Hemp vs. Cannabis: A Definitive Guide

The evolving debate around the legalization of hemp and cannabis can be confusing, especially when, at times,  news articles use both terms interchangeably. That’s why we have put together this handy guide outlining critical differences between the two. We hope you come away better informed with the ability to understand the benefits and uses of each product.

Understanding Hemp

What Is Hemp?

Hemp comes from a plant derived from the Cannabis Sativa. It is a variety with very low levels of THC typically of less than 1 percent. Hemp is one of the oldest domestic crops, with uses for the plant dating back to 8,000 BC.

Is Hemp Considered To Be Marijuana?

While hemp comes from the same family of plants, it is not the same as marijuana. The low levels of THC in hemp, combined with the high levels of cannabidiol that counter any THC effects, keep it from inducing the psychotropic feelings obtained from marijuana use. The hemp plant is also thinner in appearance than a marijuana plant and has slimmer leaves. It typically stands taller than marijuana plants, with most of the branches gathered at the top.

How is Hemp Grown?

Hemp plants can be placed close together without an issue, as little as four inches apart. They’re usually grown in big multi-acre plots in a variety of climates. It usually takes around 100-120 days for a crop to be ready for harvest.

How is Hemp Used?

Hemp has a variety of industrial uses. Many manufacturers use raw seeds and flowers from hemp in organic body care products, health foods, and other similar items. They also use the stalks and fibers for the creation of clothing, paper, construction materials, plastic composites, biofuels, and many other products.

Where is Hemp Legal?

The Controlled Substances Act passed in 1970 classified hemp and any other products deriving from cannabis plants as a Schedule I drug, making it illegal to grow hemp in the U.S. Hemp manufacturers and enthusiasts had to make do with imports to create their products.

Things changed in 2014 when Congress included a provision in the US Farm Bill allowing states to create their laws regarding hemp production. The 2018 US Farm Bill went even further, making hemp production legal in all states. While there are currently no states with active hemp farming, many of them enacted laws authorizing hemp research and pilot programs for industrial hemp production.

Understanding Cannabis

What is Cannabis?

Cannabis also comes from the plant species Cannabis Sativa L, more specifically cannabis sativa. While it grows in the wild in many tropical regions around the world, its durability makes it suitable for producing in any climate. Cannabis plants contain higher levels of THC than hemp plants, somewhere between 5-35 percent.

How is Cannabis Grown?

Cannabis plants require controlled environments featuring warm, humid conditions. They usually spaced at least six inches apart from each other. It usually takes cannabis plants 60-90 days to be ready for harvest.

How is Cannabis Used?

Many people use derivatives of cannabis plants socially. In addition to creating the hand-rolled cigarettes, they can also be baked or cooked into various recipes. Cannabis has been found to alleviate symptoms in people suffering from chronic diseases or illness like increased eye pressure from glaucoma, nervous system disorders, and relieving nausea caused by chemotherapy and other cancer treatments.

Hashish comes from the resin of cannabis plants and gets pressed into small blocks after being dried. It can also be added to food for consumption. Hash oil, pressed out from hashish can also be inhaled.

Where is Cannabis Legal?

There are currently 33 US states with authorized cannabis and medical marijuana programs. The District of Columbia and the US territories of Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands also have similar laws on the books.

Ten states — Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington — have made it legal to use cannabis recreationally, with another 13 decriminalizing its usage. Federal law still classifies all cannabis products as an illegal Schedule I drug.

Hemp vs. Cannabis: A Summary

Hemp plants are typically taller and thinner in appearance than cannabis plants and have skinner leaves. Cannabis plants require more careful tending than hemp plants and produce a full crop in a shorter period.

Hemp plants have much lower levels of THC than cannabis plants and contain agents counteracting the effects of what amounts are present. That makes it impossible to get the same psychotropic feelings obtained from cannabis byproducts, which can have THC levels as high as 35%.

Cannabis plants used both recreationally and for various medicinal purposes. Hemp flowers and leaves are often used as an ingredient in many health foods and organic body products, while the stalks are popular in clothing manufacturing and other industrial uses.

The 2018 Farm Bill made hemp completely legal everywhere in the United States. Cannabis remains illegal at the federal level, though most states have enacted their own laws governing the medical and recreational use of its products.

Are you in need of consulting help for your cannabis business? Contact American Cannabis Company at (303) 974-4770 to learn how we can help your business thrive.



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