what is the difference between hemp and marijuana

Did you ever buy a hemp necklace? Maybe as a way to rebel?

Your parents found out the rough, brown rope with the colorful medallion dangling from it was hemp and immediately seemed a little less open to letting you wear it. And, obviously, that made you want to wear it everywhere, even to school on picture day.

marijuanaIt’s a scenario based on the confusion of hemp and marijuana, on which is which, and what exactly each of them are capable of doing.

Let’s say you did have a hemp necklace, and you did wear it everywhere because you could tell it annoyed your parents, and that did include school picture day.

Your teacher or principal (or maybe both/all of them) might have been just as confused about the differences between hemp and marijuana so guess what, you had to take the necklace off or get suspended, and they sent a letter home to your parents. How’s that for your harmless rebellion backfiring on you?

All of the confusion and misinformation around hemp has made it harder for people to distinguish between its properties and marijuana’s. So, what is the difference?

The Cannabis Genus Includes Hemp and Marijuana

There’s a sort of complex system for classifying everything on the planet called the Taxonomic rank. In that ranking system there is something called a genus, which Merriam-Webster defines as “a class, kind, or group marked by common characteristics or by one common characteristic.”

Technically, marijuana is a species of cannabis, but all that does is confuse things more, right? To make it a little simpler, we’ll talk specifically about what makes hemp and marijuana broadly different. There are quite a few subspecies of the cannabis genus, but it all gets kind of confusing.

That rope wrapped around the green bottle is made from hemp fibers, but classifying it as “cannabis” would really only make sense from a strictly scientific and a literal standpoint. That’s mostly because the word cannabis has become almost exclusively associated with marijuana.

If you ask someone “Do you know what cannabis is?” there’s a good chance they will say, “Yeah, it’s weed,” or marijuana, or any number of the slang words out there. Which is technically true, but it would be like someone saying “Do you know what sports are?” and someone saying “Yeah, baseball.”

Baseball is, in fact, a sport, but there is more than one kind of sport, just like cannabis includes hemp and marijuana both. In case that’s not clear enough though, here is how the U.S. National Institutes of Health describes cannabis: “The word ‘cannabis’ refers to all products derived from the plant Cannabis sativa.”

And that can be a lot of products. One of them is hemp!

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A Very Short History Of Hemp In The U.S. And Globally

In 1937 the United States passed the Marihuana Tax Act (it was spelled with an “h” rather than a “j” during the late 19th and early 20th centuries), which banned hemp production. The act was overturned in 2015 to allow some states to grow hemp for industrial purposes.

The reason for this is hemp has been shown to have an incredibly large number of uses and is considered by some to be “one of the earliest domesticated plants known.” How early? There is evidence suggesting hemp was grown and cultivated during the later portion of the Stone Age.

So, before hemp became associated with a plant from the same genus, a plant it shares some properties with and doesn’t share others, it was one of the most important industrial crops for the world.

A Very Short History Of Marijuana In The U.S.

Modern American marijuana laws and opinions can be traced back to the early 1900s and late 1800s. The recreational use of marijuana is tied up with a lot of politics so there are more than a few strong opinions based on personal beliefs.

Time Magazine states that both the American and Mexican governments were banning marijuana around the same time, roughly the 1920s and 1930s. In America specifically, the 1937 Marijuana Tax Act created laws that meant you could only possess marijuana if you paid a specific amount in taxes and were authorized to use it for medical or industrial purposes.

After that, marijuana was subject to legislation in the 1950s, when the sentencing laws for possession were made more severe, and then in the 1970s, when those mandatory minimum sentences were repealed.

America has carried on since then in not really knowing how to treat and/or react to marijuana’s presence in all of our lives. It’s gone back and forth from being banned to being legalized for medical use, and in some states (only 11, as of now) legal to grow and use recreationally in small amounts.

Hemp, Marijuana, And THC

According to PBS, hemp and marijuana may look and smell alike, but their chemical properties are different and that is what sets them apart. And it’s a very important difference, one that puts a lot of the misinformation around hemp into perspective.

That’s because the chemical responsible for the “high” feeling brought on by marijuana consumption is barely found inside hemp. It’s called Tetrahydrocannabinol but is known as THC.

Hemp generally has .3% of THC content and marijuana can have anywhere between 10% and 30%. This does, in fact, mean that you won’t feel any euphoria or get “high” from smoking or consuming hemp. It’s also one reason why that hemp necklace you had is completely harmless.

What Can Hemp Be Used For?

Hemp was called “the new billion dollar crop,” and that was in 1938! A billion dollars back then meant something different than it does now, so you can imagine what that statement meant at the time.

Hemp has been found in archaeological digs throughout what was ancient Mesopotamia, and both cloth and rope has been found to date back 6,000 years. It didn’t go away after that, though, because it was used in nearly every century since then.

Between the end of the U.S. Civil War and the year 1912, Kentucky was essentially the lone producer of hemp within the United States. Necklaces, rope, and paper have all been made from hemp, but there is an incredibly large variety of uses for it.

A report from Purdue University lists hemp as being used to make:

  • Paper products
  • Textiles (clothing)
  • Molded plastics
  • Body care products
  • Construction products
  • Livestock feed
  • Livestock bedding
  • Nutritional supplements
  • Essential oils
  • Medicines
  • Food

There have even been cars made from hemp. It’s true. It’s an incredibly versatile plant that has had its production within the United States limited due to misunderstanding its properties and confusing them with marijuana, though that has changed in recent years.

