are:
1) China: 79% share of global hemp production
2) France: 14%
3) Chile: 4%
4) Russia: 1%
5) Turkey: 1%
Since those numbers come from 2003-2004, they’ve likely changed over time. Today, both Canada and Australia are large-scale producers of hemp. The Prairie Provinces of Canada alone contain approximately 90,000 acres of hemp crops.
Some states in the US have legalized the cultivation of industrial hemp (in violation of the FDA). In 2013, after the state of Colorado legalized marijuana, farmers in the state produced the first hemp crop in the United States in over half a century (the first legal hemp crop, of course).
The Agricultural Act of 2014 also included a provision allowing colleges and certain state organizations to grow hemp – provided it’s used for research purposes and studied in states where hemp is legal. One thing is for certain, all paper should be hemp paper and trees should not be taken down for the use of making materials required for paper production.
Top 5 Most Important Differences Between Hemp and Marijuana
Want to become a cannabis expert? The first lesson is learning the key differences between hemp and marijuana:
Hemp and marijuana may have had the same ancestor about 10,000 years ago, but they’ve consistently split off from each other over the years.
Today, the genetic profile of each plant is unique. Over time, the two plants were bred for different reasons:
-Marijuana was often used for spiritual purposes, like by healers and shamans, who selected the most powerful strains of plant and bred those strains over the years.
-Hemp was grown by farmers and landlords who chose the tallest, fastest growing plants in order to make their crops healthier.
4) Levels of THC and CBD
Cannabis plants are packed with hundreds of cannabinoids, which are the unique chemical compounds that produce the active effects of marijuana.
When we’re talking about cannabinoids, there are two cannabinoids more important than all of the others: THC and CBD.
THC is responsible for the psychoactive effects of marijuana. It gets you high. A typical strain of marijuana has between 5% and 20% THC, although the best-quality strains will have THC levels of 25% or even 30%.
CBD, on the other hand, inhibits the effects of THC. It doesn’t get you high. In fact, some even say that it “takes the edge” off your high by reducing the unwanted side effects of THC – like the paranoia. CBD oil is also thought to be responsible for many of the health benefits of marijuana, and it’s being actively studied by research firms around the world to pinpoint its possible health benefits.
The balance of these two compounds is important for more than just getting high: it also plays a critical legal role. Hemp is legal in Canada, for example, as long as the THC content is lower than 0.3%, which ensures that it cannot be smoked for its psychoactive effects.
3) Growing Patterns
Marijuana typically produces female flowering plants that yield budding flowers at the flowering stage of their life cycle. Hemp plants, on the other hand, are primarily male and do not show flowering buds at any point in their life cycle.
Hemp can safely be grown outdoors (not just for legal reasons). The plant is well-adaptable to different light conditions, temperatures, humidities, CO2 levels, and oxygen levels, among other variables.
Marijuana, however, requires careful conditions in order to grow – at least, if you want to maximize levels of THC. Grow-room conditions have to maintain optimal light, temperature, humidity, and all of the other variables mentioned above.
Marijuana is typically researched for its medicinal benefits, where it’s exhibited some characteristics as an anti-cancer, anti-anxiety medicine.
Hemp, on the other hand, is typically researched for its industrial properties. Researchers at the University of Alberta recently made a supercapacitor using raw hemp, for example, which could give developing countries a cheap and renewable source of power.
You can research schedule I controlled substances in the United States, although it’s very difficult. Even those institutions that have applied for special licensing are heavily restricted in terms of the way they can study the hemp and marijuana.
Both hemp and marijuana are illegal throughout the United States because the FDA has classified hemp as a schedule 1 drug. However, certain states have made hemp production legal for industrial purposes.
Nevertheless, it’s legal to import hemp into the United States. Countries like Canada and China boost their economies by exporting hemp to the United States, which buys approximately $500 million worth of hemp products every year.
Marijuana, on the other hand, is widely illegal across most of the developed world. Laws are slowly changing in favor of decriminalization of marijuana, especially for medical purposes. Full legalization, however, remains far off.