Deconstructing Controversy: Hemp vs Marijuana

Posted on October 5, 2016 by admin

Deconstructing Controversy: Hemp vs Marijuana

By Alanna Hinds


In the United States, popular cases in which a person is wrongfully convicted of a crime s/he did not commit are far between; but they do happen, and they’re considered national calamities.

Now, as terrible as these occurrences are, how much worse would it be if one of the people imprisoned over false claims was someone like Albert Einstein, a genius with exponential potential to benefit society?

Would you be even more displeased if I were to tell you s/he was sent to prison SOLELY because they had a cousin who was considered to be a menace to society?

I thought so.

Hypothetical scenarios aside, this is exactly what has occurred to hemp, the super-vegetable of our time, as it’s cousin just so happens to be the oh-so-controversial marijuana plant.

Hemp has been misunderstood in this country for decades, as stigma instead of facts has guided our policy towards the crop. If you happen to be one of the individuals confused by both policy surrounding hemp’s legality and perhaps a lack of information, allow me to brush you up on the basics:




First, hemp and marijuana are NOT different plants; they are different varieties or breeds of the same species: Cannabis Sativa; each with very unique biochemical compositions.


The primary difference between the two is in the cannabinoids; the most active and studied being tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD):

CBD has wellness benefits that have been associated with the cannabis plant for centuries. This compound has attracted much attention from researchers in recent years for its natural ability to improve one’s state of well-being and has gained popularity as a medical supplement with its analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and anti-anxiety properties.

– Tetrahydrocannabinol, also called THC, is the chemical responsible marijuana’s psychological effects. It is the cannabinoid that is responsible for giving a high or ‘stoned’ feeling to those who smoke marijuana and is the aspect of cannabis that has given the plant a bad reputation and negative stigma.


Now that we understand the two major cannabinoids, let’s take a closer look at their roles in each plant variety:

Contrary to popular belief, it is not possible to extract a drug from the industrial hemp plant. Hemp contains virtually no THC (delta-9- tetrahydrocannabinol), the active ingredient in marijuana, with a maximum of 0.3% THC content. Marijuana, on the other hand, typically contains 5-20% THC with some premium marijuana containing 25-30% THC. In addition, hemp contains a relatively high percentage of CBD (cannabidiol) which actually negates THC’s psychoactive effects. Hemp, therefore, can’t “get you high” and acts as a type of antagonist or anti-marijuana – your lungs would fail before your brain attains any sort of high from smoking hemp.


To further solidify the differences between hemp and marijuana, the two varieties differ in how they grow and look, making it easy to tell them apart.


– Hemp can grow up to 20 feet tall with long, massive stalks. Hemp has skinnier leaves that are concentrated at the top as few branches or leaves exist below the top part of the plant. At times, it almost looks like bamboo.

– Marijuana, on the other hand, grows outward with more leaves and buds and rarely exceeds five feet in height; making it look like a short, fat bush from afar. Marijuana’s leaf shape tends to either be broad leafed, a tight bud, or look like a nugget with organd hairs.


– Hemps plants flourish in a variety of climates and grow best on fields that produce high yields for corn. Hemp is also grown closely together (as close as 4 inches) in large multi-acre plots.

– Marijuana requires space to grow, typically 6 feet, and requires a carefully controlled warm and humid atmosphere for proper growth.

– In addition, hemp’s pollen ruins the marijuana crop, diluting marijuana’s psychoactivity making it extremely important to ensure marijuana is not grown among or near a hemp field.


As you can see, hemp is completely different from marijuana in its chemical makeup, cultivation and appearance and the farming of industrial hemp for fiber and seed is permitted in every other industrialized nation in the world.

In spite of this, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) continues to confound industrial hemp and marijuana which has resulted in an absurd policy: hemp seed, oil and fiber are all currently legal for trade in the U.S., and domestic industry imports industrial hemp for diverse uses. Yet, simultaneously, farmers in the U.S. are prevented from producing industrial hemp for the domestic market.

Due to President Obama passing the Farm Bill of 2013 into law in 2014, hemp research is now permitted in the United States, however, it’s progress is slow-moving as you need a permit from the DEA to grow hemp and they’re not eager to give them out.



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