Can Hemp Be Used Like Marijuana?

No, it can’t, at least not in the sense that it will produce the euphoria associated with being “high.” Some people do smoke hemp, however, but there has so far been no research indicating it does anything other than draw smoke into your lungs.

Some research has claimed that smoking hemp will lead to headaches but that doesn’t seem to be largely agreed on. There are even more questions about the cannabidiol (CBD) content of hemp helping to lessen feelings of anxiety, but likewise, not a lot of research is consistent.

What Is CBD?

The cannabis plant genus produces a substance called cannabidiol, more commonly known as CBD. It’s what’s known as a cannabinoid and is one of over 100 others found, including THC.

You have most likely heard or seen information about CBD since it has somewhat recently been made legal to sell CBD products as long as they contain no, or under .3% of THC. A lot of health benefits have been attributed to CBD use but the research is mostly inconclusive in a lot of cases.

According to Harvard Medical School, however, CBD has been proven to help two forms of childhood epilepsy that have historically not responded to anti-seizure medications. Patients struggling with Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (LGS) were found to have fewer seizures but also occasionally stop having seizures altogether.

After that, though, it really depends on the studies you find, and the results can sometimes depend on how you search. Some research shows CBD may help with anxiety, chronic pain, and insomnia, but the results aren’t strong enough to say they definitely do.

All cannabis plants produce CBD, which means marijuana does too. CBD that has been derived from a marijuana plant is illegal, while CBD derived from a hemp plant is legal.

Another important thing to keep in mind is CBD does have potential negative side effects. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reports it can damage your liver and also have negative effects on other medications you may be taking.

Also, synthetic cannabinoids should be avoided. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that, due to there being no regulation in place for synthetic cannabinoid products, there’s no way to be sure what a synthetic cannabinoid actually contains.

That means if you or someone you know is using or planning to use synthetic cannabinoids like K2, Spice, AK-47, Mr. Happy, or Scooby Snax there are a lot of dangerous possibilities, including severe side effects like rapid heart rate, trouble breathing, seizures, and even death.

How Marijuana Affects Your Brain And Body

A lot of studies have been done into how marijuana affects the brain and body, but also, there is quite a bit of conflicting information throughout all of this research.

Decreases in IQ , general memory loss, and cognitive decline have been linked to adolescents who begin using marijuana, but the conclusions aren’t consistent enough to establish a strong link.

That means marijuana has not been proven to necessarily be the main factor in IQ loss, memory loss, and cognitive decline. Studies that have tried to determine if THC has an effect on the hippocampus (a part of our brains designated for memory processing), but the studies are usually conducted using animals rather than humans.

Add to that the possibility of someone using marijuana alongside other drugs and substances and it becomes harder to determine what exactly caused the decline, or even if the decline was due to anything other than aging and/or genetics.

Marijuana has been shown to have serious negative effects if used by pregnant women and also in leading to dangerous driving situations. And because of the euphoria marijuana can bring on, it is in fact possible for someone to become dependent on or addicted to it.

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A Final Word On Hemp And Marijuana

Although hemp has many uses, and CBD derived from hemp and/or manufactured with legal THC levels is being sold in so many places, growing hemp plants or possessing them without the proper permissions can be dangerous.

Since hemp and marijuana essentially look the exact same and can even smell the same, the likelihood someone will misidentify hemp as marijuana is high. You now know in order for someone to determine a plant is actually hemp they would need to conduct chemical analysis on it, so why risk that?

Hemp’s uses as an industrial product seem to always be growing. Currently, the United States is going through a lot of political changes when it comes to hemp growth, but is also changing its opinions on marijuana.

The 2018 Farm Bill removed hemp from the Controlled Substances Act and since then almost all 50 states have created policies to allow for industrial hemp production. Meanwhile, legalization of marijuana has also been taking place.

There have been 33 states to approve and offer medical marijuana/cannabis programs, along with the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Each state’s laws differ, however, and there hasn’t been a comprehensive federal law yet to establish marijuana legalization.

Are You Struggling With Marijuana Use?

There is a lot of misinformation out there about marijuana. One of the bigger ones is that you cannot get addicted to it—but the facts are much different. Not everyone will become addicted, just like not everyone will become addicted to alcohol.

Studies show there is marijuana out there that is stronger than ever and when you pair that with its effects on the brain and body, the possibility for dependence and addiction rise. Getting help for marijuana addiction is possible, however.

Give Vertava Health Mississippi a call and let’s talk. You may feel like you can’t ask for help or that asking for help means you failed, or are weak. We’re here to tell you how strong you are. We work with you and use your strength to achieve lifelong treatment for marijuana abuse. Call us at 844-551-7335 any day, at any time. We know you can do it!

Frequently Asked Questions

Can You Tell The Difference Between A Hemp Plant And Marijuana Plant By Looking?

It’s very hard to tell the difference between hemp and marijuana plants just by looking at them. They are essentially the exact same, visually, and often need to be chemically analyzed to tell the difference.

What Is The Difference Between Hemp Buds And Marijuana Buds

The main difference between hemp and marijuana buds is the amount of THC present. In hemp there is generally .3% of THC present, which is the chemical responsible for the “high” feeling of euphoria when consuming marijuana. The buds from marijuana can contain anywhere from 10% to 30% THC.

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