By Quinton Charles Op-Ed Blogger
A common misconception about hemp is that it is synonymous with marijuana. Let me state very clearly now that it is not. While both plants can contain both THC (the psychoactive component of cannabis) and CBD (the non-psychoactive component of cannabis), the two most common strains have opposite ratios.
What types of cannabis are there?
The two types of cannabis are actually separate species: Cannabis indica andCannabis sativa. Indica is typically associated with the fuzzy, sleepy “high” that you receive from marijuana. This species often has a higher THC to CBD ratio, making it more of a psychoactive form of cannabis. Sativa, on the other hand, does not have the mellowing effect that people often receive from indica. Keep in mind that they are different species.
So what’s the difference between hemp and marijuana?
So far, I haven’t mentioned either of these words; I’ve only mentioned indica and sativa. So where is the difference between hemp and marijuana? These are both terms that can be used to stand in for how the cannabis is grown, or what it is intended for. “Marijuana” (specifically the THC used for medicinal and recreational purposes) is typically used to refer to Cannabis indica, and is often cultivated with a focus on the flowers of the female plant. “Hemp” is used to refer to Cannabis sativa, and is cultivated with a focus on the size of the plant for use industrially (as rope, textiles, oils, etc.). Keep in mind that many hybrids of these plants that have been created and grown as of recent. That is why it is important to examine the exact THC level of a plant rather than strictly categorizing them as “sativa” or “indica”.
Can you get high from hemp?
One concern that people often voice to us is their desire to avoid any sort of high. They often equate cannabis with marijuana and, consequently, a psychoactive high (due in large part to media). As ministryofhemp.com succinctly put it:
“Your lungs will fail before your brain attains any high from smoking industrial hemp.”
However, for any of you taking a full spectrum or raw product the .3% THC found in hemp can still show up on a drug test. It is highly unlikely but it can happen. If you are subject to drug testing for your employment or medical care, we recommend going with a broad spectrum or isolate. Both have the THC removed from them.
For all the plant lovers out there: Can you tell the difference by sight?
Yes. 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).
But can you tell which has THC and which does not? You could potentially tell which has less THC, because sativa strains typically are bred for high CBD, low THC content, but I would recommend against it. As I mentioned above there are many hybrid strains now that have cross-bred indica with sativa, making it difficult to tell if what you’re looking at is a pure strain or a hybrid without professional testing. Once again, though, as a general rule of thumb, indica contains the high THC levels; sativa is the high CBD species.
Is hemp legal?
Another concern that people have is whether or not hemp is legal. Once again, this concern stems from a lack of understanding in the public due to the misrepresentation of cannabis in the media. Hemp is 100% legal federally. Industrial hemp contains less than 0.3% THC content, which situates it in the fully-legal category of CBD and hemp.
Do you have to worry about your CBD product?
Some CBD products contain trace amounts of THC. However, this is likely under the legal limit, and many companies offer their test results for each batch of CBD that they use. This is why it is so important to purchase your CBD from a reputable company that guarantees independent lab results. If you’re curious about the makeup of your product, check out the blog that we published a little while ago regarding how to decipher your product label.
Difficulties in hemp and marijuana
As I mentioned several times before, there is a lot of confusion when it comes to cannabis. Most people assume that indica and sativa are the same in terms of what they do in the body. There is one industry in particular that these assumptions are causing problems: banking.
Traditionally, a small business (and even a larger business) would be able to go to a bank, file for and receive a loan, and use that money to begin operations. But due to the recent legislation formally legalizing hemp federally, and the slow implementation of regulations on hemp in the United States (see our blog on the farm bill updates), many banks are wary of CBD businesses. Not wishing to lend to any businesses that deal in CBD and hemp (despite their full legality), banks make it difficult for small start-up companies to enter into a new and promising market.
But it isn’t all doom and gloom (even though Halloween is right around the corner!). Some in Congress are trying to help both cannabis industries with the Secure and Fair Enforcement Banking Act, or SAFE Act, which passed the House in late September with bipartisan support. The bill would assure banks and credit unions that they won’t be penalized by federal regulators for working with cannabis clients in states that allow marijuana or hemp production and sales. The legislation, which the Senate has yet to consider, also would require federal banking regulators to issue guidance on how financial institutions should serve the hemp industry.
While banks wait on regulations, businesses will continue to enter into private loans and start with what cash they can muster up on their own.
Food for thought
Just to recap, hemp and marijuana are two different things, and are closely associated with two separate species of cannabis; one is psychoactive and the other is not; hemp is legal federally and marijuana is not.
Next time that you see the media or someone conflating hemp and marijuana, you’ll know better. And hopefully, you’ll be able to help them understand the difference by using what you learned here.
As always, feel free to reach out to us on social media, phone, or email if you have any questions. We are always willing to help educate people who are eager to learn. You can also check out our news page on the website and scan through old blogs. There are some great ones!