You may think to yourself: why should I care if there is a difference between hemp and cannabis? If you are using cannabinoid therapies like CBD to enhance your life and restore balance to your body, you should care.
The biggest difference between hemp and cannabis boils down to politics. Historically hemp was a prominent crop in the US, in fact, some states made growing hemp mandatory. Later, hemp was placed under the same classification which made growing hemp a criminal activity.
Although hemp contains far less of the psychoactive cannabinoid THC (the main reason for cannabis’ prohibition), it became just as criminal as cannabis. They say to move forward, you must understand your past.
This phrase couldn’t be truer. Medical and recreational towards cannabis has skyrocketed over the last decade. In 2018 hemp was finally decriminalized nationally, and cannabis was deemed legal for recreational purposes in Canada.
Our goal with this article is to explain the relationship between hemp, cannabis, and cannabinoids like CBD as well as why knowing the differences should matter to you.
Are Hemp and Cannabis the Same Plant Species?
Yes, both hemp and cannabis are members of the same plant genus (Cannabis) and the same species- Cannabis Sativa. So, if they are from the same plant species, how are they different? Well friends, that all comes down to cultivars (subtypes) of cannabis. Subtypes are breeds of plant species that are bred for specific effects and desired purposes.
The subtypes of cannabis include growing for industrial purposes, for seeds, or for active cannabinoids in dried flower (THC, CBD, etc.).
Cultivators who grow for industrial purposes are growing plants with branches and big stems. Cultivators who grow for seeds use the seeds for pressing into hemp oil or eating them raw. Finally, cultivators who grow for active cannabinoids are growing plants for specific medical and recreational effects.
So, is it hemp or cannabis grown for these subtypes? For the most part, growing for seeds and industrial use hemp is used, and growing for active cannabinoids tends to sway more towards cannabis plants.
What’s the Difference Between Hemp and Cannabis?
Alrighty, hemp is typically used to grow seeds and industrial plants, but how do we know the for a fact whether the plant is hemp or cannabis?
Legally, hemp and cannabis are defined by the quantity of the cannabinoid THC present: 0.3% or less THC is the limit in Canada and the US, whereas in the EU cannabis plants containing no more than 0.2% THC are considered hemp.
You may be thinking: okay, hemp plants are cannabis plants with little to no levels of THC. If only it were that simple. Cannabis plants look different than hemp plants. They are shorter, have lots of leaves, and produce dense buds. Hemp, on the other hand, grows with fewer branches, thinner leaves, taller, and have larger stems.
Why Does it Matter Which Plant We Source CBD From?
One of the biggest arguments in the medical cannabis community is: does it matter where you source your CBD? Cannabidiol comes from medical cannabis that is either cannabis or hemp. They are basically the same plant, but hemp (legally speaking of course) has less than 0.3% THC. Some people who have used cannabis products claim that using the entire plant works the best.
Other people believe that since CBD in cannabis and CBD in hemp are the same and CBD derived from hemp is completely legal then it is the best option.
One of the most important considerations is where the hemp was grown and how the CBD was extracted from it. Where the plant was grown and how the CBD is manufactured plays a critical role in safety and efficiency.
CBD from hemp is typically grown industrially, which means the plant was grown for fiber production as opposed to the medicinal properties like terpenes and cannabinoids. If the plant is manufactured with harsh solvent and not grown organically, leftover herbicides, pesticides, and chemicals can be found in the CBD product you purchase.
You have every right to be concerned about toxicity, more specifically THC toxicity. Choosing a CBD-rich product extracted from hemp as opposed to cannabis ensure you are receiving only trace amounts of THC. 0.3%. Whether that is from purchasing a CBD product that had a misleading label, or the dose you took was incorrectly calculated, no one wants to feel worse when all you are trying to do is feel better.
Assuming you sourced your CBD product from a quality company that cares about your well-being, using CBD products is safe. There are many success stories as well as scientific data that promote the use of CBD to treat many medical conditions in both humans and animals.
Now you know for yourself: hemp and cannabis are different plants. While the legality of cannabis and hemp will always remain the most controversial difference, they also look different, grow differently and produce different effects.
Next time your friends are chatting about hemp and cannabis, you’ll be armed with the right information to politely explain the difference. No one likes a know-it-all Nancy, but everyone likes understanding the mysteries of cannabis. And remember: stay balanced!
Written by: Heather Burton