In today’s blog, we’ll take a brief look at some basic information about hemp. Topics covered include: What is hemp? What are the basic yet significant differences between hemp and marijuana? Why is hemp considered beneficial when it comes to its medicinal applications? And the big question…is hemp legal?
Hemp and marijuana are both varieties of the Cannabis plant. That means they both come from the same plant family. While being from the same family gives hemp and marijuana some similar traits, for the most part these two plants are fundamentally different and unique from one another.
One of the biggest distinctions between hemp and marijuana is the difference in the levels THC and CBD found in both of these plants. THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is the psychoactive component in cannabis that produces the effects associated with getting “high.” CBD (cannabidiol), on the other hand, is an anti-psychoactive component; it does not give you a psychoactive effect. In addition, studies have shown that CBD provides a number of medicinal benefits. In particular, CBD has been found to provide relief from pain as well as from feelings of anxiety.
When it comes to looking at the levels of THC and CBD in marijuana and hemp, these two plants are nearly the opposite of each other. Most marijuana strains contain a high level of THC and a low level of CBD. Hemp is just the opposite. While there are minimal traces of THC found in hemp, it’s not enough to get you high. Instead, hemp has a very high level of CBD, which makes it a prime source for medicinal products. Indeed, it’s because hemp-based medical products contain a high level of CBD and low level of THC that they can provide relief from pain while not causing the effects associated with getting high.
It’s also interesting to note that hemp, unlike marijuana, can also be used to make a wide variety of different products. In addition to hemp-based medicinal products, hemp can be used to make building materials, paper, rope, clothing, carpet, and many other products. Hemp can also be used to make numerous food products, including hemp milk, tea, cereals, waffles, and more.
From a legal standpoint, federal law in the United States prohibits the growth of hemp, due primarily to its association with marijuana. Certain states, however, are currently working on new legislation that will allow hemp to be cultivated, at least for certain industrial purposes. It’s also important to note that it is not against the law to buy or sell hemp products, including hemp-based medicinal products, in America.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is Industrial Hemp?
Industrial Hemp is a number of varieties of Cannabis sativa L. that are intended for agricultural and industrial purposes. They are grown for their seed and fiber content as well as the resulting byproducts such as oil, seed cake, hurds, etc. Industrial Hemp is characterized by being low in THC (delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol) and high in CBD (cannabidiol). THC is less than 1% and in Canada and Europe the current legal level for cultivation is 0.3%. The ratio of CBD to THC is greater than one.
2. What is marijuana?
Marijuana is a preparation made from varieties of Cannabis sativa L. that are intended for medical and recreational drug use. They are grown for their THC content, primarily in the flowering tops and to a lesser extent in the leaves. Cannabis sativa L. grown for marijuana is characterized by being high in THC (delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol) and low in CBD (cannabidiol). The THC content is greater than 1%, usually 3% to 20%. The ratio of CBD to THC is less than one.
3. Is Industrial Hemp marijuana?
No. Even though they both come from Cannabis sativa L., the varieties that are used to make Industrial Hemp products (seed, fiber, etc.) and those that are used to make marijuana (flowering tops and leaves) are distinctly different. They are scientifically different and are cultivated in very different ways.
4. Is industrial hemp illegal to grow in the United States?
Technically the answer is no, it is not illegal to grow hemp in the U.S. and it has only been in its current state since the adoption of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) in 1970. Tara Christine Brady noted this in her 2003 story “The Argument for the Legalization of Industrial Hemp” in the San Joaquin Agricultural Law Review:
“Currently it is illegal to grow hemp in the United States without a special Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) permit being issued.”
Jean Rawson, of the Congressional Research Service, also noted this in her 2005 CRS Report “Hemp as an Agricultural Commodity” for the U.S. Congress:
“Strictly speaking, the CSA does not make Cannabis illegal; rather, it places the strictest controls on its production, making it illegal to grow the crop without a DEA permit.”
Growing hemp is kind of like driving, you can’t drive without a license and you can’t grow hemp without a permit. The difference is that it is almost impossible to get a permit from DEA to grow hemp. An excellent example is John Stahl, of The Evanescent Press, and his DEA permit story.
5. What is hemp oil?
Hemp oil, or hemp seed oil, and cannabis flower essential oil are not synonymous. Hemp oil is legal in the United States and cannabis flower essential oil is not legal. Marijuana flavored lollipops and candies are not flavored with hemp oil, they are flavored with cannabis flower essential oil. Hemp oil is not used as a flavoring. Hemp seed oil is a vegetable oil that tastes much like safflower oil. Hemp oil is legal and is exempt from the definition of “marihuana” in the Controlled Substances Act 21 U.S.C. 802(16).
6. What is cannabis flower essential oil?
Cannabis flower essential oil, which smells like fresh marijuana buds, is used like other essential oils is used to flavor foods, candies, and beverages It is also used as a scent in perfumes, cosmetics, soaps, and candles. It is also known as cannabis flower extract, hemp essential fragrance, essence of hemp, or as hemp essential oil by those in the trade. It is incorrect to refer to cannabis flower essential oil as “hemp oil.”
Cannabis flower essential oil is produced exclusively from the flowering buds of Cannabis sativa plants by low-pressure steam distillation. It requires about 50 pounds of flowers to produce 1 ounce of pure oil. Cannabis flower essential oil is produced mainly in Switzerland, England, France, and The Netherlands. It is not produced in the United States. Because it is made from the flowers cannabis flower essential oil is not legal in the United States is considered to be “marihuana” in the Controlled Substances Act 21 U.S.C. 802(16).