There is a serious absence of education about cannabis that stems all the way back to prohibition, resulting in lots of widely held, inaccurate beliefs, including: ‘cannabis is female, hemp is male’ or ‘cannabis is harmful, hemp isn’t’ – we’re here to provide the facts. The simplest way to define the difference between cannabis and hemp, is that hemp is used to denote the non-psychoactive variety of the Cannabis Sativa plant and cannabis is used to denote the psychoactive variety of the same.
Health Canada has created a helpful definition of hemp, in that it is a product of the Cannabis Sativa plant and contains a very small amount of THC- 0.3% or less. American law on the other hand says that hemp is any part of the same plant as long as it does not have any psychoactive ingredients.
Yes, you can tell the difference between the hemp and cannabis plants – you just need to know what you are looking for; the two types are grown for different uses. Both hemp and marijuana varieties stem from the same genus which is called Cannabis, and that it is also from the same species, known as Cannabis Sativa. There exist countless other varieties which are also within this species. We can determine the correct term by examining how the plant is grown and used. The term cannabis however, is used when the Cannabis Sativa plant is grown for trichomes (strong, viscous glands) with high amounts of the cannabinoid most associated with psychoactivity: tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
In contrast, only small amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol are found in the Cannabis Sativa plant bred for hemp. Hemp, usually grown for industrial purposes, including, fibre for clothing, ointments and oils or construction, can grow to up to four metres.
The controversial distinction between what is legal to sell and what isn’t is defined by the amount of THC present in the product. Products with less than 0.3% THC are defined as hemp and are thus legal to sell, use and distribute.
Hemp is widely used in the health and beauty industry. Oil from the hemp seed is used in a variety of products including skin care and hair care. Products including hair oils, cleansers, moisturisers, even anti-aging creams are becoming more and more popular. The vital nutrients and essential fatty acid (EFA) content in hemp seed oil make it an excellent moisturiser, so much so that it is even used in treating skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis. Cannabidiol is also a powerful antioxidant which minimises the damage done to the skin by the sun, smoking, pollution and poor nutrition. The fatty acids contained include omega-3, omega-6 & omega-9 and gamma linoleic acids (GLA’s) which aren’t common in natural oils but are excellent in skin care.
Ernest Small, a Canadian researcher developed the definition of hemp (distinct from cannabis) in 1971. Small determined the 0.3% THC distinction in his book ‘The Species Problem in Cannabis.’ In the highly influential book he also argues that there is no point at which the cannabinoid properties are able to be used to distinguish between different marijuana and hemp strains. In spite of this, he also decided to make the choice that 0.3% of THC (from the flowers) should be the defining difference between the two. Naturally, this contradiction has caused a lot of controversy and confused many – in terms of defining the distinction between hemp and cannabis.
Different rules exist depending on where you are in the world, which also adds to the confusion. The US states that hemp, except for certain exceptions; is any non-psychoactive part of the Cannabis Sativa plant, whereas, Health Canada uses the less than 0.3% distinction.
The conclusion of a recent court dispute between Hemp Industries Association v DEA was that the DEA is able to regulate items of food which contain THC (if derived from marijuana) and also have the ability to regulate all kinds of THC which is synthetic. Non-psychoactive hemp products are unregulatable as it isn’t found in Schedule I.
The whole-plant cannabis oil has high proportions of cannabinoids, commonly CBD, and other substances which are found to be highly effective in the treatment of a wide assortment of complaints.
Hemp seed oil, in contrast, you can find in lots of products at your local store as it lacks the cannabinoids present in cannabis oil, it is however, high in nutritional value; containing only half the calories of olive oil but twice the omega-3 this makes it highly popular in our weight and conscious modern world.
Hemp extract, also known as CBD, is very different from Hemp seed oil, it does contain cannabinoids, just not the THC. This is vital as it means the CBD products can be freely sold and shipped across the country. The THC is low enough to make the products legal and people are finding it of incredible wellness benefits.