Do You Have Questions About the Legality and Uses of Hemp?
Hemp served as a crucial source of production of rope, food, paper, clothing, housing material, and more, for millennia. From stalk to seed, hemp plants had been used for their fiber (from stems), protein (seeds), and oil and smokables (leaves and flowers). There’s evidence that it might have been one of the first crops ever cultivated by humans, including the discovery of material made from hemp over 10,000 years ago. Since hemp’s legalization in the U.S. in 2018, hemp-derived CBD products have been in the news, with the demand for them growing.
However, in the largely unregulated cannabis industry, there’s some confusion about the uses and the legality of hemp, as well as its differences from marijuana (as both are types of the cannabis plant). Here are three common misconceptions and one urban legend we’d like to debunk here.
Misconception #1: Hemp and Marijuana Are the Same Plant
There are many differences between hemp and marijuana and how they relate to cannabis. Both can appear exactly alike, but have different effects and usages. Crucially, they’re also regulated differently, so educating yourself is important in order to stay on the right side of the law.
What is cannabis? Broadly classified, it’s a genus of flowering plants in the Cannabaceae family, which consists of three primary species: Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, and Cannabis ruderalis. Cannabis contains both CBD and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), its well-known psychoactive component, as well as a host of other compounds including terpenes.
Both hemp and marijuana are typically referred to as species or strains of cannabis, while in fact, they are both broad classifications of cannabis. Hemp is a variety of Cannabis sativa that contains 0.3% or less THC content by dry weight, which makes it non-intoxicating. Marijuana, on the other hand, can contain as much as 30% THC, which makes it psychoactive and able to produce a euphoric effect upon its users.
There are four key differences between hemp and marijuana:
- Both could have high amounts of CBD, but THC is produced at different levels: no more than 0.3% THC by dry weight for hemp and up to 30% THC content for marijuana.
- Cultivation and harvesting. They are harvested for different purposes, in different growing conditions. Marijuana is typically selectively bred to produce female plants that yield budding flowers (male plants are typically eliminated) and optimize the properties of various breeds. It needs a controlled environment, like an indoor or a greenhouse setting, with specific conditions such as lighting, humidity, and temperature. Hemp is often grown in a much less controlled manner, outdoors, and more densely planted. To maximize its size and yield, and to protect hemp from diseases and insects, many farmers use crop rotation with hemp (which means that alternating crops are planted in the same place).
- Marijuana is recognized for recreational and, increasingly, therapeutic applications. Hemp is used for the production of a massive variety of products, from feedstock to paper to clothing to plastic. Food products include cooking oil, hemp flour, and more. Hemp-derived CBD products like oil tinctures and topicals keep growing in popularity. Even the plant itself is sold in the form of loose-leaf hemp flower or hemp cigarettes.
- There’s a sea of difference when it comes to regulating hemp and marijuana, all due to their THC content. Under the Controlled Substance Act of 1970, hemp remained an illegal substance until it was removed from the list under the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018 (the Farm Bill). Marijuana is still federally illegal under the Controlled Substance Act. Hemp is also legal in all 50 states, while it varies state by state for marijuana.
Misconception #2: Smoking Hemp Cigarettes Will Get You High
No. You can’t get high on hemp, because it produces a significantly lower amount of the intoxicating cannabinoid THC than its psychoactive relative. Some people like to smoke hemp buds to get the effects of the CBD, or as a less harmful alternative to tobacco cigarettes. Using hemp buds is one way of enjoying a full-spectrum CBD product, as it contains all of its natural compounds including terpenes, fatty acids, flavanoids, and other cannabinoids. Each of these compounds has effects and benefits of its own.
Misconception #3: Buying and Selling Hemp Is Illegal
Hemp was widely used in America for centuries, until Congress passed the Marihuana [sic] Tax Act in 1937, which imposed taxes and licensing regulations on hemp production. The Controlled Substances Act of 1970 made all varieties of cannabis illegal to cultivate or sell. The Farm Bill of 2018 removed hemp’s controlled-substance classification. This means that hemp and hemp-derived products are legal agriculture commodities, with the U.S. Department of Agriculture retaining federal authority over the crop. They are legal for you to sell and buy.
Misconception #4: The U.S. Constitution Was Written on Hemp
One urban legend states that the United States Constitution was originally written on hemp paper. According to the National Constitution Center, this is not true:
“The Constitution and the Declaration of Independence were written on parchment. The point of debate is that some working drafts of the documents might have been composed on paper made from hemp, which was widely used in that period.”
Legal once again, hemp has a bright future. It’s currently transforming agriculture as a sustainable, versatile, and eco-friendly crop that farmers are interested in growing. Hemp-derived products like CBD oil, topicals, and hemp flower are flying off the shelves, making it clear that consumers are paying attention, too.