Marijuana vs Hemp: Know Your Cannabis.

Hemp Plant Mural

We hear this question all the time, “Is hemp different from marijuana?”, and the answer is, well, complicated. It’s a common myth that hemp and marijuana are two completely different plant species. In fact, each are varieties of the cannabis plant. The main difference between the two, both in scientific and legal terms,  is their delta-9 THC concentration. 

What is Hemp?

Industrial hemp (Cannabis sativa L) is cannabis with a delta-9 THC concentration of 0.3 percent or less. Any cannabis plant with more than 0.3 percent delta-9 THC is technically considered marijuana in the eyes of the law. 

So, why is 0.3 percent the magic number? According to Ernest Small, author of the acclaimed book “The Species Problem in Cannabis: Science and Semantics”, the number is fairly arbitrary. In the book, Small emphasizes the issue for farmers and lawmakers that there was no effective way to distinguish one cannabis variety from another.

Since the two plants are visually the same, and produce the same flowering “buds” that we all know and love, Small proposed the low percentage as a solution to differentiate the two. 0.3 percent is also an extremely small amount of delta-9 THC and is extremely unlikely to produce the typical “high” associated with the compound. 

To put things into perspective, the average marijuana strain now contains an average of 15-20 percent delta-9 THC, depending on a variety of factors. In some cases, THC levels can even be 30 percent or more. Hemp has much higher levels of CBD, CBN and other non-psychotropic cannabinoids. So, all your favorite CBD and Delta-8 THC products come from the flowers of hemp. 

Growing Cannabis: From Seed to Harvest

While industrial hemp is federally legal as of 2018, you must have a state or USDA license to grow hemp. For established farmers, hemp has the potential to be a major cash crop. Male hemp plants are ideal for textiles, paper, food products and plastics. Because the female plants contain flowers, they’re grown for medicinal and recreational use. 

Cannabis can be grown indoors or outdoors. But, like any crop, they require a lot of care and maintenance to reach their full potential. Before planting, soil pH and temperature must be tested for an ideal growing environment. Greenhouse and indoor environments are ideal for seed germination, as you’re able to control the temperature and light the seeds are exposed to. 

Cannabis seeds usually take 5-10 days to sprout, and develop their first couple of fan leaves, bringing them into the seedling stage. Plants are in this stage for two to three weeks, as they grow more fan leaves. Perhaps the most crucial stage is the vegetative stage or “veg”. 

Cannabis plants gain most of their leaves and overall mass while in veg, as they prepare for the flowering stage. Veg plants must have the right nutrients at this stage to flower successfully. Depending on the strain, flowers begin to bud after 3-16 weeks. 

For higher cannabinoid levels, indoor growing with hydroponics or specialized “grow rooms” are ideal, since the grower can control the light amounts and temperature. Hemp flowers are harvested by hand and are cured in drying rooms, similar to tobacco curing. The curing process increases the cannabinoid potency and overall quality of the flower. 

Final Thoughts

Hemp, like marijuana, is a variety of cannabis. But, its uses and legality are much different. Growing cannabis can be an amazing experience;. but, its truly a labor of love. To learn more about growing cannabis, refer to Ed Rosenthal’s Marijuana Grower’s Handbook: Your Complete Guide for Medical and Personal Marijuana.

Luckily, you can purchase your favorite hemp products without growing the plants yourself. If you’re in need of hemp and CBD products, visit our store today or shop online.

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