Dope, the devils lettuce, god’s grass, and pot. These are all slang words for the term ‘marijuana’. With all these different terms, it can be hard to know exactly what it is, but it is the dried leaves and flowers of the Cannabis Sativa species. It is known for it’s high THC content. THC is an intoxicating psychoactive drug that affects various parts of the brain. This cannabinoid is the cause of the ‘high’ euphoric feeling users get when consuming marijuana in its various forms (North Dakota Department of Health, 2018). Thirty-three states, including Florida, have legalized marijuana for medicinal use and ten states have legalized it for both medicinal and recreational purposes (ProCon, 2018).
What is hemp? When people hear this word, they may think of hippies using hemp for their bags, clothes and other things. This may be sort of true as hemp is used for a variety of things. It comes from the Cannabis Sativa species, however, according to the Agricultural Act of 2014, if it is used for industrial purposes it must have .3% or less of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). The entirety of the plant has many uses. First of, the seeds can be used in many dietary products. They can be eaten raw, made into milk or even grounded to a powder and are full of protein. The stalk can be cut in half to reveal it’s bast fiber. This fiber can be stronger than steel and is used in clothing, construction materials, paper and more. Finally, the woody core, hurd, can be used in two different ways: as untreated chunks, it can be used in cement, insulation, and paper. As a form of pulp, it can make biodegradable plastics. There is also cannabinoid (CBD) oil which has a numerous amounts of benefits that we will discuss later. (Ministry of Hemp, 2018).
To many people, hemp and marijuana are terms that can be used interchangeably, but are they really the same thing? Yes and no! Confusing, I know, but let us dive a little deeper into the differences and similarities causing such confusion.
Cannabis, is a mere genus in the Cannabaceae famil. Many people mistake cannabis to be the same thing as marijuana, when in actuality it is a genus and that marijuana is derived from it. Different sources state different amounts of species that are in the Cannabis genus, however, a vast majority site only two; Cannabis Sativa and Cannabis Indica (Pollio, 2016). Visually, there are many differences between Cannabis Sativa and Cannabis Indica. For starters, the heights between the two species vary. Cannabis Indica is known to be shorter and bushier than Cannabis Sativa. They also tend to have short leaves with broad blades, whereas Cannabis Sativa has longer leaves with much more thin blades. The flowers in the Cannabis Indica species tend to be more dense as opposed to the less dense flowers of the Cannabis Sativa species. Both marijuana and hemp are derived from the Cannabis Sativa species, however they are different in their function, cultivation and process. (Quinn, 2018)
Cannabis Sativa is a short-day flowering plant. According to Ann VanDerZanden from Oregon State University, this means it is a “plant that requires a long period of darkness... Short-day plants form flowers only when day length is less than about 12 hours” (2018). They can be unisexual, male, or female. Female plants have flowers and produce seeds, while male plants shed their pollen and die a few weeks before females seeds ripen. While genetic factors determine whether these plants are male or female, it can be altered according to a diurnal light cycle (Clarke, 2013). Cannabis Sativa contains over 500 compounds, 113 are cannabinoids. Cannabinoids are chemical compounds that act on cannabinoid receptors in cells that alter neurotransmitter release in the brain (Pacher, 2006). Two of the main cannabinoids found are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). Generally speaking, THC is the toxicating psychoactive cannabinoid responsible for the euphoric feeling of ‘being high’(AGLC, 2018). CBD is the non-toxic psychoactive cannabinoid that blocks or lowers the psychoactive effects of THC (Murnion, 2015). The differing amount of these cannabinoids is what separates hemp from marijuana.
Hemp, legally, contains .3% or less THC and is instead mostly composed of CBD and other cannabinoids. Where as marijuana contains more THC, about 5%-10%, with much less CBD. Due to this factor, the hemp and marijuana plant are able to effectively grow in different areas. Marijuana needs warm and humid environments in order to produce a desired quality and quantity of THC-containing bud. However, since hemp is not trying to achieve high amounts of THC, it can be grown in a much wider range of areas. Industrial hemp farmers also do not care whether or not their crops are male or female, thus yielding a larger size (Conrad, 2009). This is opposite of the marijuana plant where only female plants can produce the THC containing flowers.
Due to these differences in cannabinoids, hemp and marijuana are not the same thing. Still confused? Think of it comparatively. Where would Harry and Mark , siblings, fit if they are both Johnson males?
Like marijuana and hemp, Harry and Mark are not the same. They may both be similar, as in they may have both inherited certain traits, but in total, they do not have the same genetic makeup. They are, in a sense, a subspecies of Johnson males. So while hemp and marijuana are, yes, in the same plant family, and they are, yes, in the same species, hemp and marijuana are not the same. They are different subspecies of Cannabis Sativa.