By Quinton Charles Op-Ed Blogger
There is a lot of confusion out there about hemp and marijuana. Hemp has been cultivated for thousands of years for a variety of purposes (such as making clothes), and was a prominent crop in the United States. Yet when marijuana became illegal with the passage of the Controlled Substances Act in 1970, hemp production stopped. The reason for this stoppage is that hemp and marijuana were considered the same under American law. This changed with the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, which legalized the production of industrial hemp.
There are important differences between hemp and marijuana. While both are Cannabis plants, their chemical composition is unique. Specifically, hemp contains very little THC — the psychoactive component of marijuana — while marijuana contains much higher levels of THC. This means that products made from hemp won’t make you high if you ingest them, while products made from marijuana will produce the feeling of being stoned.
This distinction between hemp and marijuana is important if you are considering CBD products, which are made from industrial hemp. Specifically, a CBD product made from hemp won’t get you high. Below, we have outlined the differences between marijuana and hemp to help you make a more informed decision about using either product.
All About Cannabis
To understand the difference between hemp and marijuana, we need to go back to a topic that you probably first learned about in elementary school science classes: classification of plants. Just like we do with animals, plants are grouped into a hierarchical structure. Going from the broadest to most specific, plants are classified by domain, kingdom, phylum/division, class, order, family, genus and species.
For example, corn is within the Eukarya domain, and the plantae kingdom (plants). It is further classified as a flowering plant (phylum), as a grass (family), and finally to its specific species: zea mays. Plants that are in the same group have more in common than plants in another group. As you move down the classification chart, the plants become more alike.
With this in mind, we can turn to the cannabis plant. Cannabis belongs to the Cannabaceae family, and is a genus of flowering plants. There are at least three species of Cannabis. Cannabis is the broad description used to classify several species, or specific types, of Cannabis plants.
There are three recognized species of Cannabis: Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, and Cannabis ruderalis. Both hemp and marijuana are part of the Cannabis genus. Hemp is a variety of Cannabis sativa L, while marijuana may be produced from either Cannabis sativa L. or Cannabis indica.
Cannabis indica typically has a higher THC to CBD ratio, making it more psychoactive and producing a fuzzy, sleepy high. By contrast, Cannabis sativa has a lower ratio of THC to CBD, which means that it does not produce the same “mellowing” effect as Cannabis indica.
In other words, when produced from Cannabis sativa L., hemp and marijuana are not distinct species of the cannabis plant. Instead, they are different, non-scientific names for cannabis. While the plant classification system doesn’t differentiate between the two plants, the law does – which highlights the most important difference between hemp and marijuana.
So How Are Hemp and Marijuana Different?
The Cannabis plant has a large number of naturally occurring compounds known as cannabinoids. These cannabinoids are associated with a range of health and wellness benefits. Two of the most well-known cannabinoids are cannabidiol, or CBD, and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC is the psychoactive component in cannabis that produces a feeling of being high or stoned.
This brings us to the biggest difference between hemp and marijuana: THC content. The term “hemp” is used in the United States to mean cannabis that contains 0.3% or less THC content. Marijuana is the word used to describe cannabis that has greater than 0.3% THC content by dry weight, up to 30% THC. Both plants contain high levels of CBD.
In the United States, industrial hemp is permitted to contain no more than 0.3% THC. If a plant contains a higher amount of THC, it is considered marijuana. While marijuana is legal in many states across the United States, it is a controlled substance under federal law. As a result, products made from industrial hemp – such as CBD oil – are legal across the United States, while products made from marijuana are illegal under federal law and in many states.
Hemp and marijuana often look the same and may be indistinguishable when both are from the Cannabis sativa L. species. However, it is possible to tell the difference between Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica just from the appearance of the plant (what biologists call “morphology”). Indica typically has leaves that are either broad-leafed, a tight bud, or look like a nugget with hairs. Sativa, on the other hand, has skinnier leaves that are concentrated at the top. Few branches or leaves exist below the top part of the plant. When you observe the plants from afar, indica looks like a short, fat bush. Sativa is typically skinnier and taller (up to 20 ft).
The upshot? The main difference between hemp and marijuana is the level of THC in a particular plant. However, there are other distinctions between the two plants, including:
- Legality (as described above);
- Cultivation: marijuana varieties are selectively bred to optimize the plant’s characteristics and to produce female plants with budding flowers, while hemp is grown to maximize size and yield, and is most often grown outdoors;
- Usage: marijuana is typically used recreationally or for medicinal purposes, while hemp may be grown for health and wellness products (such as CBD oils and topicals) as well as industrial and food products (such as paper, clothing, plastic and cooking oil).
If you are looking to reap the benefits of Cannabis without getting high or getting in trouble with the law, a product made from hemp is probably the right choice for you.
Can You Get High from a Product Made with Hemp?
If you are concerned about getting high by using a product made with hemp, we are here to assuage your fears. You cannot get high from a product made with hemp. That is due to the extremely low THC content in hemp grown in the United States.
However, using CBD products that contain even low levels of THC may lead to a positive drug test result. This most often occurs when a person takes a full spectrum or raw product. Although this result is rare, it can happen. If you are subject to drug testing, then your best bet is to use a broad spectrum or isolate CBD product, both of which have 0% THC.
If you are concerned about THC levels in your CBD product, only purchase products that have been independently tested by a third party laboratory. The company should make these lab results available on their website. Not only will buying independently tested CBD products protect you from accidentally consuming THC if you would prefer not to, it also provides assurance of the purity and quality of the product that you have purchased.
How to Buy Safe, High Quality CBD Products Made from Hemp
If you are interested in trying out CBD for its many health and wellness properties, you may be wondering how to choose a product. Since the legalization of hemp in 2018, the number of CBD products on the market has exploded. How can you be sure that you are getting one that is safe and effective?
At Green Wellness Life, we only sell CBD products on our online CBD shop that are made from industrial hemp that have been independently tested. This means that you can be assured that your CBD product contains no more than 0.3% THC, and that you can view the THC content and other features of the product before you buy. While we aren’t doctors and cannot diagnose or treat any condition, we can offer you the latest research on CBD to help you decide which product is right for you.
To learn more or for help choosing a CBD product, you can reach out to us Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. EST at (888) 772-7875. You can also fill out our online contact form or press the live chat button to contact us at any time.