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What's the Difference between Hemp and Marijuana?

Cannabis: What’s the Difference between Hemp and Marijuana?

We get a lot of confused people visiting our stores. We do our best to educate everyone so they are better prepared to navigate the increasingly complex world of cannabis related products. We do this for sake of helping others stay in the legal area instead of the illicit trade plus we truly care about our customers and wish for them to make more informed decisions with their health and cannabis. One area of concern that frequently comes up is what truly is the difference between Hemp and Marijuana?

The easiest summary answer is that they are essentially both the same – one just has more Delta-9 Tetrahydrocannabinol (Delta-9 THC) than the other. However, this is not truly accurate. To explore the differences and the similarities more, it is important to break down what plants are actually cannabis plants.

Strawnana Delta 8 Hemp Flower from Canna River
“Bud” or clusters of cannabis flower are the most common parts of the cannabis plant that are consumed in smokable form and used for production of products such as oils, topicals, and edibles.

Cannabis is a species of plants that includes the Cannabis Sativa, Cannabis Ruderalis, and Cannabis Indica. Of course, it is possible to have hybrids of any or all of these as growers of cannabis delve into using cross pollination and other methods to create new strains. Whether these are separate species or even each a different genus is still very debatable.

The most common legal form of Cannabis is the sativa. Sativa plants tend to grow taller than its other cousins, thus producing more fiber for use in textiles, paper production and construction materials. The sativa plants also are being bred to have higher levels of the legal cannabinoids (phytocannabinoids) more so than indica typically produces. Plants which are higher in the cannabinoid cannabidiol (CBD) are prized for their content especially if the corresponding cannabinoid, D9THC, is less than the legal required limit in the jurisdiction of note. This is currently 0.3% D9THC by dry weight.

“What is dry weight?”, you ask.

Dry Weight (dwt) is the weight of the THC as a part of the overall material when weighed without water or moisture. If the plant material containing the Delta-9 THC is dried to remove all water from the material. The amount of Delta-9 THC found in subsequent analysis is then expressed as weight of chemical divided by weight of the dried material which once contained it.

To make this terminology easier, if you have an edible like a gummy that weighs 3.2 grams for all content including sugars, gelatin, phytocannabinoids and more, and the overall Delta-9 THC is 0.3% or less, then the gummy is within legal guidelines in accordance with the DEA.

Edibles from Hemp include gummies, chocolates, beverages and other products designed for tasty dosing

Taking the information provided in the sample one step further: Do the math with the above information and 3.2 gram is equal to 3200 milligrams total mass. The legal limit of Delta-9 THC would then be no more than 0.3% of this number which would be 3200mgX.3%=9.6mg. This means that a 10mg gummy would be outside of the legal limit of Delta-9 THC and the vendor and the manufacturer could be legally liable for the product’s compliance. However, if the edible is under that limit, it is safe in accordance with the DEA. (This does not mean that other jurisdictions may have different regulations or ordinances or statutes to the contrary.)

After that long explanation (but we hope you followed the logic), you can apply a similar calculation, even without pulling out a calculator normally. Whatever product you have that has hemp in it, whatever the dry weight is can be multiplied by .003 to get the maximum Delta-9 THC. This means a 3.5 gram (an 1/8th bag) of hemp flower cannot have more than 10.5 milligrams of Delta-9 THC. This is useful for health purposes since having the trace amount of the Delta-9 THC does mean that more of the entourage effect is enabled for healing purposes.

Now that we have some of the simple calculations in place, we can further explore the differences in the plants.

Most aficionados of cannabis will tell you that Sativa leads to a euphoric or head high which is often coupled with boosts in energy and a noticeable reduction in discomfort from anxiety, stress, or depression. It may also increase perceived focus, creativity, and mental processing. To summarize in easy terms: Sativa leads to focus/creativity with boosts in energy and reduction of stress.

Feel free to download and share this image provided by Carolina Hemp Hut. Infographic credit, L. Werran

In contrast, the Indicas typically delivery more of a all over, full-body impact. This can easily be summarized: Indica increases relaxation and may reduce discomfort from insomnia and often body pain.

Regardless of Indica or Sativa, the included natural terpenes (terpenoids and other compounds) have a direct influence on the behavior of the strain. For example, higher Myrcene strains tend to be more apt to help people reduce discomfort from anxiety, inflammation, and pain.

Since the US Farm Bill, 2018, was signed into law by President Donald Trump, all HEMP products (we will have to further defined this for you as well) are legal if they have less than the 0.3% Delta-9 THC. The emphasis on HEMP is important. Let’s say that you are looking to extract the ever-popular phytocannabinoid, Cannabidiol (CBD) from flower. The Bill actually removed hemp, defined as cannabis (Cannabis sativa L.) and derivatives of cannabis with extremely low concentrations of the psychoactive compound (Delta-9 THC), from the definition of marijuana in the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).Since both of the groups of cannabis are under the species Cannabis sativa L., then it doesn’t matter whether it is an indica or a sativa or frankly, ruderalis. They would all be subject to the 0.3% dwt Delta-9 THC. This is why some Indica plants, which much of the media describes as marijuana, is actually considered HEMP since it does not have high levels of Delta-9 THC.

Since cannabis plants are one big happy family, we can consider the Cannabis sativa L. species to be similar to the species of the domestic dog, Canis lupus familiaris. We know that the domestic dogs has a bunch of breeds. An Irish Wolfhound is a big dog breed and a Chihuahua is a small dog breed. They are both dogs though.

A little dog is still a dog.

The key here is that dogs can be Bigger or Smaller, but still dogs. With cannabis, the plant could be HIGH in Delta-9 THC and low in CBD or a plant could be LOW in Delta-9 THC and HIGH in CBD. They are both cannabis plants though. This means that Hemp and Marijuana plants are really the same species of Cannabis and are now differentiated mainly by how much Delta-9 THC is in them.

Since the Federal laws prohibit extractions of CBD from HIGH Delta-9 THC plants, then the HEMP industry stresses compliance with extraction from LOW Delta-9 THC and HIGH CBD plants. And, in most cases, this is likely the “Sativa” leaning plants.

In summary: “Cannabis Sativa and Cannabis Indica should be considered to be the same genus of plants. You may judge a Sativa and an Indica by the behavior of the plant’s specific compounds (both phytocannabinoids and terpenoids, et al.) and not necessarily by the taxonomy. Hemp can be all of the Legal botanical products that are under 0.3% Delta-9 THC and the Marijuana is everything else.”

Please share this graphic with friends of Cannabis. Infographic credit, L. Werran