Weed versus Hemp. What Are the Differences?

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As access to cannabis products increase across the country, misinformation continues to crop up about the stoney, sought-after crop. What’s the real relationship between hemp and weed and what can hemp be used for?

According to a 1976 study by the International Association of Plant Taxonomy, “both hemp varieties and marijuana varieties are the same genus, Cannabis, and the same species, Cannabis sativa. Further, there are countless varieties that fall into further classification within the species Cannabis sativa.”

So does that mean there’s no difference between hemp and weed? Well, yes and no. The real distinction is a matter of semantics, rather than science. According to Canadian researcher, Ernest Small, who first created the classification between hemp and marijuana, “there is not any natural point at which the cannabinoid content can be used to distinguish strain of hemp and marijuana.”

“Weed” or “marijuana” refers to a cannabis plant raised for its trichomes, which contain high amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

Medical Marijuana Dispensary

“Hemp” contains only trace amounts of THC. Rather, “hemp” refers to cannabis plants that have been bred for their high-growing stalks, which can be used for myriad uses. Hemp seeds can be used in making confections, flour, beer, livestock feed, dietary fiber, non-dairy milk, and baking additives. Hemp oil can be used in cooking, salad dressings, dietary supplements, body care products, fuel, detergents, spreads, and paints. Hemp fiber can be used to produce fabrics, insulation, carpeting, paneling, pulp and paper, recycling additives, automobile parts, animal bedding, and mulch.

Hemp paper is about twice as durable as wood pulp paper and can easily produce more paper per acre than wood pulp with less energy. Hemp farming also produces more oxygen than tree farming can produce. The hemp paper process also uses fewer chemicals than tree paper processing without the harmful dioxins, chloroform, or any of the other 2,000 chlorinated organic compounds that have been identified as byproducts of the wood paper process. Both the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution were drafted on hemp paper!

Hemp seeds combine beneficial amino acids with fatty acids and has the second highest amount of protein of any food (the highest is soy). Since hemp protein so closely resembles the protein found in human blood, it’s the easiest protein for humans to digest.

Hemp biodiesel can be made from the oil of pressed hemp seeds. By fermenting the stalk of the hemp plant, hemp ethanol and methanol.

The distinction between hemp and weed comes from the purposes the individual stains were bred for. Cannabis sativa strains bred for crystal-encrusted buds to be used either as an entheogen or as a medicine are generally referred to as “marijuana.”  Cannabis sativa strains bred for their fast and tall stalks, seeds, or oil with little to no THC are hemp plants.

But even these distinctions vary based on location. For example, according to U.S. law “hemp” refers to all parts of any Cannabis sativa plant containing no psychoactive properties, except for defined exceptions, whereas Health Canada defines hemp as part of Cannabis sativa with less than 0.3 percent THC.

Regardless of the distinctions between hemp and marijuana, the wonders of Cannabis sativa never end—whether you’re loading up a bowl to smoke with friends, pouring hempseed granola into your cereal in the morning, pulling on a hemp fiber t-shirt, or filling your car with a hemp-derived biodiesel.


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