The difference between Hemp & Cannabis.
Hemp is a cousin to the much-loved hops plant; you know, the one everyone uses in delicious IPA beers. A general rule of thumb is that, when people are talking about the plant that will make you ‘feel’ an effect, they’re referring to cannabis; whereas, if they’re talking about a variety of the plant that won’t have an intoxicating result, they’re referring to hemp. As far as science is concerned, though, hemp is, actually, the same plant as cannabis – so how do we sort out the differences? An easy way to think about it is that hemp has very little THC, where cannabis has higher amounts of THC. We’ll get into what THC is and why it matters in the next section – so keep reading!
Because cannabis plants have two genders, you can also think about hemp being the male plant (which is why it has no THC) and cannabis being the female plant, which uses her THC producing flowers to catch pollen from the male plant. You probably didn’t think this article would be talking about plant sex!
Hemp can be a potent and useful tool as we move towards more sustainable, environmental practices; it can be recycled and is 100% biodegradable. In a paper published in 2018, entitled New Zealand’s Industrial Hemp Industry, the author mentions that hemp has “high carbon storage potential”, meaning that it can filter large amounts of carbon dioxide out of the air, at a higher rate than other plants. As well as being great for the air, the plant is also helpful in reducing pesticide usage and, therefore, good for the land, too. Due to the robust and durable nature of its root system, hemp can grow in extreme environments and is very drought resistant, making it one of the most sustainable plants to farm. From money, to clothing, to ship’s sails, humans have a long history of using hemp without getting high, at all.
A misconception about hemp, is that there’s a difference in classification from cannabis, that induces intoxication. From a taxological sense, hemp, or Cannabis sativa, isn’t that much different from what many of us would consider traditional cannabis, or Cannabis indica. Cannabis indica is broad-leafed and known for producing more THCA (the precursor to THC), which, when decarboxylated (heated up), turns into THC. THC is what creates the intoxicating effect, or feeling of being ‘high’, that most people associate with consuming cannabis. The real difference between the two lies in their THC content; if it’s less than 0.03% THC, cannabis is qualifiable as hemp.
Also known as industrial hemp, hemp is described as a narrow-leafed plant that produces meager amounts of THCA and higher amounts of CBDA (the precursor to CBD). It’s strong fibres are normally used for rope, textiles, clothing, paper and even biofuel. Confused yet? If you are, don’t worry, this is some pretty complex organic chemistry.
Hemp is completely legal, and delicious! Explore the history, health benefits and environmental impact of this wonder plant on our Hemp Page.