Cannabis, Hemp, Marijuana, THC, CBD, Cannabinoids. These are just a few of the terms that are associated with the booming CBD industry, and they can often be mistaken for each other. Misinformation is one of the most significant challenges in the path of mass adoption for CBD.
One of the main goals at Elements of Green is to provide education for consumers looking to learn and understand more about every aspect of the CBD industry. Although CBD does not have a psychoactive effect, some consumers are concerned about trying hemp out of fear of getting high and or failing drug tests.
The aim of this article is it set the record straight about the plants and compounds associated with the CBD industry, and to clear up any misnomers about their interrelationships and what effects they have.
Time to break down the relationship between cannabis, hemp and marijuana, and explain how it all ties together.
Cannabis VS Hemp VS Marijuana
What is Cannabis?
Cannabis is quite simply a family (or genus) of plants that, among others, is comprised of cannabis Sativa, cannabis Indica and cannabis ruderalis. These variations of cannabis can be visually identified by characteristics of their stock, flowers, and leaves. Sativa plants are often taller (having a longer stalk), and have narrower leaves – while Indica plants are shorter in stature and have broader leaves. While marijuana can be a member of the Sativa or Indica strain of cannabis, hemp can only be found as a Sativa plant.
The article references Dr. Dani Gordon, who specializes in medicinal cannabis and CBD products, who stated the demand was part of a broader trend and that this is part of consumers increased focus on more natural health and wellness solution to pair with their wellness routines. The article also suggests that people have more time to research what is available online.
So, if hemp and Marijuana aren’t strains of cannabis, what are they? Hemp and Marijuana, although often described as such, are not species or types of cannabis; instead, they are simply terms used to describe broader categories of the cannabis family that fit respective characteristics. This is will be discussed in more detail, but simply put, the hemp variety of cannabis plants are characterized as having higher levels of CBD, and lower levels of THC. The marijuana variety of cannabis plants containing higher levels of THC can lower levels of CBD. As we will learn, this can be a gross oversimplification that leads to further confusion about the relationship between cannabis, hemp, and Marijuana
Depending on where you live around the world, laws can vary dramatically on the legality of cannabis. In the United States, for example, recreational cannabis with high THC levels are legal in 11 states, while medical cannabis is legal in 33 states. In Europe, 29 countries have legalized medical cannabis in some form, but recreational use is still prohibited. It is essential to know different countries’ laws surrounding cannabis before traveling, handling or consuming it.
What is hemp?
We have established now, that although hemp is not specifically a strain of cannabis, it describes a broader group of cannabis Sativa strains that contain less than 0.3% THC. This only became a formal legal definition in the US with the signing of the 2018 Agricultural Act, better known as the Farm Bill. Under the farm bill, cannabis plants that contain less than 0.3% THC are defined as hemp, and therefore approved for cultivation and further broken down into its sub-components of oil, flower, stock, and root for distribution and sale. In addition to this, the Farm Bill ‘amends and extends major programs for income support, food and nutrition, land conservation, trade promotion, rural development, research, forestry, horticulture, and other miscellaneous programs administered by the Department of Agriculture (USDA) for five years through 2023.’.
Hemp is an incredibly versatile crop (see below), and is used in an incredibly diverse myriad of ways.
People have had a long and winding history with hemp. The plant is native to South or Central Asia, where early humans encountered it and started using it immediately. It is among the first known crops ever used by humanity, with archaeologists finding hemp cords as old as 12,000 years. Hemp has been cited as a key tool used in the construction of Egyptian pyramids in 1,200 BC. It wasn't long after that ancient religious leaders started smoking hemp in their ceremonies because of the psychoactive effects. When Columbus made the trip across the Atlantic Ocean, his ships' sails were made of hemp. Throughout history, hemp has been used by humans in over 50,000 different ways. This has given the plant a reputation of being one of the most versatile plants mother nature has to offer. Hemp has fought a long battle back to complete legalization in 2018. In the 1930s, a full-fledged smear campaign against the hemp industry lead by petroleum and cotton tycoons led to the passing of the Marihuana Tax Act in 1937. The name is misleading because it levied a tax on all forms of cannabis. This was the first national US legislation aimed at curtailing the sale of cannabis. In 1970, a law was imposed that made all hemp and cannabis illegal.
What is Marijuana?
In contrast to Hemp, Marijuana is a high THC variant of the cannabis plant that has fewer functional applications than its Hemp counterpart and legally contains more than 0.3% THC. Cannabis is primarily cultivated and extracted for its flower, oil, and resin that contains anywhere from 5%-35% THC (sometimes higher). Particularly in North America, as Cannabis regulation opens up and liberalizes, high-THC cannabis products have been turned into everything from topical creams, to vapor, to sublingual sprays, to edibles. Marijuana's high THC is often focused in seeds, leaves, and flowers, where the aforementioned products can leverage these components of the plant to generate high-CBD products. .
Cannabis professionals and people studying how cannabis can be used to treat pain, PTSD, and insomnia do not prefer to use the term marijuana because of its negative association with 'stoner culture,' unproductivity, and illicit drugs. Phrases like 'smoking marijuana' said in a negative tone, as we have all heard, often do not help with this negative association. The term 'marijuana' only came into widespread use in North America after the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 was implemented. During the 1910s and 1920s, the Mexican revolution forced over a million Mexican migrants into the US. Marijuana became the term used to associate cannabis smoked by Mexican migrants and is why the term marijuana has been considered racist.
