Hemp and Marijuana. You’ve probably heard them used interchangeably, and you might be thinking, “Why, aren’t they pretty much the same thing!?” One plant gets you high, one doesn’t. One is illegal, one is legal. Well, yes and no.
Actually, they’re the same plant. For real, the same plant! The difference is in the legal definition of each, not the genus of the plant. There are quite a few people out there who are “anti-weed” and “pro-CBD,” but little do they know, their contrary opinions are about the same darn plant!
It’s easy to see why. They often look identical, and in fact, the flowers of each can sometimes have the same properties. While they’re often referred to as different species of cannabis, that’s not quite accurate. Hemp and marijuana are simply broad classifications of cannabis that were adopted into popular culture. But there are nuanced differences.
Marijuana can contain higher levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), while hemp contains no more than 0.3 percent THC by dry weight. Since Marijuana typically contains higher levels of THC than CBD, it can be used for an intoxicating “high." On the other hand, companies like Canapa extract Cannabidiol (CBD) and other minor phytocannabinoids naturally found in hemp for a non-intoxicating effect.
Here’s the even more confusing part—theoretically, CBD could be extracted the exact same way from hemp and marijuana, and result in the exact same concentrate. However, the CBD concentrate derived from marijuana would be considered federally illegal, while the CBD concentrate derived from hemp would be considered federally legal.
And to make matters even more complicated, many states have legalized marijuana for medical use and/or recreational use. So, some of that CBD concentrate derived from marijuana could be considered legal in Oregon, whereas in the neighboring state of Idaho, it would be considered illegal.
Not as straightforward as it seems, huh?
The Official Definition
The Congressional Research Service (CRS) is useful for a technical definition of hemp vs. marijuana. According to the CRS and the 2018 Farm Bill, hemp is the plant Cannabis sativa L. and any part of that plant, including the seeds thereof and all derivatives, extracts, cannabinoids, isomers, acids, salts and salts of isomers, whether growing or not, with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) concentration not exceeding more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis.
Previously, marijuana, or as it was styled at the time “marihuana,” was defined in the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) and before it in the Marihuana Tax Act:
The term “marihuana” means all parts of the plant Cannabis sativa L. (sic), whether growing or not; the seeds thereof; the resin extracted from any part of such plant; and every compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of such plant, its seeds or resin. Such term does not include the mature stalks of such plant, fiber produced from such stalks, oil or cake made from the seeds of such plant, any other compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of such mature stalks (except the resin extracted therefrom), fiber, oil or cake, or the sterilized seed of such plant which is incapable of germination.
Essentially, it made the flowers, leaves, resin and germinating seeds and any extracted products marijuana by definition. With the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, that changed. Only flowers, leaves, resin and germination seeds and extracted substances that exceed 0.3 percent THC are considered marijuana.
How Hemp Is Used
The global industrial hemp market is set to grow exponentially. Recent research estimates the market’s growth, conservatively, at $10.6 billion by 2025. More optimistic estimates put it at $13 billion by 2026, $22 billion by 2022 and $20 billion by 2024.
In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is currently assessing how to regulate products made with hemp and its derivatives, such as food and cosmetics. As the CRS notes, hemp is developed based on its intended use through fiber, seeds or flower crops.
It might be surprising, but hemp is included in more than 25,000 products in nine submarkets, including agriculture, textiles, recycling, automotive, furniture, food and beverages, paper and personal care.
Despite the fact that hemp and marijuana are the same plant, these two terms have been firmly rooted in our culture. However, it’s important for the public to know the difference, considering the ever changing legal implications.
While the subject can be a little complicated, hopefully we’ve helped clear up the confusion around hemp vs. marijuana!