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What's the Difference Between Hemp and Cannabis?


It’s easy to be confused about the many different variations of the plant Cannabis sativa. While some forms of this plant are loved for their medical and recreational benefits, others are cultivated to create food or even fabric.

In this article, we’re going to investigate the differences between cannabis and hemp.

What is Cannabis?

Cannabis, more formally called Cannabis sativa, is a member of the Cannabaceae family.

Many strains of cannabis have a high proportion of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and other cannabinoids. The female flowers of these strains are vaporized, smoked, or ingested for their psychoactive effects.

What is Hemp?

Hemp is a variation of Cannabis sativa that was bred for a different purpose. Commonly called “industrial hemp”, this taller variety of cannabis is cultivated for its seeds or its fiber.

Generally, hemp is considered distinct from cannabis due to its extremely low potency of THC. In Canada, Cannabis sativa plants are considered “hemp” when they have a THC potency of lower than 0.3%.

So, don’t buy hemp seeds believing you’ve found a loophole for growing marijuana. Any plants you grow from those seeds are guaranteed to have such a low percentage of THC that you’re not likely to notice its effects.

What is Hemp Used For?

Given that it’s not a good idea to grow hemp for its psychoactive qualities, what is this plant good for? In fact, hemp is used industrially in a number of ways.

Hemp seeds are cultivated for their nutritional value. Whether these crunchy seeds are eaten by themselves, as a salad topping, mixed in with granola, or even ground up into flour, hemp seeds can be a great source of protein and fat. These seeds can also be made into hemp milk or pressed to create hemp oil.

The fiber produced by hemp products is used to create paper, rope, canvas, and cloth. Hemp is becoming a large competitor to cotton, as this robust plant requires half of the water necessary to grow cotton plants and only a quarter of the amount of water required to process cotton. Further, cotton requires twice the amount of land per ton of fabric produced.

 

Is Hemp Legal?

The answer to this question largely depends on your own country, state, and city’s laws. In the United States, for example, the legality of growing hemp and buying hemp seeds can vary wildly depending on which state you are in. So, as with most varieties of cannabis, it is important to check your local laws to find out if hemp is legal where you live.

Closing Thoughts

Hemp is an industrial variety of cannabis that was developed to be used for food and fiber. Although it is a kind of cannabis, hemp plants do not possess the high percentage of THC that cannabis plants are known for.

There is still a lot to love about hemp, especially if you love the environment. But in many places, there are laws that ban—or permit—the cultivation of hemp. So be sure to check your local legal code to find out if you can grow your own hemp.

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