Hemp and marijuana are not the same thing — period. But, it is easy to see why some might get confused. Cannabis is hemp. Cannabis is also marijuana. So, which is which? It all comes down to their chemical compositions. The Cannabis sativa strains that contain no more than 0.3% THC on a dry-weight basis are what we refer to as hemp. Those with more than 0.3% [and generally more like 5% to 30%] are what we know as marijuana.
While the smell can be the same and the buds can look the same — something that has confounded cops at times — the plants are visually distinct. Hemp is taller with long and skinny leaves and branches that are mainly distributed on the top portion of the plant while marijuana plants are bushier with broader leaves and have a shorter growing cycle.
If you compare a hemp farm with a marijuana farm, the difference will be readily apparent, in no small part, because one will likely be indoors and one will not. That is because they are two very different beasts when it comes to cultivation. Hemp is usually grown over acres outdoors and, since marijuana requires humidity and careful climate control, it is generally grown indoors or in greenhouses.Hemp has historically been bred for food and industrial uses including paper, rope, clothing, and building materials.
As such, the focus has been on fiber and grain production, while marijuana cultivation and breeding has focused on the flower and the production of THC. CBD is drawn from the hemp plant’s flower, leading the hemp industry to expand its focus to that part of the plant in recent years. So if THC is the big differentiator, what is it? And what makes hemp so valuable if it mostly lacks it?
THC (that is tetrahydrocannabinol) is a cannabinoid. Cannabis contains more than 100 cannabinoids and THC is the main cannabinoid found in marijuana. It is one that gives marijuana its psychoactive properties i.e. gets you high. Hemp’s main cannabinoid is CBD (cannabidiol), which is non-psychoactive and can be used in a variety of applications, from softgels to tinctures to smokeable flower and even candles, soaps, and other beauty products.
What caused all the confusion? The government, in part. Though hemp has been cultivated for millennia, the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 designated cannabis — which you now includes both hemp and marijuana — a Schedule I drug. That not only outlawed hemp cultivation, but fueled some confusing associations between the two that are only now slowly being undone. The 2014 and 2018 Farm Bills made all the difference. The first differentiated the two by setting a definition for industrial hemp [using that 0.3% THC level as the threshold]. But, there were still limitations on its growth. The 2018 Farm Bill made hemp cultivation legal and designates the crop as one that is protected under the Federal Crop Insurance Act. That makes this ancient crop a relatively “new” one in the US and Blühen is at the forefront of cultivating it, thanks to our focus on plant genetics and intentional farming practices.
Read more about where our hemp comes from here.