What is Hemp? How does it differ from Marijuana or Cannabis?
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Mention the words ‘marijuana, ”hemp’ or ‘cannabis’ to the uninitiated and they will immediately associate these terms with dangerous narcotics or unkempt, long-haired hippies; too lazy to do anything but smoke bongs and joints all day.
In reality, this couldn’t be further from the truth. So, what is hemp and how does it differ from cannabis or marijuana? A correct understanding of these terms will go a long way towards clearing up further misconceptions.
All three species, including their subspecies, are known to comprise of up to 483 chemical constituents. Of these, over 85 cannabinoids have been isolated.
All three species of cannabis produce varying concentrations of two main cannabinoids. These are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) The former, THC, is the psychoactive ingredient which is responsible for feelings of elation and altered perception.
It is the THC which is responsible for the “high” that users feel. People who smoke cannabis for recreational purposes would prefer the strain to have high quantities of THC. Many hybrid versions of the plant are available and which cater specifically to these requirements.
Cannabidiol (CBD) by comparison, is non-psychoactive. If anything, research has shown CBD to counter the effects of THC.
Cannabis plants which are described as low-intoxicants or “non-drug” plants are cultivated for fibre and seed production. Cannabis plants yielding high levels of intoxicant (THC) are grown for recreational drug use.
To put it simply, the term cannabis is used to incorporate both marijuana and hemp plants.
What is hemp?
Hemp refers to cannabis plants which yield minimal amounts of the psycho-active ingredient THC. Hemp plants are grown as a perfectly legal industrial crop in more than 30 countries across the globe. Hemp plants are known for producing excellent fibres as well as nutritious seeds and oils.
The term “hemp” is also used to describe the products into which these plants are refined. These products include paper, rope, oil, clothing, foods, organic plant-based plastics and military grade fabrics.Hemp oil is extracted from Cannabis Sativa L. and THC is only present in negligible quantities (below 0,3%).
Hemp has a long an illustrious history in the United States, with mandatory cultivation laws being enacted in Massachusetts in 1631 and in Connecticut in 1632. Contrary to what many believe, the United States Declaration of Independence was NOT written on paper made from hemp. It was signed on parchment made from animal skin. However, the first pair of Levis jeans was indeed made from hemp.
Although hemp is no longer cultivated on a very large scale in the United States, it is still perfectly legal to import products derived from these plants. In 2011, the U.S. imported $11.5 million worth of legal hemp products, up from $1.4 million in 2000.
What is marijuana? Is it a dangerous drug?
Marijuana is the term used to describe cannabis plants which yield high levels of the psycho-active ingredient THC. Marijuana plants are generally used for recreational purposes across the globe. It is estimated that 5% of the world’s population between the ages of 16 and 65, either smoke or consume marijuana. This figure increases dramatically in certain African countries. For example, it is estimated that as much as 20% of all South African adults have at some stage experimented with marijuana.
Both scientific and clinical trials are yielding encouraging results for Medical marijuana to be introduced into more mainstream medical practices.
As with its cousin hemp, marijuana has received a bad reputation over the years. This has been largely due to ignorance and the political protection of the tobacco and timber industries. Anyone who has taken the time to do the research will confirm that marijuana could hardly be called dangerous, and should certainly not be classified in the same category as cocaine, heroin or crystal meth.
If anything, according to scientific experiments using the latest techniques, equipment and methodologies, marijuana has proven to be less harmful than alcohol or tobacco.
What is hemp? It is certainly not the same thing as marijuana, even though the plants appear superficially similar.