Looking at Hemp and Marijuana through a law maker’s lens

Picture Source: Encore Labs

Hemp and marijuana (cannabis) are cousins that belong to the same plant family. Although they are often mistaken as two distinct species, reality is that both of them stem from the same Cannabis plant.

Their key difference emanates from their varied THC concentration levels. Both hemp and marijuana can produce high levels of CBD, but THC levels can be distinctive, giving each plant its unique set of therapeutic qualities.

The uniqueness of properties also differentiates them in the eyes of law-makers. While hemp and its derivatives are largely legal throughout the United States, marijuana still has a long way to go. Its tendency to intoxicate has categorized it as a Schedule 1 drug. Whether or not this is fair is a separate debate which you can read here.

So why does marijuana intoxicate users, while hemp does not? Lets dig in to the reasons.

THC – The psychoactive compound

THC is a psychoactive compound that is found in cannabis, meaning that it is present in both hemp and marijuana. The key difference – it is more abundant in marijuana and sparse in hemp.

It can bind directly with the CB1 and CB2 receptors in the brain, allowing it to react efficiently with the endocannabinoid system of the body.

According to research THC’s chemical structure is very similar to anandamide, a brain chemical that influences pleasure, memory, movement, coordination and perception.

Having a similar structure with a chemical that already exists in the brain allows THC to be easily recognized by the body. This gives it an edge in acting through the cannabinoid receptors, allowing it to activate the brain’s reward system.

These reward stimuli lead to the expression of dopamine – a neurotransmitter and feel good hormone of the body. THC not only stimulates its production, but the levels it expresses are notably higher than what the body would naturally produce in response to a similar stimuli.

As a result of this over-expression, THC leads to the euphoric high in its users. Due to this, THC poses a substantial likelihood of addiction among its users.

Hemp VS Marijuana – who has a higher THC concentration?

Having understood the psychological impact of THC, it will now be easier to contemplate the difference in the legal statuses of hemp and marijuana.

Hemp and Hemp Seeds

The hemp plant is capable of producing a wide range of cannabinoids including THC and CBD. What’s unique about THC produced by hemp is that the concentration levels of the compound are not high enough for inflicting intoxicating effects. Due to this hemp and its derivatives are legally accepted in all 50 states of USA.

By definition, hemp is classified as a cannabis plant that does not contain more than 0.3% THC in the United States. This threshold for legality varies between countries. For instance it is 0.2% in the European Union and zero in Great Britain.

Hemp seeds have been used for a number of purposes for the past many years. Due to their nutritional properties, hemp infused products are found in alternative health clinics as well as health food stores. They have been in use particularly due their anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and calming properties.

In addition to this, hemp seeds and oil also improve heart health and aid in rejuvenation of skin, bones and muscles by providing protein. Moreover, they help with hormones, boost brain health, relieve pain and improve digestion.

Marijuana and marijuana seeds

The marijuana plant is classified as a cannabis strain that contains more than 0.3% THC. The seeds of these plants are generally more expensive and the plants require some exclusive care measures.

Not only do marijuana seeds need to be grown in controlled settings, but their growth cycle is significantly shorter. While it is 108-120 days for hemp, marijuana seeds take about 60-90 days. Medical marijuana has to be grown with extra caution with proper spacing between each plant.

While hemp is used in a number of industries, marijuana is solely grown for medicinal and recreational uses.

Can they be grown together?

Although hemp and marijuana look very similar to each other, they cannot be grown together. It is highly possible for the pollen from hemp to dilute marijuana’s psychoactivity, ruining both crops.

Yumna Haq: A graduate in Bachelors of Business Administration, Yumna Haq is an ardent researcher and a dedicated writer. Having lived in three different counties, her cultural exposure is vast, allowing her to reflect more knowledge in her work. She's currently working for Cannabis Health Insider as a news writer.