Tying It All Together
Before exploring the differences between CBD and THC, it is essential to summarize what has been discussed above
While hemp and marijuana are two categories of the cannabis plant, they are not biological strains of cannabis
The most important distinction between hemp and marijuana is the amount of THC contained in the plant
Hemp has been used in over 50,000 ways by humans in the past 10,000 years in everything from biofuel, to cooking ingredient, to cloth
Marijuana is primarily cultivated for its high THC flower and seed used for creating topical creams, vapor, edibles, and oils
Hemp is grown to maximize volume and yield, while marijuana is grown in special conditions to maximizing the quality of THC-containing flowers and seeds
One of the most significant challenges of understanding the nuances of cannabis is the potential legal repercussions. In the USA, for example, the Farm Bill in 2018 legalized the cultivation, transportation, and sale of hemp (cannabis with 0.3% THC); however, many people have been arrested or charged for marijuana possessions. This clearly shows that even officers of the law are challenged by the changing legislation, and have made mistakes in the past. Additionally, if you thought that wasn't enough, cannabis with over 0.3% THC (marijuana) is federally illegal by the Controlled Substances Act but is legal in some states. Therefore, if you were to smoke the same cannabis in California, as in Alabama, one would land you in jail while the other would be completely legal.
Most of this misunderstanding inherently comes from the number of terms and lack of information that is available on the subject of cannabis, hemp, marijuana, weed, hash, etc. The most natural solution would be to consolidate the cannabis plant under one umbrella and legalizing it all. Although this is not entirely impossible, it will take a lot of time for local governments and more conservative political groups to agree on this subject.
Here is a summary table of the difference between Hemp and Marijuana:
A Helpful Analogy
Our friends at www.medium.com have designed a perfect analogy to help people understand the relationship between cannabis, hemp, and marijuana. Characterizing cannabis as either hemp or marijuana, as the diagram shows, would be the same as characterizing fruits in the citrus genus as either sweet or sour. Although being sweet or sour may be a characteristic of these fruits in the citrus genus, it does not encapsulate all the types of fruit that exist under that branch. The cannabis genus contains dozens of strains, including Sativa, Indica and Ruderaus.
Marijuana and hemp plants often look identical in some cases, which can add to the confusion. Sativa plants in the cannabis genus are the only type that can have hemp-like characteristics (low THC); whereas, marijuana-like plants can have all three types of plant in the cannabis genus: (Indica, Sativa, Ruderous).
CBD VS THC & Other Cannabinoids
The cannabis plant is being researched and tested at a rapid rate, and it seems that more is being discovered about it every day. One big misconception about cannabis is that it only contains CBD and THC; in fact, they are just two of over 400 cannabinoids found in the cannabis genus. Among the other cannabinoids is Cannabigerol (CBG). CBG is known to reduce inflammation and promote bone growth. CBD and THC are by far the most popular and high demand strains, so let's explore their known benefits, what makes them different, and what you need to know.
CBD VS THC
At first glance, the chemical composition of Cannabidiol (CBD) and Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are identical; that is because they nearly are. While both molecules have an atomic weight of 314g/mol and molecular formulae C21H30O2, where THC contains a cyclic ring, CBD contains a hydroxyl group. This subtle difference in how the atoms inside the molecules are arranged, as shown in this video, is what allows THC to cause a high, while CBD does not.
How does all this work? Well, your brain has something called CB1 receptors. Usually, in your non-high body, neurotransmitters call anandamide interact with the CB1 receptors in your brain to generate sensations of pleasure, motivation, and hunger. For example, after completing a challenging workout, you most likely feel a sensation of relief and joy. This occurs because your body has released anandamide, which interacts with the CB1 receptor and causes what is known as a runners high.
When you consume THC, the cyclic ring allows THC to mimic anandamide perfectly. By binding on with the CB1 receptor, THC causes a psychoactive effect or what is more commonly known as a 'high'. The CBD molecule, however, is different in shape due to the hydroxyl group and therefore does not fit into the CB1 receptor, and therefore does not cause a psychoactive effect.
Despite this difference in structure, both THC and CBD interact with the endocannabinoid system, which is why many of the benefits can be attained from consuming both compounds; targeting, inflammation, soreness, and nausea. Although the scientific study of CBD and THC are in their infancy, some initial research has shown that THC, by binding with the CB1 aggravates psychotic symptoms. At the same time, CBD may support recovery with patients that experience psychosis.
Education is the key to dispelling common myths and misconceptions about CBD, and ultimately will be the key to mass adoption across the world. The first step is to answer the most common questions about the two compounds.
Are CBD and THC found in both hemp and marijuana?
As we have discovered, CBD and THC are in fact, available in both compounds. Hemp is commonly defined as all cannabis plants with less than 0.3% THC, meaning THC is less associated with hemp even though it's found in trace amounts. Farmers and scientists continue to modify the genetic makeup of hemp to create a crop of hemp that contains zero THC. Marijuana, on the other hand, has a variety of Indica and Sativa strains that contain a range of THC and CBD content. Formally, marijuana is any cannabis strain with over 0.3% THC – but marijuana is known to contain up to 35% THC in some cases.
Are CBD and THC Legal?
The quick answer to this is that it depends where you are.
CBD is legal in the US, Canada and most of Europe, while THC above 0.3% is only legal in 11 US states, Canada, and medically in 20 European countries. The challenge is legalizing only CBD, or only THC is misleading and can lead to mass confusion. As we have shown, some cannabis plants contain THC, while others don't. Sometimes, it is incredibly challenging to tell the difference, and you cannot expect your average consumer to know the difference either.
Are CBD and THC psychoactive?
CBD is non-psychoactive, while THC is psychoactive.
What are the side effects of CBD and THC?
CBC is tolerated well by all who are tested, and very few side effects have been noted consistently, mainly fatigue. One study has shown that 'any side effects that occur with CBD use are likely the result of drug-to-drug interactions between CBD and other medications you may be taking.'