What is the Difference between Hemp and Marijuana?
“Hemp is the male part of the plant, right?”
“Hemp is the just the tops of the plant, correct?”
“Hemp is not Cannabis, I thought it was a different plant”
I have heard a few of these questions and statements just this past week and the list of common misconceptions is much longer. I have heard them all in the last 5 years as an educator in the Cannabis industry.
Even though I love these opportunities to demystify the Hemp vs Marijuana relationship, it does still catch me by surprise when misconceptions come up. Mostly, I attribute these misconceptions to the last 80 years of Prohibition placed on the plant, we have been taught to fear it rather than learn about it.
So what are the facts when it comes to Hemp vs Marijuana?
Well, it is fairly straightforward and there are two main points to understand.
First, It is all Cannabis! Cannabis is the Genus of the plant and there are 3 subspecies. Cannabis Sativa, Cannabis Indica and Cannabis Ruderalis.
By definition, any three of these subspecies could be considered Hemp or Marijuana depending on the levels of one Cannabinoid: THC.
If the THC level is at or below 0.3% it is considered Hemp.
If the percentage of THC is above 0.3% it is considered “Marijuana”
Easy enough right? It is important to note, this is not a scientific definition but a legal rule defined many years ago and it is a somewhat arbitrary number that was decided upon.
The second point to understand is that “Marijuana” is not a scientific term. It is a slang term that started being used in the early 20th century to playoff anti-immigration sentiments - anti-cannabis factions wanted to underscore the “Mexican-ness” of the plant.
Before this time, all news articles and medical journals always used the plant’s formal name, Cannabis.
Nowadays, Marijuana has evolved (a little bit) to generally describe any Cannabis that gets you “high”.
As you can see, these two names are attempting to label the different uses of the same plant.
Marijuana - The variety of Cannabis with higher levels of THC used for getting “high”.
Hemp - the variety of Cannabis that is below 0.3% THC will be used for industrial purposes, such as rope, textiles, etc.
The problem with these legal designations is that they are too narrow. A more precise way to break it down is to say that cannabis can be grown for flower or fiber. The flower can then vary in the types and amounts of several cannabinoids it contains.
The way it stands now, cannabis is legally designated Hemp if it has below 0.3% THC. Even if you are not growing for industrial purposes and growing for the other cannabinoids in the plant, such as CBD.
So how we do solve this confusion and update the outdated laws on the plant?
The solution to clarifying cannabis and its subtypes is pretty simple.
Step 1. Legalize Cannabis across the board and recognize the plant for all its medicinal benefits.
Step 2. Recognize that the Cannabis plant has different levels of Cannabinoids and regulate them appropriately.
Step 3. Get rid of the Hemp and Marijuana label altogether and recognize it all as the same plant with thousands of uses that can help our society and planet.
I am hopeful these changes will eventually be made but the question is how long will it take?
The key to progress is to keep researching, educating, and breaking down the fear towards an extremely beneficial plant.
If you found this information helpful, please share, tell your friends and let’s get the right information out there.