While there is constantly a lot of talk about the terms marijuana and hemp, a lot of people still don’t really know what the difference between them actually is. It is a commonly asked question, and thankfully this article walks you step by step through the various differences that exist between hemp and marijuana.
As a result of both of these substances having been given a bad reputation over the years due to being largely illegal, there are a lot of misconceptions and myths out there which people believe to be true. These issues will be addressed now, once and for all.
What is the key difference between hemp and cannabis?
When it comes to the key difference when comparing hemp with cannabis is how both of these versions of the same species is expressed. The species in question is cannabis sativa. In basic terms, if you are able to smoke the plant and get high, then it is marijuana. If you don’t get high from smoking it, it is hemp.
In scientific terms, they are the same thing, because they are both from the same species of plant, but in legal terms they are most certainly different, especially in this day and age.
A good way of thinking about their relationship and similarities is that they are like siblings. They are part of the same family, except that they have some differing characteristics. While the genetic makeup of siblings is the same, there is usually a difference in height, hair color, eye color, etc. The only difference in genes between you and a sibling is how those genes are expressed, which is due to different phenotypes.
When to comes to cannabis, the phenotype will come down to what sort of THC content is seen with that type of strain. The marijuana version of this plant species is going to be one that has a phenotype typical of high THC production. Hemp on the other hand is a plant that has minuscule levels of THC in it.
What is hemp?
Most of the time, marijuana plants are produced in order to obtain the female flowers (the bud), whereas hemp is produced to maximize the entire weight mass. A hemp plant will be harvested and subsequently processed in order to utilize its various properties – the seeds can be made into oils and the plant can be made into fibers. There are hundreds and thousands of different industries that are dependent on the production of hemp, including the likes of cosmetics, fuel, food, and textiles.
There are many interesting applications for hemp, some of which are undoubtedly yet to be discovered. New research has even shown that hemp’s subsequent waste product is a better substitute for graphene. Graphene is known as being up there with the strongest, most conductive, and lightest carbon atom fiber in the world. This means that hemp has the potential to even be a major contributor for the creation of batteries that store high levels of energy, called supercapacitors. It would also be significantly cheaper to produce hemp than graphene.
Hemp has been used for thousands of years for a variety of purposes. The cannabis plant is actually one of the very first species of plant that was successfully domesticated and cultivated by mankind, dating as far back as nearly 10,000 years ago. Hemp fibers were then used as part of the fabric weaving process.
The likes of clothes, papers, ropes, and sails were all created through the use of hemp fibers in some shape or form. Although hemp is produced with the focus of maximizing the total weight and marijuana is cultivated and grown for its female buds, in terms of biomass potential these two different iterations are almost identical. They are both exactly the same except for the way in which humans interact with them.
As both recreational and medical marijuana is becoming legalized across the world, it is expected that the waste products of the growth process are going to be sold for other uses within the industry for hemp. This would of course be a great earner for those growing marijuana, as well as for those industries who could make the most of these waste products.
It is staggering as to just how many different uses there are for the cannabis plant. This is especially the case when it comes to energy demands, with a focus on renewable energy becoming more and more important. There are many who are of the belief that cannabis could play a large role in dealing with any sort of environmental crisis that may occur in the future.
Cannabis has legitimate applications for keys areas of the advancement of a society, which are agriculture, industry, and health. The quicker people embrace this fact, the faster people can reap the many benefits.
What was the historic issue with hemp?
While hemp is not psychoactive in any way, unlike marijuana, it has been kept illegal in a lot of countries across the world. It was in 1937 that the Marijuana Tax Act was passed by the United States Congress, which saw hemp and marijuana banned.
Hemp and marijuana were not differentiated as part of this act – they were thought of as being one and the same. It was not until 1964 that the THC molecule was discovered and named by Professor Raphael Mechoulam, who was a professor for Medical Chemistry in the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. This is the point at which the differentiation between the two plants was discovered.
The United States ban on hemp had a serious impact on farmers, leading to a lot of them being forced to stop their activities or adapt to less productive crops. This meant that hemp was largely invisible and not used in mainstream industries. This meant that wood and cotton were able to take up the slack and benefit from the absence of hemp.
This is what has led to a lot of serious issues such as widespread deforestation.
Why is hemp so important?
The main difference between hemp and marijuana being that the CB1 receptors in our bodies being activated by THC when marijuana is consumed and thereby producing that high feeling. Otherwise, they are the same. There are many great benefits that marijuana has for health issues, with more studies being published every week showing these wide-ranging benefits.
With the globe’s resources rapidly being depleted, the likes of hemp can be used to help stem this tide. Data from all of the way back to 1916 showcases that to have a ton of fiber produced annually would need 5.4 acres of wood to be used, whereas only 1.33 acres of hemp would be needed.
With modern technology, these gains could be exponentially better for hemp. The forests across the world are rapidly being cleared away with often devastating consequences, which is why hemp could be poised to make a resurgence as it is legalized gradually in various countries worldwide.