Hemp is in fact, Cannabis, and Here's How You Navigate the Hemp Industry

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Believe it or not, hemp is cannabis.

When many of us picture hemp, we see tall, skinny, flower-less trees bred and harvested for their fibers, seeds, and nutritious hemp oils. We also come across the “hemp vs cannabis” debate from time to time and wonder whether or not hemp is considered medicinal like its “cousin,“ cannabis. Although the systematic classification of cannabis is historically complicated, we need to understand that hemp is a legal term, not a scientific term, and to judge a product because it is hemp-derived is not entirely OK.

Perhaps within the all the confusion surrounding cannabis, we are being guided to believe that hemp and hemp-derived constituents are for textiles and nutritional purpose only, and hemp-derived products should not be trusted as an effective source of medicine.

Without spending too much time on the harm in miseducation and guidance, I’d like to focus on hemp misconceptions that once straightened out, can help us make informed decisions around products we choose to purchase.

Hemp is a Common Name for cannabis

They are not cousins, per say. There is no “versus” necessary with these two, as they come from the same plant species and subspecies. According to the Hemp Farming Act, “hemp” is considered to be any Cannabis sativa L. species that contains less than 0.3% post-carboxylated THC. So once we accept that hemp is in fact cannabis we can see where we blurred the lines in the first place, and how to move forward without (too much) confusion.

It is also good to note that there are different subspecies and varieties of cannabis, which explains why some are tall trees with zero flowers and others are short bushy trees with dense, juicy flowers. Note that within these subspecies you will not see the word “hemp“ as it is a legal term, not a scientific term.

Before breaking down the taxonomic classification of Cannabis, please note that there are two different theories of this species and subspecies.

the single-species concept (monotypic genus)

Family: Cannabaceae

Genus: Cannabis

Species: Cannabis sativa L.*

Subspecies:

  • Cannabis sativa L. subsp. sativa var. sativa;

  • Cannabis sativa L. subsp. sativa var. spontanea Vavilov;

  • Cannabis sativa L. subsp. indica Small & Cronquist var. indica (Lam) Wehmer;

  • Cannabis sativa L. subsp. indica Small & Cronquist var. kafiristanica (Vavilov) Small & Cronquist.

The Multi-Species Concept (Polytypic genus)

Family: Cannabaceae

Genus: Cannabis

Species: Cannabis sativa L., Cannabis indica Lam., Cannabis ruderalis J.

women holding cannabis fibers, sourced from Sativa Science Club.

women holding cannabis fibers, sourced from Sativa Science Club.

Hemp is not only male

Arguably, hemp is anything that cannabis is; male, female, hermaphrodite. All that turns a cannabis plant into the word “hemp” is if the THC content of the finished cannabis product is lower than 0.3% (for the USA, at least).


There is a difference between industrial and agricultural hemp

This one is big for anyone shopping for hemp-derived CBD. Hemp can be medicinal just like any THC-dominant variety, these cannabinoid-rich cannabis hemp varieties are called industrial hemp. Cultivars have mastered the craft of genetically yielding high CBD cannabis plants that once processed, can be sold as hemp because the THC content is below 0.3%. Agricultural hemp, on the other hand, is a cannabis hemp variety that yields little to no cannabinoids and is instead bred for its fiber and seeds.

Bottomline: No, not all hemp is created equal, but not all hemp is inferior to our made up definition of cannabis, either. Hemp can be medicine, and you can find clean + effective hemp products when you know what to look for.


Hemp can be medicine, and you can find clean and effective hemp products when you know what to look for.


Some tips to help you find high quality, medicinal/wellness hemp products:

  1. source from a cannabis-legal state or country, as they have higher standards of regulation and testing

  2. make sure it’s lab-tested to ensure there are no pesticides, heavy metals, or contaminants, and that the content of the label is truthful.

  3. ask the company whether the hemp plants are industrial or agricultural. This means, do the genetics yield high amount of secondary compounds like terpenes and cannabinoids, or does it yield higher amount of the primary compounds like fiber and seeds?


* L. stands for Carl Linnaeus, the first botanist, and the father of modern taxonomic nomenclature, to name the species in 1753.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5531363/